Chile’s CORFO investing $252 million in HYDRA hydrogen powertrains for mining project

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Chile has taken another major step in its commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 thanks to the support that CORFO will provide to a project from by CSIRO Chile, ENGIE and Mining3, which will develop hybrid power train modules in the country for Chilean mining, replacing conventional diesel ones with ones made up of state-of-the-art batteries and hydrogen fuel cells (green H2).

With this innovation, one of the winners of CORFO’s Innova Alta Tecnología 2020 program, in the future it will be possible to reduce 100% of greenhouse gas emissions from mining vehicles, extending to the entire mobility sector (vans to trucks CAEX) and enabling the development of a new economic pole based on green hydrogen. Therefore, the name HYDRA was chosen for the project, to show the aspiration of the work team to produce a versatile prototype, with multiple uses in mining, with the ability to enable and generate new uses of this clean fuel in the country.

“We are convinced that sustainable recovery is essential to create a more resilient and solid economy for the future. In this sense, promoting the development of a new industry such as green hydrogen, respectful with the environment and that will also inject more competition and generate thousands of jobs in our country, is key. We hope that the project led by CSIRO Chile, which joins two other projects supported by CORFO and that promote the use of green hydrogen in mining, will be a great contribution in this regard, ”said Pablo Terrazas, Executive Vice President of CORFO.

This project will involve an investment that will exceed $1,200 million ($252 million Corfo contribution) and among its objectives includes the design and manufacture of a prototype of this hybrid power train that will be tested in a test bench where the mining conditions will be replicated, including its operational use profile, under load and different routes, altitude conditions, among others. In turn, the optimal combination of cells/batteries will be obtained, it will solve the connection problems between these sources, it will study different hydrogen recharge strategies, in addition to collaborating in the adaptation and creation of protocols/regulations that guarantee safety in its large-scale operation.

“Thanks to CORFO’s support and CSIRO Chile’s alliance with ENGIE and Mining3, we are taking concrete steps to transform Chile into a producer and exporter of green hydrogen. With almost 10 years in Chile and more than 100 in Australia, the collaboration-based CSIRO model puts the HYDRA project as a concrete example in this regard,” commented Dr Orlando Jiménez, Executive Director of CSIRO Chile.

This initiative also includes conducting studies on the competitiveness of this innovative green hydrogen technology versus fossil fuels, in order to present business cases that will include an analysis of opportunities and the impact of this technology, thus allowing the evaluation of potential improvements in the mining business and also being aligned with miner’s decarbonisation goals. For this, a collaborative platform will be implemented where mining companies will participate to access real operating conditions, providers of fuel cell technology, hydrogen storage and integration companies, who will contribute with their knowledge and experience in validating this technology; and government entities to advance regulatory issues. This will allow covering the spectrum necessary for the correct absorption and scaling of innovative technology by end users.

“ENGIE is happy to have CORFO’s support for the HYDRA project. We believe that renewable hydrogen is key to decarbonising the mining industry. We look forward to joining forces with CSIRO Chile and Mining3 to contribute to Chile’s energy transition and help boost the country’s hydrogen economy,” said Michèle Azalbert, CEO of ENGIE’s Hydrogen Business Unit.

Chile currently has renewable energy potential to be a global leader in the production of green hydrogen and, according to data from the Ministry of Energy, this new fuel could mitigate at the country level between 17% and 27% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, making it a key piece for Chile to meet its goal of achieving carbon neutrality for that year and, by the way, help to promote an economic recovery that is respectful of the environment, sustainable and inclusive.

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