“Commercial nonsense:” Andrew Forrest explains why he wants to dump fossil fuels

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Iron ore billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has detailed his company’s plans to produce the world’s lowest cost green hydrogen and green ammonia via a potential pipeline of 1000 gigawatts of renewable energy assets, in a speech to analysts he said aimed to herald “massive change.”

Speaking at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday night, Forrest said the green hydrogen market had the potential to create revenues of more than $US12 trillion by 2050, “more than any industry which ever existed today.”

And the founder and chair of Fortescue Metals Group, and the recent future-focused spin-off Fortescue Future Industries, said his group of companies intended to lead the world in the the establishment and success of this trillion-dollar industry.

“I hope you’re going to remember this evening as the heralding of massive change, which you can invest in, you can be part of, or you can watch happen around you. But it will happen,” Forrest said.

“We see the future of energy as hydrogen. I think our greatest natural resource is no longer iron ore, it isn’t gold, it isn’t oil, and it’s certainly not coal.

“The question is not whether green hydrogen will become the next global energy form, it’s just a question of by whom. …Who will mass produce, have a ship leaving the port every half an hour on a scale of the greatest energy companies in the world?

“Which company would be that strong, that we could allocate sufficient risk to test green hydrogen at global industrial scale? Last year the board and I at Fortescue Metals Group decided that would be Fortescue.”

Forrest has been making his plans for green hydrogen global domination headline news for some time now, including in an announcement just over a week ago that FMG would begin producing green hydrogen at commercial scale as early as 2023.

At the same time, Forrest also announced that his group of companies would aim to achieve carbon neutrality on its scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, bringing the target forward 10 years, mostly through absolute emissions reduction rather than the use of offsets.

Speaking at the Credit Suisse forum this week, Forrest reiterated the company’s green hydrogen ambitions, including the identification and development of a renewable energy pipeline with as much as 1000 gigawatts of potential, starting with 40GW in the Pilbara and up to 500GW of assets in South America.

“We’re looking for 500GW of energy assets in South America, alone, and potentially thousands of gigawatts there to follow,” he said.

“We aim to produce or help to produce and provide over 1000 gigawatts, as Fortescue, zero emissions, clean energy that is available for consumption, straightaway,” he told the forum.

“But no pollution, and not because we’re great people with great hearts, but ’cause to do anything else is a commercial nonsense.”

As RenewEconomy’s James Fernyhough noted here, however, Forrest’s grand renewables-based plans are so far mostly on paper, with only the soon-to-be opened 60MW Chichester solar farm and a new 150MW solar project, both to help power FMG’s Pilbara mines, identified to date.

But Forrest assured the audience at the forum this week that by June 30 this year, Fortescue’s green hydrogen plans would go up several gears.

“We’ll develop green iron ore, trains, we’ll run our trucks on renewable electricity. Our ships will begin the transition to green ammonia, and this financial year, at least five years ahead of our competition, we will put green ammonia into a …ship’s engine, one which will allow that really dirty fuel, Bunker C oil, to finally be extinguished, to not pollute the world’s oceans,” Forrest said.

“I’m saying to you with absolute certainty, the green energy future and the green product future is upon us. There will be a huge green steel industry. There will be a huge green fertiliser industry. There will be a huge green energy industry, and it’s up to you to choose where you want to be in that. Or if you want to stay with fossil fuels.”

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