Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) has signed an agreement with Alinta Energy that will see up to 100% of daytime stationary energy requirements at its Chichester Hub iron ore operations, in the Pilbara of Western Australia, powered by renewable energy.
The Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid project will see the construction of a 60 MW solar photovoltaic generation facility at the Chichester Hub, comprising Fortescue’s Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak iron ore mining operations.
In addition, an approximately 60-km transmission line linking the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mining operations with Alinta Energy’s Newman gas-fired power station and a 35 MW battery facility will be constructed, with completion due mid-2021.
FMG said: “Once completed, up to 100% of daytime stationary energy requirements at the Chichester Hub will be provided by solar generation, with the remaining power requirements to be met through the integrated battery storage and gas power station facilities.”
The project is expected to displace around 100 million litres annually of diesel used in the existing Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak power stations, according to FMG.
Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Reliable and competitive energy generation remains an important consideration for the mining sector in Western Australia and as a significant consumer of energy, we continue to identify opportunities that have the potential to lower our costs while also improving our carbon footprint.
“This landmark project is a first on this scale for the Pilbara and will reduce carbon emissions from stationary generation by around 40% at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mining operations, while driving long-term sustainable cost reductions to maintain Fortescue’s global cost leadership position.”
Gaines added that the agreement with Alinta Energy represented a further step in the creation of Fortescue’s Pilbara Energy Connect project, which builds on the company’s previous energy initiatives, including the construction of the Fortescue River Gas Pipeline, the conversion of the Solomon Power Station from diesel to gas generation, as well as a partnership agreement with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to develop and commercialise hydrogen technologies.
As part of the agreement, FMG will invest an estimated $250 million in energy transmission infrastructure to complete the integration of Fortescue’s iron ore operations in the Pilbara into an efficient energy network.
Alinta Energy Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Dimery, said: “We’d like to thank Fortescue and our Chichester Hub project partners for helping to make the company’s long-held vision for a cleaner and more connected energy supply for the Pilbara a reality.
“There’s a lot to be proud of in this project. Working together, we are on the cusp of demonstrating that renewables can drive Australia’s economic powerhouses forward–even for remote and complex industrial applications.”
Alinta Energy will receive federal funding of A$24.2 million ($16.5 million) from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and A$90 million from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), upon satisfaction of standard conditions.
The NAIF loan remains subject to ratification from the Western Australian Government.
NAIF Chief Executive Officer, Laurie Walker said: “NAIF’s A$90 million loan for this project will help provide low emission renewable energy generation for large off-grid customers and paves the way towards the creation of a more interconnected regional energy grid in the Pilbara.
“The project innovatively combines solar and gas fired power to compensate for the variability of solar sourced energy. This investment by NAIF offers the opportunity to make a long-term difference to the Pilbara.”
ARENA Chief Executive Officer, Darren Miller, said: “The project could unlock further investment in renewable energy in the mining sector and other remote and energy intensive operations.
“Alinta’s project will demonstrate how renewable energy solutions can deliver critical energy requirements for major mining operations and help reduce emissions. This will also show how interconnection of loads and different generation and storage -including solar, gas and battery storage -can provide secure and reliable electricity.”