Anglo-Australia mining giant Rio Tinto has joined Bill Gates, Amazon and a host of other countries as investors in renewable hydrogen start-up Electric Hydrogen (EH2), that plans to build plants at scale to slash costs.
Rio joined Gates’ Breakthrough Ventures, major industrial groups Amazon, Mitsubishi, Cosan, Honeywell and Equinor, along with tech investors S2G Ventures, Capricorn Partners, Energy Impact Partners, and Prelude Ventures in a new $US198 million Series B funding round.
EH2 – which is led by former executives at Tesla, First Solar and Breakthrough, says the funding will help it roll out the first commercial installations of its electrolyser technology, which is targeting scales of 100MW at industrial locations as a strategy to save on costs.
Rio has already said it wants to deploy hydrogen electrolysers at its Bell Bay aluminium smelter in Tasmania, and will likely want to do the same at Queensland smelters and refineries that it wants to convert to 100 per cent renewables by the end of the decade.
Presumably, if the EH2 technology works out, then it would use that technology at one of its operations.
Rio Tinto Chief Scientist Nigel Steward said, “Rio Tinto is investing in Electric Hydrogen to support the development of emerging technologies with the potential to help decarbonize our operations and supply chains,” Rio Tinto chief scientist Nigel Steward said in a statement.
“We produce materials that are increasingly required for our society’s transition to a low carbon future, so it is critical to pursue new ways to work towards net zero in supplying them.”
Rio is one of a number of major mining groups investing in electrolyser technology. Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Mines has set up a production joint venture with US-based Plug Power, and has also invested in Australian electrolyser develop Sparc Technologies.
EH2 says the funding will support the scale-up of EH2’s high throughput electrolyzer technology and the manufacturing and deployment of demonstration projects to produce fossil-free, or green hydrogen, at large scale for industrial and infrastructure applications.
Its web site boasts of its goal to “engineer the end of fossil fuel dependency” and it hopes to deploy its technology in 2023. It claims advancements in electrochemistry, and is focusing on deployments of 100MW or more, but it has yet to provide numbers around its goal of low cost hydrogen production.
EH2 co-founders Raffi Garabedian and Dave Eaglesham both worked at US-base thin film technology provider First Solar, and its team includes Dorian West, former engineering lead at Tesla, and Derek Warnick, former company builder at Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures,
“This funding round fuels the next phase of our evolution. We’ve demonstrated our enabling core technology, built an amazing team and now have the capital we need to get our technology out into the world and start curbing emissions,” said Garabedian, the CEO.
“Just as importantly, the participation of strategic partners at the forefront of the industries we are poised to decarbonize–energy, mining, logistics, and heavy manufacturing, to name a few–provides vital insight that will facilitate and accelerate our path to market.”