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Canberra backs hydrogen-powered road trains in Townsville

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has conditionally approved $3.02 million in funding to help fuel five hydrogen-powered road trains in Townsville next year.

The money will be used by Ark Energy H2 to support the deployment of a 1MW electrolyser – a device which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrical energy – at the Sun Metals zinc refinery, which is owned by Ark’s sister company Sun Metals Corporation (SMC).

The trucks, supplied by Hyzon Motors, are expected to become the largest road-going fuel cell electric trucks in the world at the time of their deployment later next year.

Ark will lease the 140-tonne rated trucks to its sister company, Townsville Logistics, which will operate them in road train triple trailer configuration and incorporate them into its short haul fleet currently transporting zinc concentrate and ingots between the Port of Townsville and the zinc refinery.

The five zero emission trucks will replace equivalent diesel-powered trucks and avoid 1,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, said a media statement.

ARENA’s funds will be paid upon the commissioning of the refueling facility and delivery of the five trucks, which are expected to arrive in December 2022.

The electrolyser will be powered by renewable energy from the 124 MW solar farm located at the zinc refinery, which is also owned by SMC.

The project is also supported by a $12.5 million debt finance facility from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and has also been awarded $5 million from the Queensland State Government’s Hydrogen Industry Development Fund.

SMC’s zinc refinery is currently the second largest single-site consumer of electricity in Queensland. The introduction of fuel cell electric trucks will assist the company in helping to reduce its overall emissions, starting with the transport supply chain, a statement added.

“Replacing diesel vehicles with renewable hydrogen alternatives is viewed as a key opportunity for early uptake of commercially viable hydrogen due to the relatively high cost of diesel as the incumbent fuel.”

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the deployment could offer up a valuable pathway towards achieving net zero emissions in the heavy transport and mining sectors.

“As Australia pushes towards net zero emissions, we must continue to find renewable and clean solutions for hard-to-abate sectors now so that alternatives to fossil fuels can be implemented as soon as possible,” said Miller.

“Ark’s first-of-a-kind deployment is a great opportunity to highlight the potential of ultra-heavy fuel cell electric trucks in Australia, which has significant replication potential and could fast track the reduction of emissions by using renewable hydrogen not only in heavy transport, but the entire resources supply chain domestically.”

This is the first hydrogen project to be jointly supported by both the CEFC and ARENA, and highlights how critical their ongoing cooperation is to the development of a competitive Australian hydrogen industry.

ARENA has previously funded two hydrogen light vehicle transport projects. The project with BOC will install a hydrogen refuelling station in Brisbane to fuel a passenger fleet of Hydrogen FCEVs and another project with Toyota has also seen refuelling infrastructure installed in Melbourne to support passenger vehicles and forklifts.

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