NPROXX is currently completing the production of a revolutionary new hydrogen fuel tank system that will power the world’s largest mine haul truck at a South African Anglo American PGM mine.
The hydrogen tank system will drive a fuel cell that provides a zero-emission solution for materials hauling that is currently unavailable on the market once it has been shipped, mounted on the vehicle, and certified.
The hydrogen-powered truck will be tested at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena mine, which is the world’s largest open pit platinum group metals mine, before being deployed at other Anglo American operations around the world.
Anglo American has set lofty climate-related goals, including openly committing to carbon neutrality by 2040 through its global operations. Switching from diesel to hydrogen would help the company get closer to its target of running carbon-neutral mines, as large trucks already account for over 70% of diesel consumption on-site.
“The switch from diesel to hydrogen power makes perfect sense for Anglo American,” said Johannes Lorenz, Director Marketing & Sales at NPROXX. Hydrogen-powered drivetrains can provide the required power for these vehicles. Anglo American’s use of fossil fuels for these operations will be reduced as a result of this. This initiative, we hope, would serve as a promising model for Anglo American to implement hydrogen-powered solutions in other large vehicles at other locations around the world.”
Anglo American, with its mining expertise, has taken on the task of developing zero-emission mining vehicles by combining the various necessary parts with the assistance of partners – it turned to NPROXX to build a tank system that could securely and cost-effectively store enough hydrogen at high pressure to power the fuel cells.
NPROXX built and delivered a unique pipework and refueling system that could accommodate several tanks on the vessel at pressures of up to 350 bar, in addition to meeting the challenge of manufacturing the pressure vessels and fitting the tanks inside the vehicle’s frame.
The key challenge has been ensuring the implementation of a secure and stable system for the mining application, which includes everything from hydrogen generation to safe hydrogen use on vehicles.
“In a mine, there are uneven roadways, so the vehicles themselves are very sturdy, and they need an equally robust system for storing hydrogen,” Lorenz said. The vehicle we’re working with is the world’s largest mine haul truck, with front wheels that are about four meters in diameter, a height of 7.5 meters, and a weight of over 200 tons when empty. The amount of power needed to drive such a vehicle and keep it working during the challenging operations cycles is significant.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, delivery of the power plant module to South Africa has been slightly postponed, but NPROXX expects the vehicle to be operational in the second half of 2021.
Green hydrogen production
NPROXX also supplied the pressure vessels used to store the hydrogen in the refueling station, in addition to the hydrogen tank system, which was completely designed and developed by the company.
“We were the natural choice for the contractor delivering the refueling station because of our experience in manufacturing cylinders that perfectly fit reliability, consistency, protection, and cost efficiency,” Lorenz adds. “We provided them with two 20-foot tanks that will store hydrogen from the electrolysers and ensure an always-ready, long-term fuel supply for the truck,” says the company.
Anglo American intends to power the truck with hydrogen produced on site by electrolysis using renewable energy sources.
In South Africa, Anglo American and Engie are currently constructing a demonstration plant, which will include a 3.5MW electrolyser for on-site hydrogen production. It can produce up to 1 tonne of steel every day. Producing hydrogen on site to fuel the truck would reduce the need to import fuels and save even more money.