Can Fortescue's Andrew Forrest, a Carbon-Emitting Iron Ore Tycoon, Save the Planet? - The New York Times
Oct 16, 2021 6 mins, 35 secs

Andrew Forrest made a mining fortune.

Now he wants to lead a climate change revolution — and beat the fossil fuel giants along the way.

Andrew Forrest, founder of the Fortescue Metals Group, on an iron ore ship loader at Port Hedland in Western Australia.Credit...David Dare Parker for The New York Times.

It would zero out its own carbon emissions and become a renewable energy powerhouse.

Trying to make sure they would embrace the mission, he told them that climate innovation would save their jobs, and as proof, he promised to deliver hydrogen-fueled haul trucks next year followed by drills, trains and processing plants all running on renewable energy.

Forrest said.

He wants it to become a high-tech start-up producing five times more renewable energy than the Australian power grid and selling hydrogen to the world’s factories and mills.

in marine ecology two years ago, spurring a desire to do more on climate change, and he announced his crusade after the worst wildfires in Australia’s recorded history.

Mann, a prominent American climate scientist who has long been a vocal critic of carbon-heavy companies that he calls “inactivists,” argues that cleaning up a major mining company like Fortescue would be hugely important for a few reasons.

“Such efforts are critical to addressing climate change in the window we have,” Dr.

Forrest could barely contain his love for the Pilbara’s mix of natural beauty and human ingenuity.

They would create the electricity needed to turn water into hydrogen, and that green hydrogen could travel the same routes as iron ore, gas or coal — fueling factories in the United States, steel mills in Europe and Fortescue’s own trucks and trains.

Better yet, Fortescue could use the green energy to power its own steel production.

But Fortescue’s scientists say they’ve figured out a process that works at lower temperatures (no hotter than a cup of coffee), allowing for easy on and off cycles with intermittent, renewable energy.

That burst of innovation — and the pace of improvement at Fortescue and elsewhere — is one of many factors bolstering Dr.

He believes Fortescue can take advantage of technologies that have come down in price (around solar and batteries, for example) while pushing green development further, faster, by building equipment that the company can test and use in its own operations.

Forrest for 25 years and recently teamed up with him to support green hydrogen.

Forrest studied commerce at university and worked as a stockbroker in the 1980s, but at Fortescue, he put a priority on the innovation of things, from covered conveyor belts to driverless trucks.

Similarly, since forming Fortescue Future Industries, a subsidiary funded with 10 percent of the parent company’s profits, Dr.

Green steel, formed entirely with renewable energy, is the Fortescue moonshot.

At a giant garage in an industrial area called Hazelmere near Perth’s airport, around 100 experts in engines and energy are trying to eliminate all that carbon by turning a mining company into a clean, green version of Caterpillar or John Deere.

Jim Herring, the head of green industry for Fortescue Future Industries and a former mine manager who had been in charge of deploying driverless trucks, pointed to a hydrogen cylinder and a wall of batteries placed where the diesel fuel tank had been removed.

Herring added, “is to have this truck deployed, running on the mine site in 23 months — well, we have 22½ months now — which is about five years sooner than everyone else.”.

“I’ve been in mining for 20 years,” he said.

Hydrogen is more explosive than diesel and difficult to store whether it’s formed by splitting water with renewable electricity (that’s green hydrogen) or by separating hydrogen from coal and gas (brown, gray and blue hydrogen), which emits a lot of carbon.

Forrest said.

The story appears in a book that Fortescue published for employees, under a heading: “in the blood.” Dr.

Forrest retold the tale in his first speech announcing his plan to overhaul Fortescue, given in January as part of a public lecture series under the title “Confessions of a Carbon Emitter.”.

The same might be said of mining.

When he started Fortescue in 2003, he had already tried and failed once, being pushed out of Anaconda Nickel, a company he had spent nearly a decade trying to build.

“Anaconda taught him the importance of keeping control,” said Nicola Forrest, his wife of 30 years.

At Cloudbreak and its sister site, Christmas Creek, Fortescue drilled nearly 9,000 holes.

“They have a track record of building a very large-scale project in a very short period of time,” said Camille Simeon, investment director for Australian equities at Abrdn, which is not a Fortescue shareholder.

Forrest told the full story of the Fortescue train line — a turning point for the company — and tried to unlock the puzzle of motivation.

He told me that he first started thinking about climate change five years ago, when he stepped back from day-to-day operations at Fortescue and started his Ph.D.

In the thunderous noise and heat, Stephen Dansie, the manager of maintenance, said his team was preparing for a switch to green energy.

“Whether it’s battery, ammonia or hydrogen, we’re going to have to change our maintenance strategies,” Mr.

Forrest is asking a lot of his company’s employees, not to mention investors, officials and allies in the fight to get climate change under control.

“If they spend a billion dollars over the next few years trying to get this thing off the ground and it doesn't work, are they going to pull the plug?” asked Dan Gocher, climate director at the Australasian Center for Corporate Responsibility.

Nearly all expressed relief: Finally, they said, they could participate in a solution to climate change, getting past tired culture war politics.

At Cloudbreak, William Webster, 27, the diesel mechanic who asked about training, said he was looking forward to seeing how the hydrogen trucks worked.

Forrest said he was still working on the Australian government.

Forrest also complained about the Labor government in own state of Western Australia, which had yet to create a legal framework for developing renewable energy on pastoral land.

On the way to Minderoo for an off-site meeting with Fortescue Future Industries’s executives and board members, Dr.

Julie Shuttleworth, FFI’s chief executive, was the general manager at Cloudbreak and then Solomon before serving as the deputy chief executive of Fortescue.

The company had already set an ambitious goal of supplying over 15 million tonnes (16.5 million tons) of green hydrogen annually by 2030, more than the entire world currently produces.

In a little over six months, they had identified 130 renewable energy opportunities in around 60 countries, including 30 they thought could be pursued before 2031.

Forrest said, “is that Australia is not a total disaster.”.

He’d soon be proved right: FFI recently announced plans to build hydrogen production plants in Queensland and New South Wales, with the latter benefiting from a new state strategy of tax breaks and grants for green hydrogen.

He also emphasized the need to rally support before and during the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference in Scotland next month, to keep the natural gas industry from gaining more of an upper hand.

Forrest said.

Forrest said he needed to find a pathway to wealth for the company

Gordon Cowe, FFI’s director of development and projects, said he had returned to Fortescue after many years away, working for the fossil fuel industry, because “it’s time for a reversal.”

Pointing to the far end, behind him, he said that side represented the resistance to their climate change plans — it was the old way of doing things

He pointed forward, toward what he saw as humanity’s promising future, and said: “That side is where we must go.”

Forrest said

Fortescue Future Industries — the bridge, in Dr

She needed to thank local officials for agreeing to be a part of the future that Fortescue envisioned

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