Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Plug Power have signed a letter of intent to create a 50-50 joint venture to build a ‘Gigafactory’ in Queensland, aiming to manufacture 2 GW of hydrogen electrolysers annually, with the ability to expand into fuel cell and hydrogen-related refuelling and storage infrastructure.
The $115 million manufacturing facility, to be built in Aldoga, west of Gladstone, was announced earlier this week as part of FFI’s bold renewable energy ambitions, which include establishing a global portfolio of green hydrogen and green ammonia operations with an initial plan to produce 15 million tonnes per annum of green hydrogen by 2030.
The Queensland plant will manufacture not only large-scale proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers, but also cabling and wind turbines to drive production of green hydrogen for global markets. FFI has also announced plans to develop a 1 GW solar PV module manufacturing plant.
“We need solar panels, wind towers, and electrolysers in such scale that we need to produce them where we use them – including in Australia,” FFI chief executive officer Julie Shuttleworth said.
“We have enough solar and wind in Australia to power many countries of the world. Working together with Plug Power, we can create this future.”
The joint venture agreement will see Plug Power supply the electrolyser and fuel cell technology while FFI will contribute advanced manufacturing capabilities. The first electrolysers are expected to roll off the production line by 2023.
FFI will be the primary customer of the products manufactured by the joint venture, enabling its ambitions in decarbonizing its operations with stationary power and mobility applications running on green hydrogen.
Under the agreement, FFI will also purchase 250 MW of Plug Power’s electrolyser solutions for use in its Australian projects. Plug Power will supply these from its existing manufacturing facility in New York, with delivery planned for the second half of 2022.
The Queensland factory is the third in Plug Power’s stable after it last week announced it would build a second gigafactory in South Korea as part of a joint venture with industrial conglomerate SK Group.
“Australia and New Zealand will be a big market opportunity for our green hydrogen ecosystem of electrolysers, fuel cells, and green hydrogen,” Plug Power president and CEO Andy Marsh said.
“This year, we will do megawatts of deployment in these markets, and gigawatts in the coming years.”
Meanwhile, FFI founder Dr Andrew Forrest has warned big business will shift overseas if the federal government is unable to support the transition to a decarbonised economy.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Thursday, Forrest said it was time the federal government came to the table and formally committed to a 2050 net-zero position before the COP26 talks which commence in Scotland on October 31.
Forrest said Australia could be a global energy superpower in the renewable energy “boom” but said without policy support from the Commonwealth the future of the nation’s energy market would stifle the potential benefit from being a mass green hydrogen exporter.
“It won’t happen at the same pace, or may not (even) happen in Australia,” he said.
“We will have to take our investments, our technologies, our ideas to those countries who will strongly welcome us.”
The federal government is currently committed to reducing emissions by 26-28% by below 2005 levels by 2030 but has not yet committed to a net-zero emissions target, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying that his desire is to reach the target “preferably” by 2050.
The government appears poised to announce a net-zero emissions target for 2050, and possibly a stronger 2030 target as well, after a draft plan was put to Cabinet on Wednesday.
National Party members will meet on Sunday to discuss whether they will back the Liberal Party’s proposal but Forrest said if the government didn’t nominate a clear 2030 target, “all of us in business don’t know what to aim for”.
“It’s like having an Olympics without medals,” he said. “I mean, you can talk all you like, but unless you’re gonna aim to win the race, you’re probably not gonna win it.
“The worst thing we can have to make investment decisions and business decisions is uncertainty. Remove the uncertainty, nominate a target for 2030, and let Australia crack on and go for it.”
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