Iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest has reaffirmed Fortescue Future Industries’ huge vision for global green hydrogen production and supply and insisted it would not be “mangling the process” by using anything but renewable energy to fuel its plans.
At the annual general meeting for Fortescue Metals Group in Perth on Tuesday, Forrest spoke to shareholders from the Glasgow COP26 climate talks about the seemingly limitless potential for the “miracle molecule” to transform the hardest to decarbonise, biggest industrial sectors.
Buoyed by a record net profit for FMG of $US10.3 billion for 2020/21, and a revenue of $US22.3 billion, a massive 74% jump on the previous year, Forrest said demand for green hydrogen was “coming from everywhere” now that FFI had made its intentions clear.
Forrest and FFI have made a breathtaking spree of renewable hydrogen announcements over recent weeks, including a “multi-billion pound” deal struck with UK construction giant JCB and its offshoot Ryze Hydrogen, to buy 10% of the renewable hydrogen FFI plans to produce.
Among other deals, there has also been a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Kingdom of Jordan, a deed of agreement with Papua New Guinea – to investigate the feasibility of up to to seven hydropower projects and 11 geothermal energy projects – and an MOU for the supply of liquid hydrogen to Japan.
In his address to shareholders via video link, Forrest pinpointed the deal with JCB – which would make FFI the biggest supplier of renewable hydrogen in the UK – as a major breakthrough in the company’s plans, as well as for the global cause of decarbonisation.
“The JCB agreement broke the dam of green hydrogen skepticism, it was a historical moment, it’s never been done before. And with that has come inquiries from all over the world,” Forrest said.
“So I want to assure you, my fellow shareholders, the interest in the bulk purchase now – now that we’ve committed to produce it, and our consumers all over the world can see us doing it – that demand is coming from everywhere.
“In the coming days, we’ll be announcing a memorandum of understanding for potential global aviation hydrogen supply agreement with LA-based Universal Hydrogen, starting with the famous Dash 8 [aircraft], and this time, with hydrogen powering fuel cell engines, not plain old kerosene,” Forrest added.
“We’re providing solutions to the hardest to decarbonise, but biggest industrial sectors, such as power generation from coal, such as rail, such as shipping, such as trucking and, now, such as aviation.
“All these industries which just a year or two ago people thought could never happen is being addressed with green hydrogen.”
But not all shareholders, it appeared, were completely convinced by the FFI green hydrogen strategy – or at least of the ecomonics of it, with 10 per cent of FMG’s net profit after tax currently set aside to underwrite the FFI vision.
One shareholder, at least, questioned why FFI was so focused on hydrogen production using renewable energy, as opposed to so-called “clean” hydrogen produced using methane gas, such as was recently proposed by Woodside Energy.
Forrest’s response was crystal clear.
“Look, I really can’t imagine a planet where we would want to exploit methane, which is 80 to 90 times more dangerous as a global warming agent than carbon,” he said.
“And of course, methane is what natural gas is, and to exploit that to make hydrogen, that is mangling the process.
“…What happens is you’re burning fossil fuel – yes, you’re creating the same molecule called hydrogen, but in the process you have caused more global warming agents than you will ever save by allowing your customers to burn hydrogen.
“So no, we feel very firmly that it is confusing the issue. To make hydrogen from burning fossil fuels, I think, will speed global warming, and accelerate that point in time… where we can’t stop [global warming] no matter what humanity does.
“So you know, we’re not going to speed up that point coming upon humanity and all the living world by burning fossil fuel to make hydrogen. We think that just simply isn’t honest.”