Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Chairman of GFG Alliance and LIBERTY Steel Group, shares his views at the Australian Hydrogen Conference, Perth on strategies to eliminate the dependence on fossil fuels to make steel, and how Australia can become a world leader in a new, clean hydrogen economy and a global hub for GREENSTEEL.
Whyalla—Australia’s Hidden Treasure
The great story of all our lives is just beginning.
The fight against climate change is going to accelerate more in the next four years than it has in the past 40.
Steel and cement, along with so many other heavy industries, both have a lot to answer for.
But, unlike the cement industry,
that can do very little to reduce the escape of trapped CO2 released during production,
steel already has many of those answers.
Answers that lie right here beneath our feet, and in the skies above our heads… in Australia.
Let me mention just a couple:
Every two minutes, the energy reaching earth from the sun is equivalent to all the power used by humanity in a full year.
With 50 billion tonnes of reserves, Australia ranks first among the world’s largest iron ore producing countries, and second amongst coal and LNG exporters.
Put these two points together, and Australia could well become a major industrial powerhouse, not simply a resource supplier.
Granted, with the world’s appetite for iron, coal and gas growing year on year, it doesn’t take too much effort to dig it up, pour it into the holds of ships and send it off across the world.
Especially with coal fired power and blast furnaces still growing, over 200 new plants last year alone.
But consider that instead of exporting vast quantities of low value material, Australia turned its home-grown talents to adding value to those commodities...
exporting, instead, highly prized, semi-finished and fully finished products.
And if done with one eye on the environment, the results would be astounding.
That’s why we’re investing billions in practicing what I’ve just preached.
And doing it in partnership with the government of South Australia.
A really progressive government, determined to capture the one catalyst that unlocks all the other natural resources this country possesses in such abundance… renewable energy.
And capture it just when energy prices are rising, and demand is rising exponentially.
So, although we clearly need more energy,
It now has to be the right kind of energy,
used in conjunction with the right kind of minerals.
This is the key to unlocking everything else.
Perhaps, even resolving the trilemma that exists between
steel being the most polluting industry accounting for more than 9% global CO2 emmissions...
rising populations demanding ever more steel…
and governments clamping down on the polluting plants which feed that need.
Clearly, the industry will have to change its ways: produce the iron and steel so needed but without the pollution.
And that’s what my business is doing here…
In a town that really does have it all.
Welcome to Whyalla—the hidden treasure of Australia.
It all starts with Magnetite, from a colossal former hematite mine that’s more than a century old, only 60 km from our own deep sea port.
A hematite mine that is now transitioning to high grade magnetite…
… more than 4 billion tons of reserves already identified,
reserves we intend to extract over the decades to come.
Today we’re producing around two and a half million tonnes of magnetite, but we intend to up that figure to 15 million tons by 2026 and then to 30 million tons by 2030.
This magnetite really is the best of the best raw material for making Greensteel from Green energy, as our recent sample batch of DRI grade pellets has shown.
These pellets are the mineral equivalent of a 1999 vintage Penfolds Grange.
We could, of course, just sell them on,
and no doubt we shall be doing that as well.
But in line with our philosophy of climbing the value chain, we will also be making and selling the wine, not just exporting the grapes.
Utilising Hydrogen, made in the South Australian Government’s electrolyser,
We’ll be producing high grade Green Iron using pure Green Hydrogen.
Transforming near limitless magnetite reserves in special furnaces, powered by our own wind and solar farms…
…itself a product of a rather large nuclear reactor... the sun.
And amongst all that good news, is the really good news:
month by month it’s getting cheaper and easier to capture all that solar and wind energy and turn it into electricity.
Leaving more of the pollutants in the ground,
utilising instead the most plentiful, as well as the lightest element in the galaxy… Hydrogen.
And not just grey or blue hydrogen, itself a source of global warming, but Green Hydrogen.
But sadly, hydrogen is expensive to store… and costly and complex to transport.
Luckily for us though, and for Australia, there is one genuinely brilliant use which means we don’t have to store or transport it, we can use it daily as its produced… to make Greeniron.
At Whyalla, with its magnetite reserves, its fantastic solar and wind resource, its deep-water port, its well-connected rail network, and its super skilled workforce, we will be changing the nature of everything we do.
Replacing our blast furnaces with electric arc furnaces fed by local scrap plus Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) produced in hydrogen fuelled plants using our vast supplies of magnetite.
All powered by a raft of renewable energy technologies.
We call this plan CN30: Carbon Neutrality across the business by 2030.
That’s at least a full decade, and in most cases two decades, ahead of the rest of the steel industry.
And what we’ve done in Australia, we’ll be doing everywhere else: phasing out our blast furnaces, replacing them with electric arcs,
first reducing our carbon footprint then eliminating it entirely.
The trick is to pick the right spot.
And Whyalla is JUST right.
Quite simply, we don’t ship the mountain to us.
We go to the magnetite mountain…,
harness the sun and the wind,
expand the workforce (and the population) of the town…
and boost our magnatite production from 2.5 million tonnes today to
15 million tonnes in a few years, then 30 million tonnes by end of the decade, while aiming to convert much of it into green iron to feed our steel plants and partners across the world.
If that sounds like a lot, it is.
But all this would still only account for a small percentage of what the world requires.
Sadly, not everywhere is blessed like Whyalla.
So, we will make it in Australia and sell it where it can’t be made.
The opportunity for us is too good to miss.
The opportunity for Australia should also be seen as too good to miss.
This nation’s wonderful combination of billions of tonnes of high grade ore and almost infinite power from the sun could be at the heart of a new, clean and sustainable industrial revolution.
An unmissable chance to turn limitless sunshine and wind into endless prosperity... for Australia.
I would like to end with a final thought:
At the turn of the 19th century, the United States of America had an endless supply of natural resources, energy and eternal vistas of land.
A work force willing to utilise these resources.
And a government keen to encourage industrialists and financiers.
You know the rest... America capitalised on these strengths to become the world’s leading economy.
Australia, too, floats on a sea of natural resources, spread across a land of boundless proportions.
Benefits from a skilled and willing workforce,
And possesses a government that supports sustainable energy production and industrial development.
The similarities are as striking as they are overwhelming.
The messages… as clear as they are obvious.
Sooner or later, demand for high carbon manufacturing is bound to dry up.
But demand for steel, will only ever increase.
So, the obvious question is staring us all in the face:
Why export millions of tonnes of low value raw materials when you have all the ingredients, to generate tens
of billions of dollars in high value, super Greeniron and Greensteel?
That is the opportunity.
The partnership we have put together at Whyalla is a model that can be duplicated time and again across the nation.
It really is an open invitation to work together, in lock-step, certainly at the Pilbara, but also in so many other parts of this BIG, BIG country.
I invite you all to start those partnerships today...
And I thank you for your time.