Crosstown Commercial / August 1, 2022
It’s nothing new to read of various initiatives intended to save our precious natural resources. And with gas prices rising, the time has come to seek ways to gain power more efficiently. Hydrogen has less energy per unit volume than any other fuel known to man, making it costly to transport, store, and deliver to its end-use points. However, hydrogen can be produced from a broad range of local and regional resources, thus minimizing some of those transportation challenges.
And just recently, Anglo American PLC made a startling but promising announcement, sharing that the largest green-hydrogen-powered vehicle is now operational at a northeast South African platinum mine. The organization intended to replace nearly 40 diesel-fueled mining vehicles that use almost 264,000 gallons of fossil fuel a year – each.
The project at the Mogalakwena mine (the world’s largest open-pit platinum group metals mine), is called NuGen and will leverage power from a 140-megawatt solar plant. The plant will supply hydrogen electrolyzers to split water and fuel the trucks with hydrogen fuel. Each of these monstrous vehicles can carry 315 tons of ore. Engie SA has been a significant partner to Anglo in setting up the system.
Despite naysayers indicating the program would fail, the program has done all but that, and skeptics are beginning to take notice. Though it has not yet been determined if Anglo will commercialize the program, only time will tell. Anglo dominated the South African economy for nearly 80 years before moving the company’s headquarters to London in 1999. Initially, Anglo approached various equipment manufacturers for their partnership in converting the diesel fleet. When they received no after no, they took it upon themselves to solve the challenge.
The use of diesel emits climate-warming gases, whereas hydrogen does not. And with water being separated to create the fuel that leverages energy from the sun, it means no carbon emissions resulting from the manufacturing process either.
All in all, Anglo feels that the hydrogen economy is beckoning them. These hydrogen mining trucks, equipped with fuel cells that contain platinum as a component, are a game-changer and giant leap for South Africa’ s hydrogen economy. With increasing pressures to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and lessen environmental impact, these trucks are just the first improvements, and we can expect to see more in decades to come.