WA Today reported that South32 Chief Executive Mr Graham Kerr has challenged the timing of Andrew Forrest’s bid to commercialise green steel, arguing the emerging sector is at least 25 years away.
Mr Kerr said while he thought hydrogen would play an important role in future industries, there were presently no substitutes for metallurgical coal, also known as coking coal, in the steel making process and South32 still considers it as an attractive commodity.
Mr Kerr said “I think Andrew Forrest’s concept of bringing hydrogen into the country as another fuel source is great. We are very interested in how hydrogen develops but I think the technology to get the steelworks to actually use it in a meaningful way is decades at least away from being practically used. I would say green steel, you are talking 25 to 30 years away, and even in that context there is still going to be some coking coal that is going to be needed in places like south-east Asia and India, so I think there is still going to be a need for met coal.”
Dr Forrest, chairman of iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group, has been spearheading the push for a local green steel industry. In January, Dr Forrest outlined plans for Fortescue to pioneer green steel in Australia by combining the Pilbara’s rich iron ore resources with emerging technologies.
Fortescue, which ships almost all its iron ore to customers in China, plans to start building Australia’s first green steel pilot plant this year and a commercial-scale plant in the next few years.
South32 produces metallurgical coal at its Illawarra project in NSW and holds a 50% stake in the Eagles Down project in Queensland, which is yet to be developed.