Chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest is a well respected Australian business man. He is on a mission for Fortescue to start green steel production, powered entirely by wind a solar energy.
Forrest released his ambitious plan in a Boyer Lecture that was aired on ABC TV and radio called, Oil vs Water: Confessions of a Carbon Emitter, where he stated “I volunteer and call on fellow leaders to help drive this industry, power our economy and protect the jobs of fellow Australians, as we make this critical transition.”
The Boyer Lecture is raw and honest, where Forrest acknowledges his own personal and business contributions to greenhouse gases.
“The answer isn’t to stop mining iron ore…the solution is hydrogen.”
Hydrogen is the most common element in existence and green hydrogen, made by running electricity through water, is the purest source of energy in the world.
Forrest stated Australia has everything to be the world leader in green steel production, but it needs to act fast.
Fortescue is studying two methods of production to find the most efficient, sustainable solution.
“In one way, you replace coal in the furnace with our old friend, green hydrogen, and you get steel. But instead of emitting vast clouds of Co2, you produce nothing more than water vapour. To strenghten the steel, you simply add carbon seperately. It bonds into the metal rather than dispersing into the atmosphere.”
“The other way to make green steel – a more radical approach – is to scrap the blast furnace altogether and just zap the ore with renewable electricity.”
However, cost is the main issue. The price of zero-emissions energy needs to compete with fossil fuels.
“When renewable energy becomes less expensive than fossil fuel energy – that’s when we’ll reach the tipping point. That’s when the world will begin the journey in earnest to become zero-carbon.”
Forrest advocated for the change and travelled the world during peak COVID to talk to like minded business leaders and opposition to open up the conversation on green hydrogen.
The question wasn’t whether green hydrogen would become the next global energy form – it was which company would have the resilience to take the risk and truly test green hydrogen at global, industrial scale?
Fortescue’s strong market capitalisation puts the company in a position to give green steel production a crack themselves.
Although the details are minimal on some logistics, such as transportation, Forrest’s ambitious attitude will see out his vision in Pilbara in 2021.
Forrest finished his lecture with a powerful statement that feels fitting to end this article.
“I choose change. I choose hydrogen. What do you choose?”