Sumitomo Green Hydrogen Production and Rio Tinto Decarbonisation Pilot Project

January 3rd, 2024

Sumitomo Green Hydrogen Production and Rio Tinto Decarbonisation Pilot Project

The project proponents are constructing a project that will demonstrate the production of hydrogen and operation of hydrogen fuelled calcination for process heating at Rio Tinto’s Yarwun alumina refinery at Gladstone.

Main proponents:

Sumitomo Corporation, Rio Tinto

Main end-use classification:

Industrial process – refining (replacement of heat), with mobility and others uses also investigated


Under construction – operations targeted for 2025

Estimated cost:

AUD$111.3 million – Project (capital and operating)

Other involvement:


Production details:

250-300 tonnes per annum hydrogen production capacity, based on a 2.5 MW electrolyser


Queensland, Australia

Announced funding:

(Feasibility study)
AUD$579,786 – ARENA award to Rio Tinto to investigate the use of clean hydrogen to partially decarbonise alumina refining
AUD$32.1 million – ARENA awarded to Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation

Project description

In early 2021, Sumitomo Corporation entered into a contract with JGC Holdings Corporation (part of the JGC Group) for the latter to undertake FEED studies for a hydrogen-related project planned for Gladstone, Queensland. The FEED studies were completed in early 2022.

In June 2021, it was announced that up to AUD$579,786 in funding had been awarded to Rio Tinto to support a feasibility study investigating the potential to partially decarbonise its alumina refining operations using renewable hydrogen.

In August 2021, Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation announced a partnership to study the construction of a hydrogen pilot plant at Rio Tinto’s Yarwun alumina refinery and explore the potential use of hydrogen at the refinery.

In July 2023, it was announced that ARENA had awarded AUD$32.1 million for Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation in support of a project to trial hydrogen calcination technology at the Yarwun Alumina Refinery in Gladstone, Queensland.

The Project aims to validate the use of hydrogen for the calcination process within an operating refinery and develop the systems, processes, and skills to manage hydrogen onsite and integrate into existing infrastructure.

The project is to be delivered along the following scopes of work:

  • Sumitomo Corporation will install (own and operate) a 2.5 MW PEM hydrogen electrolyser and associated equipment onsite at the Rio Tinto Yarwun refinery with a production capacity of 250 to 300 tonnes per annum of hydrogen. Electricity to power the electrolyser will be grid-sourced and ‘greened’ through the surrender of green certificates, where applicable.
  • Rio Tinto will retrofit one of its Yarwun’s four calciners so it can operate at times with a hydrogen burner. This work scope also includes the installation of four (4) tonnes of hydrogen storage, required to store enough hydrogen to operate the calciner for two (2) hours using 100% hydrogen fuel (considered the minimum operating window required to simulate and de-risk full scale operation of hydrogen calcination technology).

On completion of commissioning activities, Sumitomo Corporation would supply 125 tonnes per annum of hydrogen to Rio Tinto’s onsite hydrogen storage for use in its modified calciner.

The hydrogen plant and modified calciner are scheduled to begin operations in 2025 with the pilot plant trial to be completed in 2028.

The trial is expected to produce the equivalent of about 6,000 tonnes of alumina per year while reducing Yarwun’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 3,000 tonnes per year.

JGC Corporation has been retained to undertake a design, equipment procurement, construction work (EPC) services contract for Sumitomo Corporation related to construction of the hydrogen production plant.

Aside from ARENA funding support (as noted in the earlier summary table) the project has also been awarded funding as part of the Central Queensland Hydrogen Hub (through the Australian Government’s Regional Hydrogen Hubs Program – Hub Implementation funding stream).

Total project cost (capital and operating) is estimated at around AUD$111 million.


Reviewed: March 2024