wind turbine

Decarbonising steel

Tackling climate change will be our legacy


Simon Trott, executive team
Simon Trott, Chief Executive, Iron Ore

Simon Trott, Chief Executive, Iron Ore


A lot has been said lately about global efforts to combat climate change, in particular the role governments and industry can play in creating a cleaner, greener future for our children and grandchildren.

The world needs to decarbonise and as a company that supplies vital materials for the energy transition – such as copper, aluminium and iron ore – we have an important role to play.  

Cracking the green steel code

Green steel is a term that’s gaining increasing traction in the discussion around emissions.

Addressing the broader carbon footprint of the commodities we produce will be one of the biggest challenges of the next decade. This is especially the case when we consider the steel value chain.

Steel is currently responsible for 8% of global carbon dioxide. This needs to change. And while that is a daunting number, I firmly believe there is a huge opportunity for us to be part of something that can be a game-changer when it comes to significantly reducing global emissions. 

Green steel could be considered the ‘holy grail’ of our industry’s commitment to decarbonise. There’s no doubt we face significant technological challenges. We’re determined to overcome these obstacles by working collaboratively with customers, governments, suppliers and academia to support research and development. We have earmarked around $US200 million a year to help us achieve this goal.

This work already includes exploring the use of biomass in place of coking coal in the steelmaking process to cut industry carbon emissions.

We’re also working with BlueScope to look at low-carbon steelmaking pathways using Pilbara iron ores, including the use of clean hydrogen to replace coking coal at BlueScope’s Port Kembla Steelworks.

We’re committed to ’cracking the code’ and develop the technology needed to prepare the Pilbara for a green steel future.

 

Importantly, our plan is more than an aspirational target. It’s underpinned by a $7.5 billion investment to ensure the vision becomes a reality by 2030.

Decarbonising our Iron Ore business

In October we announced our new decarbonisation strategy, along with aggressive new targets to ensure we play our part when it comes to reducing emissions. 

The plan sets a clear pathway to decarbonise both our business and our communities, while continuing to produce the materials the world needs for the energy transition.

Under the strategy, our emissions targets have dramatically increased, including a 50%  reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030. This is more than triple our previous target. A 15% reduction in emissions is now targeted for 2025, five years earlier than previously planned. 

These are ambitious targets, but there is no doubt they better reflect the changing expectations of the community, our shareholders and our people. 

Importantly, our plan is more than an aspirational target. It’s underpinned by a $7.5 billion investment to ensure the vision becomes a reality by 2030.  

It’s an exciting time. Not only because the strategy will allow us to play an important part in addressing the climate challenge but also because Western Australia, in particularly the Pilbara, is at the forefront of our global plans. 

A key focus of our $7.5 billion plan is transitioning to high penetration renewable energy to power our mining operations and communities in the Pilbara. That means replacing gas and diesel with clean, renewable energy. 

We aim to fully electrify our entire Pilbara operations, including haul trucks, mobile equipment and rail operations, replacing existing emissions-heavy diesel fleets with battery or hydrogen technology.

We’re planning for the rapid deployment of one gigawatt of wind and solar renewable energy to abate around 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and almost completely replace natural gas to power our sites and associated infrastructure. To give an indication of the scale of our investment into one gigawatt of solar and wind renewable energy, that’s roughly seven times the size of Western Australia’s biggest solar farm. 

With its obvious advantages in solar and wind, the Pilbara is ideally placed to be transformed into a leader in renewable energy. The opportunities for Western Australian businesses and jobs are significant.

In addition, we aim to fully electrify our entire Pilbara operations, including haul trucks, mobile equipment and rail operations, replacing existing emissions-heavy diesel fleets with battery or hydrogen technology. 

The next few decades will see the world largely abandon the internal combustion engine, which may be the greatest creator of productivity and wealth since the invention of the wheel. How we tackle this challenge will be our legacy. 

Partnerships and collaboration will be essential. We have formed cross-sector partnerships to develop zero-carbon mining trucks and innovative mobile fleet charging solutions. By 2030, the purchase of diesel-powered fleets at Rio Tinto will end. And soon, we hope to announce the purchase of our first battery electric locos.

We don’t have all the answers now, but we have set out a clear plan to ensure we can thrive in a decarbonised world.

We’re planning for the rapid deployment of one gigawatt of wind and solar renewable energy to abate around 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and almost completely replace natural gas to power our sites and associated infrastructure. To give an indication of the scale of our investment into one gigawatt of solar and wind renewable energy, that’s roughly seven times the size of Western Australia’s biggest solar farm. 

With its obvious advantages in solar and wind, the Pilbara is ideally placed to be transformed into a leader in renewable energy. The opportunities for Western Australian businesses and jobs are significant.

In addition, we aim to fully electrify our entire Pilbara operations, including haul trucks, mobile equipment and rail operations, replacing existing emissions-heavy diesel fleets with battery or hydrogen technology. 

The next few decades will see the world largely abandon the internal combustion engine, which may be the greatest creator of productivity and wealth since the invention of the wheel. How we tackle this challenge will be our legacy. 

Partnerships and collaboration will be essential. We have formed cross-sector partnerships to develop zero-carbon mining trucks and innovative mobile fleet charging solutions. By 2030, the purchase of diesel-powered truck fleets at Rio Tinto will end. And we’re looking to electrify our trains too – in January we agreed to purchase four battery-electric trains to carry ore from our mines to our ports, with initial trials due to start in the Pilbara in early 2024. This is just the start – a full transition to net zero emissions technology across our fleet of rail locomotives would reduce our diesel-related carbon emissions in the Pilbara by around 30% annually.

It’s an ambitious goal that will require further work with our partners to advance technology in battery-powered fleets but our desire to get there is unwavering. The challenge has been set, and we’re determined to deliver.

Reducing our carbon footprint and progressing green steel technology is clearly a significant challenge, but in my view it’s an even bigger opportunity which means raising our ambitions and taking genuine actions. 

We don’t have all the answers now, but we have set out a clear plan to ensure we can thrive in a decarbonised world. 

It’s very simple. We need to decarbonise. We have a plan to get there that will create enormous opportunities for the people of Western Australia.

I’m proud to be part of a sector that is leading the way in creating a more sustainable future and positioning Western Australia to be a global leader in a decarbonised world.