Fortescue attacks Woodside as hydrogen in the spotlight at COP26

FORTESCUE Future Industries has signed an agreement with JCB and Ryze hydrogen to become the UK’s largest supplier of green hydrogen, while at the same time launching a scathing attack on Woodside Petroleum’s claims about its own hydrogen plans.
Fortescue attacks Woodside as hydrogen in the spotlight at COP26 Fortescue attacks Woodside as hydrogen in the spotlight at COP26 Fortescue attacks Woodside as hydrogen in the spotlight at COP26 Fortescue attacks Woodside as hydrogen in the spotlight at COP26 Fortescue attacks Woodside as hydrogen in the spotlight at COP26

Woodside CEO Meg O'Neill and FFI founder Andrew Forrest

Mark Tilly

Senior Journalist

Mark Tilly

Both companies have gone on public charm offences as climate and energy policy is in the global spotlight with the UN COP26 talks in Glasgow launching overnight.

Fortescue's FFI announced yesterday it has signed a memorandum of understanding with manufacturer JCB and hydrogen distribution company  Ryze to purchase 10% of FFI's global green hydrogen production.

FFI aims to produce 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030, expecting to cash in on growing global demand for the zero-emissions gas. The company and its founder, Dr Andrew Forrest have repeatedly argued hydrogen produced via renewable-powered electrolysis is the only credible way to produce the gas and reduce emissions. 

FFI said yesterday that it will lead the green hydrogen production and logistics to the UK market, and JCB and Ryze will manage green hydrogen distribution and development of customer demand in the UK.

"Our agreement signals the first major shift in the global commercial landscape from fossil fuels towards the real, practical, implementable solution that is green hydrogen," Forrest said yesterday. 

"We are delighted to announce this groundbreaking initiative at the critical climate forum of COP26."

JCB chairman Lord Jo Bamford described the deal as a "major advance", saying it would help get hydrogen to customers and boost demand. 

FFI said an extended offtake agreement will also be looked at to provide green hydrogen to the European market.

Bamford also used the announcement to criticise blue hydrogen - made from fossil fuels with the emissions either captured and stored or offset - saying the production of it causes more pollution than it saves. 

"This agreement demonstrates that green hydrogen does not need to be ‘transitioned' via fossil fuel hydrogen," he said. 

"Production of it can commence at once, to meet the needs of all mobility."

Meanwhile, Woodside Petroleum has run print advertisements in Australian newspapers promoting its H2Perth project in Perth. 

Woodside announced last week, alongside the state government, that the H2Perth project would use a combination of blue and green hydrogen, claiming all of the associated emissions would be offset. The company will make the final investment decision on the project in 2024. 

FFI, alongside GH2 CEO and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, attacked the advertisement, saying the company failed to mention that its hydrogen production method still produces emissions. 

A Woodside spokesperson declined to comment. 

Woodside, alongside other oil and gas players including Santos, its representative body APPEA and the Morrison government has argued that blue hydrogen will be an important pathway to create demand and foster the hydrogen industry, as the cost of producing green hydrogen falls. 

However critics have argued the associated emissions of transporting and storing the emissions, and the emissions from the machinery used in turn to capture and store those emissions mean it is not a credible climate solution.

Supporters of blue hydrogen argue that the latest, cutting-edge, CO2 capture technology being developed today will see capture rates of over 95%.  

"All blue hydrogen projects currently underway in the UK are setting a high bar in terms of carbon capture with over 95% CO2 removal from the process considered a minimum," UK Hydrogen Association CEO Celia Greaves told SPGlobal last week. 

Forrest, who is banking on the success of green hydrogen, has gone out of his way to publicly attack Australian oil and gas companies, describing their claims of blue hydrogen as the same as "clean coal, or healthy smoking"

Woodside and Santos are attending the COP26 talks, urging an opening up of international carbon markets so they can successfully buy sufficient quantities of offsets needed for their oil, natural gas and hydrogen developments. 

Forrest and FFI are also attending, arguing that governments should only recognise green hydrogen as a viable decarbonisation solution. 

"Green hydrogen is critical for the planet and good for business, a powerful fuel and ingredient in the manufacturing of a large range of industrial, difficult-to-decarbonise products," FFI CEO Julie Shuttleworth said yesterday.

Hydrogen is likely to be a key subject of discussion at the talks, alongside countries comitting to more ambitious emissions reduction targets.