Global green energy and technology company Fortescue Future Industries acquires stake in South Australian company to develop and commercialise next-generation green hydrogen technology

Feb 2, 2022

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) is acquiring an interest in Sparc Hydrogen Pty Ltd (Sparc Hydrogen), a company which has an exclusive licence to develop and commercialise next-generation green hydrogen technology created by the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

Sparc Hydrogen is researching technology which would see green hydrogen produced by only sunlight and water (photocatalytic water splitting coupled with solar radiation), instead of renewable energy and electrolysis.

Being a technology focused company provides FFI with the opportunity to become a significant participant in the global green hydrogen industry. Sparc Hydrogen’s promising early-stage technology has the potential to create significant energy efficiencies and a cost competitive advantage with low capital and operating expenditure required compared to renewable energy and electrolysis.

This investment builds on the announcement last week that Fortescue has entered into an agreement to acquire UK-based Williams Advanced Engineering to support the decarbonisation of Fortescue’s mining operations and deliver on the Company’s target to achieve carbon neutrality for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.

FFI is aiming to utilise and develop emerging technologies to demonstrate to the world that the decarbonisation of heavy industry is possible and then deliver that technology to the significant global market. In the case of Sparc Hydrogen, if this early-stage technology is successful, it could ultimately be used to help produce green hydrogen at a larger and more affordable scale.

FFI is also building one of the largest electrolyser factories in the world in Gladstone, Queensland with the first sod due to be turned this month. This technology will complement our existing world leading work in green hydrogen research, technology development and production.

FFI Chief Executive Officer, Julie Shuttleworth AM said, “There is irrefutable scientific evidence that the planet is warming. Green hydrogen is a practical, implementable solution to decarbonise hard to abate sectors, including heavy industry.

“The research being undertaken by Sparc Hydrogen is important for FFI’s growing technology portfolio as we continue to develop technologies to lower emissions globally. We are excited to enter into this relationship and to support this critical research into green hydrogen,” Ms Shuttleworth said.

FFI's initial stage 1 investment of $1.8 million will result in FFI acquiring a 20 per cent interest in Sparc Hydrogen, a joint venture with Sparc Technologies and the University of Adelaide. At stage 2, FFI could invest a further $1.475 million into Sparc Hydrogen for a total investment of $3.275 million over 4.5 years to earn a 36 per cent interest in Sparc Hydrogen.

Sparc Technologies Executive Chairman, Stephen Hunt, said “Sparc is extremely excited to be working with a company of the calibre of FFI, which has demonstrated its credentials as being a world leading company in green hydrogen. FFI is well placed to assist the development and commercialisation of Sparc Hydrogen’s green hydrogen photocatalytic technology.”

The initial research project to be undertaken by Sparc Hydrogen will seek to further develop a process known as Thermo-Photocatalysis, which employs the sun’s radiation and thermal properties to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen. Adopting this process to produce green hydrogen means that independent generation of renewable energy from wind farms or photovoltaic solar panels, does not need to be produced for hydrogen production, nor does the process of electrolysis need to be employed.

University of Adelaide’s Executive Director, Innovation & Commercial, Dr Stephen Rodda said the University of Adelaide is committed to partnering with industry to support the transfer and development of new technologies.

“Central to this is working with partners that are aligned in the strategic objectives and goals to be achieved. Bringing FFI into the Sparc Hydrogen joint venture is a tremendous outcome and one that the University of Adelaide is proud to be party to.

“Not only is FFI’s hydrogen energy strategy strongly aligned to that of Sparc Hydrogen, but FFI will also bring a high level of capability and expertise to support the successful development of this innovative technology,” Dr Rodda said.

The technology developed to date was supported by ASTRI (Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute), with contributions totalling A$2.5m over a five-year period from University of Adelaide and Flinders University. 

FFI and Sparc Hydrogen will work together to help achieve FFI’s goal to make zero emissions energy available at an industrial, global scale.