Jul. 12, 2023
Sumitomo Corporation

Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation to build hydrogen pilot plant for world’s first trial lower-carbon alumina refining in Gladstone

Sumitomo Corporation (Head Office: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; Representative Director, President and CEO: Masayuki Hyodo) and Rio Tinto (Head Office: London, UK; Chief Executive: Jakob Stausholm; hereinafter, "Rio Tinto") have agreed to build a pilot plant in Gladstone to trial using hydrogen to replace natural gas in the alumina refining process.

Sumitomo Corporation and Rio Tinto have been proceeding with a study for the construction of a hydrogen pilot plant at Rio Tinto’s Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone under a partnership in Aug 2021. Sumitomo Corporation completed its front end engineering and design study (FEED) in March 2022. The A$111 million joint Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation Yarwun Hydrogen Calcination Pilot Demonstration Program is the first of its kind in the world to trial using hydrogen in the refinery calcination process. It will consist of a hydrogen plant at the refinery and retrofit of processing equipment and will be co-funded through a A$32 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (hereinafter, “ARENA”) *1.


Rio Tinto’s Yarwun alumina refinery ©Rio Tinto 2023


Sumitomo Corporation will own and operate a 2.5MW electrolyser at Yarwun alumina refinery and supply the hydrogen to one of Rio Tinto Yarwun’s calciners to operate with a hydrogen burner directly. The electrolyser will have a production capacity of more than 250 tonnes *2 of hydrogen annually. Construction will start in 2024 and the hydrogen plant and calciner are expected to be in operation by 2025. If successful, the project will demonstrate the viability of using hydrogen in the calcination process and could pave the way for adoption at scale across the industry worldwide.

Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations Managing Director, Armando Torres said, “This pilot plant is an important step in testing whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in Queensland alumina refineries. At Rio Tinto we have put the energy transition at the heart of our business strategy, and this is one of the ways we’re working towards decarbonising our operations. We are proud to be developing this new technology here in Gladstone, in partnership with Sumitomo Corporation, and with support from ARENA.”

Sumitomo Corporation Energy Innovation Initiative Director, Seiji Kitajima said, “We are excited to be delivering this hydrogen project together with Rio Tinto as our long-term partner with the support of ARENA. Demonstrating real-world applications of hydrogen in industrial settings with motivated partners is essential to reducing carbon emissions and working toward our company’s vision of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Through this demonstration, Sumitomo Corporation aims to venture into the commercialization project to contribute to Rio Tinto’s decarbonization. Sumitomo Corporation is proud to be working on yet another hydrogen project in Australia and contributing to Australia’s own emission reductions goals.”

Sumitomo Corporation expects hydrogen to be one of the key energies of the future and promotes hydrogen related businesses such as local production and consumption projects and large-scale value chain projects. This is our first hydrogen production and supply project for which a final investment decision has been taken and will be the first step in a phased approach to commercialization, starting with a local production and consumption project, with the aim of constructing a large-scale value chain and exporting hydrogen in the future.   


Overview of our hydrogen related business in Gladstone

*1 This Project received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of ARENA's Advancing Renewables Program. The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Australian Government, and the Australian Government does not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein.
*2 Equivalent to 2500 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles per year.

RIO TINTO RELEASE: Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation to build hydrogen pilot plant to trial lower-carbon alumina refining in Gladstone


Sumitomo Corporation’s Material Issues

Sumitomo Corporation Group positions “Six Material Issues to Achieve Sustainable Growth with Society” as an important factor in developing business strategies and in the decision-making process for individual businesses. Going forward, we will pursue sustainable growth by resolving these issues through our business activities. This project especially contributes to the following material Issues.

Achieving Harmony with the Global EnvironmentAchieving Harmony with the Global Environment
Contributing to the Development of Local Communities and IndustriesContributing to the Development of Local Communities and Industries
Establishing a Foundation for Comfortable and Enriching LifestylesEstablishing a Foundation for Comfortable and Enriching Lifestyles
Providing Diverse “Accessibility”Providing Diverse “Accessibility”

Developing Human Resources and Promoting DiversityDeveloping Human Resources and Promoting Diversity
Enhancing GovernanceEnhancing Governance

Corporate Communications Department, Sumitomo Corporation
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