Rio Tinto relies on renewable natural gas

To halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Rio Tinto Fer et Titane’s Sorel-Tracy metallurgical complex is integrating renewable natural gas into its energy portfolio. The multinational also plans to use biochar and hydrogen to reduce its carbon footprint.

Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) recently entered into an agreement with Énergir for the annual purchase of one million tons cubic meters of renewable natural gas, generated in particular by the mining of organic residues. Since March 2022, the multinational has been combining it with conventional gas to power its rotary kilns, reactors and steel mills.

RTFT estimates it can reduce its emissions by almost 1,900 tonnes of CO2eq2 per year ; According to data from the Quebec Register of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 921,772 tons were emitted in 2020.

This shift to renewable natural gas is just the beginning, assures Didier Arseguel, Vice-President Technology at RTFT. The Sorel-Tracy complex and that of Richards Bay Minerals in South Africa are considering the use of biochar made from forest residues. “We are in the process of building and developing the biochar supply chain,” says Mr. Arseguel. Laboratory and factory tests have been carried out. More will follow in September. The aim: to assess the purity and quality of the fuel and the reaction of the plant reactors.

RTFT’s parent company, Rio Tinto, also participated in the recent $200 million funding round for Aymium, a producer of biochar that can replace fossil fuels in the manufacture of metals.

Hydrogen will follow

The multinational also plans to eventually add hydrogen to its arsenal. “We produce CO gas2, that we recycle. We will start from that and develop it further in the direction of hydrogen,” says Mr. Arseguel. The energy source “would be used in addition to biochar” upstream of the RTFT conversion processes.

When is hydrogen used in the Sorel plant process? Mr Arseguel does not want to comment: “We will say that we are working very hard and have done everything to reach our target, which is to reduce our emissions by 50% by 2030.”

These different paths will coexist. “To say that we will have a miracle cure [pour répondre aux besoins énergétiques de nos installations], I don’t think so,” he says, pointing out that each of these energy sources has its own characteristics. “The abatement potential of renewable natural gas [pour nos activités] is between 10% and 15%, while that of biochar is higher. »

Last October, Rio Tinto committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2025 and by 50% by 2030 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“To be clear, these are extremely ambitious goals, it’s not easy,” he says, adding that the company’s strategy combines both fuel switching and energy efficiency. Rio Tinto has announced a $7.5 billion investment to reduce emissions between 2022 and 2030.

The company isn’t the only industry giant to phase out hydrocarbons. The duty reported last week that Arcelor Mittal plans to use hydrogen to reduce its emissions. To this end, the multinational with a factory in Contrecœur Quebec is asking for financial support.

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