Dr Andrew Forrest AO calls for a global hydrogen accreditation scheme
In the past three decades, BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon have made a profit of roughly US $2 tn. Over half of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere today can be traced to these and 20 other fossil fuel companies.
Financial success has often, in the past, gone hand in hand with self-interest and reckless damage to the environment and society – but it doesn’t have to.
Twenty years ago, I set out to create an iron ore business from scratch in Western Australia… one that would challenge the existing iron ore majors. Today, Fortescue is the third largest iron ore company in the world, with a net profit after tax of over US$10 billion.
We could ignore our nation-scale emissions, or we could make vapid promises that tick boxes or get us claps on the back. But that’s not what we are going to do – because that’s making it someone’s else problem to solve, and enough companies are already doing that.
We are making it our opportunity.
This year, we set a target of Net Zero by 2030. We launched Fortescue Future Industries, the seed from which we hope to grow a fully integrated, global green renewables and green resources company.
Our aim is 15 million tonnes of renewable green hydrogen every year by 2030, increasing to 50 million tonnes per annum thereafter – a scale of energy production equal to the very largest oil and gas companies today.
That’s enough to make several dozen Fortescues carbon neutral every year.
We’re also developing completely new methods to turn iron ore into green iron at low temperatures – using intermittent, renewable electricity and no coal. That’s how we will make green steel.
But I don’t just want to talk about aspirations here today – I want to talk about actual progress.
This year alone, FFI has secured exclusive access to renewable resources in six different countries, totalling over 300 GW of power.
Last week, I visited our ‘Green Team’ – a terrifyingly young and intelligent team of women and men who were given a target of 130 days to build the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell haul truck and drill rig, and a green ammonia-powered train and ship engine.
130 days to start the next industrial revolution. And they did it.
When these engines started, I was greeted with silence… the sound of the future. And no smoke… the vision of the future. I can now say I am only the third person in the world to have driven a hydrogen fuel cell haul truck – and the other two drivers were the engineers.
130 days. That’s all it took for these massive technical breakthroughs to happen.
I must admit, the scale and speed of FFI’s achievement made me emotional.
But let me remind you that this is the speed at which the world’s first industrial revolution happened.
George Stephenson, one of the first inventors of the steam locomotive, was openly mocked for predicting that people would one day “take supper in London and breakfast in Edinburgh.” It happened in his lifetime.
Unlike the industrial revolution, today’s one will produce zero-emissions technologies that will astonish onlookers not through the fear or ill health they inflict, but through their ability to improve quality of life, and the health of the planet.
But for this revolution to happen, we need targets.
Targets are the major success driver of a workforce and its leadership in any project. Targets are like aiming for a gold Olympic medal. No targets, no success.
FFI and green hydrogen can and will enable Australia to achieve Net Zero by 2050 – but we need targets, and we need them this year.
But let’s not underestimate the challenge.
Big Oil’s last stand will be to use fossil fuels to create blue hydrogen – storing the emissions in the ground and peddling it as clean energy.
But it’s not clean and governments are already falling for it.
So-called blue hydrogen just displaces the pollution from one part of the world to another. It’s the same dog, just a different leg action.
We must challenge all hydrogen producers, green or otherwise, to meet the highest standards for emissions and sustainability. This means fully accounting for ALL emissions, including fugitive methane.
The world needs hydrogen, but the cure shouldn’t be worse than the disease. Hydrogen which isn’t zero emissions misses the point.
That is why FFI will be asking world leaders at COP26 this year to adopt a global accreditation scheme for hydrogen.
Governments, business, and consumers have to understand the difference between zero carbon hydrogen and fossil fuel hydrogen – which currently emits more carbon that burning coal.
This is what we need to do to stop the planet from cooking.