Skip to Content
Project overview


Fortescue intends to develop a low-temperature direct electrochemical reduction (DER) technology to reduce iron ore into iron metal. The technology is a solid-state slurry electrolyser with an alkaline electrolyte designed to use intermittent renewable energy. Fortescue is partnering with Deakin University and Curtin University to deliver the project. 


This project was selected as part of the competitive Iron and Steel R&D Funding Round under the Transformative Research Accelerating Commercialisation (TRAC) Program to create solutions for Australian iron ore, predominantly comprised of lower grade ore from the Pilbara, and to help decarbonise domestic steel production. Near-term investment in innovative R&D is a critical enabler to rapidly develop the technologies required to transition to a net zero future state. Projects supported by the Iron and Steel R&D Funding Round seek to accelerate novel and innovative low emissions iron and steel technologies using Australian iron ore. 

Steelmaking, including iron ore processing, is a carbon intensive process contributing to approximately 7% of global emissions and, hence, decarbonising the iron/steel sector is a critical priority. Fortescue, the world’s fourth largest iron ore producer, has set a target to eliminate scope 1 and 2 terrestrial emissions from its Australian iron ore operations by 2030. 

Fortescue has developed an iron ore electrolyser technology that electrochemically reduces iron ores to iron metal at the cathode and generates oxygen at the anode as a by-product. Fortescue will continue research and development on the technology to seek to ensure commercially acceptable electrolysis parameters can be met using an optimised electrolyser at scale. 


The project will be delivered in two stages, a Core Research Stage followed by a Research Commercialisation Stage, and involves development of an optimised iron ore electrolyser, using DER technology, to commercial-ready specifications capable of reducing lower grade ores below 130 degrees Celsius. 

The Core Research work packages include: 

  • designing and constructing iron ore electrolyser cells for testing and evaluation; and 
  • evaluating Pilbara ores for DER using the electrolyser cells  and evaluating products made. 

Research Commercialisation work packages include: 

  • iron ore electrolyser engineering and construction, process safety analysis, electrolyser unit manufacturing; and 
  • commissioning an optimised iron ore electrolyser plant. 


The project seeks to achieve the following outcomes: 

  • reduction in, or removal of, barriers associated with using lower-grade Australian iron ores in low emissions iron and steel production through development of DER technology that provides flexibility to manage different feedstocks; 
  • development of innovative and/or step change emissions abatement pathways for iron and steel production through optimisation of an electrolyser capable of reducing Australian iron ore at low temperatures; 
  • increased research capacity in the Australian iron and steel sector, and the facilitation of collaboration between research groups and industry; and 
  • accelerated commercialisation of an iron ore electrolyser  through innovative research and development in DER technology. 
Last updated
10 April 2024
Last updated 10 April 2024
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Back to top