Christmas comes late for Fortescue's first hydrogen project

FORTESCUE Metals Group has reported the third-best half-year result in the company's history, despite posting a lower profit for the half and the company still yet to use green hydrogen in any of its operations.

We’re not rushing things: Gaines

We’re not rushing things: Gaines

December half-year net profit after tax dropped 32% to US$2.77 billion, in line with consensus estimates.

Underlying EBITDA fell 28% to $4.76 billion, while the EBITDA margin was down 18% to 59%.

Revenue was down 13% to $8.1 billion with record half-year shipments of 93.1 million tonnes not enough to offset higher costs and weaker iron ore price realisation.

The company spent $242 million on its green energy arm, Fortescue Future Industries, with unutilised funds of $651 million. 

CEO Elizabeth Gaines said FFI continued to advance its portfolio of renewable energy and green hydrogen projects. 

"Fortescue Future Industries will be a key enabler of our industry-leading targets to decarbonise our operations by 2030 and to remove net emissions from our entire value chain by 2040," she said. 

A key decarbonisation goal for the company is to replace the roughly 750 million litres of diesel it uses per year by 2030 across its truck, train and shipping fleets and produce 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen per year. 

Despite this, FMG's first planned hydrogen project, a 1.5MW electrolyser in the Pilbara, has yet to start producing, despite the company announcing first hydrogen would be generated from the project this quarter.

The electrolyser, powered by the Chichester Energy Hub, aims to fuel coaches, supplied by Hyzon Motors, to transport workers at its Christmas Creek mine operations. 

Asked by Energy News about the project on a media call this morning, Gaines said the coaches and electrolyser had arrived, however they were still working on optimising the refuelling infrastructure, saying the location of the station had changed and was being redesigned for capital efficiency. 

"Initially we were planning on using it to fuel small vehicles and coaches but now we're planning to use it to refuel much large mining fleets which has led to a design change and change of location," she said. 

First hydrogen is now expected to be produced in the second half of the year. 

Her response prompted previously repeated questions as to whether FFI's ambitious targets and FID dates had been overreached, which Gaines flatly rejected.

"I don't think that's a fair assessment," she said. 

"With FFI we've now got the ability to make sure that we're scaling that up so we can optimise that infrastructure, there's no point putting that in just for a few buses now that we've got a broader visibility on the mobile fleet application.

"It's not about rushing things, it's about actually getting them right." 

She did admit that FFI's planned 250MW Bell Bay development, which was supposed to reach FID last year, had been blown out but placed the blame squarely on negotiations with the Tasmanian government over electricity supply agreements. 

She also noted that while hydrogen was not being used in operations at this stage, it was being generated at its Hazelmere facility in Perth to test its fuelling capabilities for trucks, ship and locomotive engines. 

"Certainly, there's certainly no shortage of effort across the business to achieve the objectives that we set for ourselves." 

The company highlighted the progress it had made with its other green energy ventures, including securing approval to build its Green Energy Manufacturing Centre from the Queensland government. 

FFI expects the 2GW facility in Gladstone to begin producing electrolysers by 2023, which will be used first and foremost to produce hydrogen to decarbonise its parent company's mining operations. 

Last week the company lodged plans to build a 5GW renewable energy hub in the Pilbara with the state's Environmental Protection Authority, however Gaines said the project was in the "planning stage" and FID would be made in 2023. 

The company declared a fully franked interim dividend of 86c per share, down from $1.47 year-on-year.

The dividend was in line with market estimates and represents a payout ratio of 70%.

The company closed December with cash of $2.9 billion and net debt of $1.7 billion.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the energy sector, brought to you by the Energy News Bulletin Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the energy sector, brought to you by the Energy News Bulletin Intelligence team.


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