Hydrogen fuel project for north Queensland

Townsville industries set to trial the world’s largest road-going fuel cell electric trucks.
Side view of Hyzon Motors Class 8 truck.

Residents living around Townsville’s port area may soon be sleeping and breathing easier, thanks to the introduction of a fleet of hydrogen-fuelled electric trucks, which are set to replace the current rowdy diesel-powered versions 

The heavy vehicles powered by renewable hydrogen will be used in a first-of-a-kind deployment in Townsville, with the probable reduction in engine noise a happy side benefit of the main game, namely reducing emissions in the transport and mining sectors.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has conditionally approved $3.02 million in funding to Ark Energy H2 Pty Ltd (Ark) to support the deployment of a 1 MW electrolyser with storage and refuelling infrastructure to fuel five new 140-tonne-rated fuel cell electric trucks. 

The electrolyser, which is a key component required to produce hydrogen fuel, will be powered by renewable energy sourced from a 124 MW solar farm located at Townsville’s Sun Metals zinc refinery.

The trucks, supplied by US-based Hyzon Motors, a global supplier of zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell powered commercial vehicles, are expected to become the largest road-going fuel cell electric trucks in the world at the time of their deployment. 

Ark will lease the 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, which transports zinc concentrate and ingots between the Port of Townsville and the zinc refinery. 

A statement from ARENA said the five zero-emission trucks would replace equivalent diesel-powered trucks and avoid 1,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

The Sun Metals zinc refinery in Townsville is owned by Ark’s sister company Sun Metals Corporation (SMC). 

Ark and SMC are subsidiaries of Korea Zinc Company Limited (Korea Zinc), the largest zinc, lead and silver producer in the world. 

The initiative is part of Korea Zinc’s long-term strategy to export renewable hydrogen to supply its global operations, as well as other end users in Asia, with the group prioritising building the domestic hydrogen economy of North Queensland first. 

Nyzon Motors Class 8 truck on the road.

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

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 aims to assist the company in reducing its overall emissions, starting with the transport supply chain.

Heavy vehicles make up about 4% of road vehicles in Australia, but account for about 23% of all road transport fuel consumed. 

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. 

The development of clean hydrogen is one of the key stretch goals outlined in the Australian Government’s Low Emissions Technology Statement. 

The stretch goal is to produce hydrogen for less than $2 per kg, or “H2 under 2”, which is the price where hydrogen is expected to become competitive with other energy sources for industry and transport.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the deployment could offer 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,” Mr Miller said.

“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.”

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.

Related topics

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.