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Australian mining tycoon Andrew Forrest announces green hydrogen project in northern B.C.

Fortescue’s Project Coyote in Prince George is estimated to produce 140,000 tonnes of ‘green’ hydrogen

Australian mining tycoon Dr. Andrew Forrest has announced a plan to have Fortescue Future Industries’ (FFI) build a green hydrogen and ammonia production facility called Project Coyote in Prince George this afternoon (Sept. 13).

If built, the $2 billion facility would be situated at the Willow Cale Industrial Park in Prince George on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation.

As planned, the facility would produce 140,000 tonnes of ‘green’ hydrogen and 800,000 tonnes of ‘green’ ammonia, staking a claim to be one of the largest hydrogen projects in Canada. Green hydrogen is the label for the cleanest type which can be used to fuel planes, vehicles and other electric facilities.

But in order to do so, Project Coyote would first need 1,000 MW of power from BC Hydro to split demineralized water into its hydrogen and oxygen components.

FFI has also begun the extensive environmental approval process required by the provincial government.

Forrest, who is the founder and executive chairman of Fortescue Metals Group and its subsidiary Fortescue Future Industries, met with Lheidli T’enneh First Nation Chief Dolleen Logan during his visit.

That follows the company and First Nation agreeing to negotiate a benefits sharing agreement with a memorandum of understanding signed in October 2021.

“Today marks an important milestone on the road to building Canada’s first domestic green hydrogen supply chain, which will help meet British Columbia’s ambitious climate targets while supporting regional economic diversification, jobs and training opportunities,” said Forrest.

In a statement, FFI said it has also been working with local educational institutions, and the City of Prince George, to plan for the recruitment and training of a skilled workforce.

Construction will require more than 250 direct jobs and more than 100 people will be required to operate the plant.

Prince George Mayor Simon Yu welcomed the announcement, calling Project Coyote “good” for the city after several sawmill closures affected employment and the economy.

“This project represents a significant opportunity for the City of Prince George to play a leading role in the global energy transition while diversifying our economy, creating good local jobs, and improving air quality,” said Yu in a statement.

The proposed facility could serve as an anchor for a hydrogen hub featuring other hydrogen players to connect to export facilities in Prince Rupert, said Fortescue.

FFI calls itself a global green energy company, committed to producing green hydrogen, containing zero carbon, from 100 per cent renewable sources. As part of this green strategy Fortescue also announced plans to decarbonize its mining operations.

Forrest’s visit this week to B.C. comes amidst reports of resignations of Fortescue’s top executives in Australia including CEO Fiona Hicks, Chief Financial Officer Christine Morris and Guy Debelle a senior executive from the green hydrogen division.

Based on a Sept. 10 report in the Financial Times, the departures were related to differences in opinion over the speed of decarbonising Fortescue’s mining operations.

Forrest has been vocal about exploring the potential of hydrogen production and export development from Canadian markets and has been lobbying several other governments including the U.S. and U.K. to set up shop there.

In August 2022, Fortescue also signed memorandums of understanding with Newfoundland First Nations, Qalipu and Miawpukek. FFI’s plans there include an hydrogen electrolysis and green ammonia production plant, liquid ammonia marine export terminal, and wind power generation facilities.

During the course of the hydrogen summit held in Newfoundland last year, which saw German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend, FFI hinted it is eyeing similar projects in Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba.

About the Author: Binny Paul

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