Chief executive of Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest has lambasted blue hydrogen and carbon capture & storage (CCS) as ineffective “greenwash” that deceives shareholders and magnifies the threats from both global warming and Russian aggression.

He also called for governments to introduce financial incentives for green hydrogen, revealing that the first electrolysers from FFI’s giant 2GW gigafactory in Queensland, Australia will be coming off the assembly line as soon as December.

Forrest, who was recently sanctioned by the Kremlin for calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “murderer”, claimed that carbon dioxide sequestered underground would yield catastrophic leaks.

“I haven’t met a scientist yet who says it stays down the hole, leaking at less than 1% year,” he said, speaking at the Financial Times hydrogen summit in London last week, warning that “it leaks a lot quicker than that”.

“But just say they’re right, that means the whole lot comes back out in the exact century you’re supposed to get rid of it,” he said. “That’s not carbon sequestration, that’s greenwashing.”

He added: “Look at it for what it is: lying to your shareholders. They’re buying your stock thinking you’re doing the right thing and you’re not. It’s straight up what sends you to the clink in Australia if you repetitively lie to your shareholders for personal gain.”

Greenwashing also undermines the efforts of “legitimate green companies” by keeping cash flowing towards less environmentally-friendly businesses he added, calling on governments to implement the “right” policy support for green hydrogen such as the $3/kg tax credit in the US and the contract for difference (CfD) for green H2 in Germany.

Citing Chevron’s CCS project at Gorgon LNG in Australia, which landed massive fines from the Australian government when it failed to meet its 80% capture targets, along with Shell’s Jackdaw CCS tie-in the UK North Sea, which the FFI chief labelled a “carbon bomb”, Forrest called on policymakers and industry stakeholders to call out greenwashing when it occurs.

“We know Russia’s a threat, we know global warming is a threat,” he warned. “If you want to exacerbate those two, make them really lethal, allow companies to greenwash. You need to take it very seriously.”

The plea came as the iron-ore billionaire revealed that FFI’s giant 2GW electrolyser factory currently under construction in Queensland, the Green Energy Manufacturing Centre, will produce its first electrolysers in December 2022.

This would appear to be ahead of schedule – FFI has previously said that construction on the gigafactory would not complete until 2023.

But speakers in a subsequent panel defended the record of CCS. “They [CCS projects] failed financially, because there has been no incentive to do them,” said Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at University of Oxford. “But if you ask what’s happened to CO2? Sure, Gorgon stored 68% instead of 80% but that’s not failure, that’s storing 68% rather than 80% and they have got to do better.”

Guloren Turan, general manager of advocacy and communications Global CCS Institute, directly challenged Forrest’s portrayal of CCS and blue hydrogen, pointing to the 29 CCS projects currently in operation across the world and analysis by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which calls for use of CCS “where necessary”.

Hydrogen: hype, hope and the hard truths around its role in the energy transition
Will hydrogen be the skeleton key to unlock a carbon-neutral world? Subscribe to Accelerate Hydrogen, powered by Recharge and Upstream, and get the market insight you need for this rapidly evolving global market.