Efforts to decarbonise the operations of the world’s largest open pit platinum mine, in South Africa, will see the addition of a mobile plug-and-play solar plant to help power hydrogen production that, in turn, will power the world’s largest fuel cell electric mining haul truck.
Norwegian solar company Release by Scatec announced this week that it had entered a two-year lease agreement with France-based energy giant Engie, to provide a 616kW version of its scalable containerised solar power solution.
The mobile PV generation unit will be used to provide power for a 3.5MW hydrogen electrolyser installed by Engie at Anglo American Platinum’s massive Mogalakwena Mine in Limpopo, South Africa.
The electrolyser was installed as part of a partnership between Engie and Anglo American to develop a renewable hydrogen production and refuelling solution to support a hydrogen-powered mine haul vehicle.
That project, which kicked off last year, saw Williams Advanced Engineering use eight Ballard FCveloCity-HD 100kW fuel cell modules to power a retrofitted Ultra heavy-duty mining truck in the demonstration project – the world’s largest to run on hydrogen.
The electricity for the hydrogen was to come partly from solar and partly from the grid – and the contribution from Scatec this year brings the solar into the equation.
According to Scatec, the electrolyser capacity is larger than the daily demand of the truck, thus allowing for storage at night or when solar radiation is poor, and maximising the renewable share of the hydrogen.
If successful, the long-term target is to convert the entire fleet of haul trucks at the mine to hydrogen, as well as at Anglo American’s other mining operations around the world.
In a statement, Scatec said the addition of solar would provide a model of how to decarbonise hydrogen production in the mining industry in the future, with potential for it to be rolled out on a much larger scale.
“This is Release at Scatec’s first involvement with powering hydrogen production, and further proves the potential for pre-assembled and containerised solar PV in the mining industry,” said Hans Olav Kvalvaag, the company’s senior vice president.
“The agreement is another important milestone for us in delivering reliable and renewable power to the mining industry, but also as a way of powering hydrogen production,” he added.
“The Release model is gaining traction, and with its flexibility both with regards to contract term and capacity, has great potential in mining.”
Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena mine is located near the town of Mokopane in the Waterberg District, in the Western quadrant of the Limpopo Province in north eastern South Africa.
The mine was established in 1993 and is, According to Anglo American, the largest open pit platinum mine in the world.
The major platinum group of metals mining region was this year named as the site of a proposed “hydrogen valley,” for which a government-backed feasibility study led by Engie kicked off in March.
The proposed “vally” would stretch roughly 835km from Anglo American’s Mogalakwena mine, along the industrial and commercial corridor to Johannesburg and to the south coast at Durban.
In a statement in March, Anglo American noted its investment in renewable hydrogen production technology at Mogalakwena, including the development of hydrogen-powered fuel cell mine haul trucks.
“The transition to a low carbon world is an opportunity to drive the development of cleaner technologies, create new industries and employment, and improve people’s lives,” said Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American’s PGMs business.
“Anglo American was an early supporter of the global potential for a hydrogen economy, recognising its role in enabling the shift to greener energy and cleaner transport.
“Our integrated approach includes investing in new technologies, supporting entrepreneurial projects and advocating for policy frameworks that enable a supportive long-term investment environment for hydrogen to deliver that potential.”