Iron-ore billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has announced that his company will build a 2GW electrolyser factory in northeast Australia, before expanding the site to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels and electrical cables.
His clean-energy company, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), will be its own biggest initial customer, with plans to produce 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030, rising to 50 million by 2040.
“This initiative is a critical step in Fortescue’s transition from a highly successful pure play iron ore producer, to an even more successful green renewables and resources powerhouse,” said Forrest, who is said to have a net worth of $13.1bn.
In the past 12 months, the tycoon has become a vocal advocate of renewable H2, forming the Green Hydrogen Organisation with former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to promote its use ahead of grey and blue hydrogen derived from fossil fuels.
The Green Energy Manufacturing Centre will be built on state land near the coastal city of Gladstone, Queensland, which is one of the world’s largest coal-exporting terminals.
Construction is due to start in February, with the first electrolysers — which use electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen — due off the production line in early 2023 after an initial investment of A$114m ($84m).
It is not yet clear whether FFI, a subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group, will license electrolyser designs from third parties, or whether it will develop its own technology — and the same goes for the planned wind turbines, solar panels and cables.
“FFI’s goal is to become the world’s leading, integrated, fully renewable energy and green products company, powering the Australian economy and creating jobs for Australia as we transition away from fossil fuels,” said its chief executive Julie Shuttleworth.
“Our manufacturing arm, starting with electrolysers and expanding to all other required green industry products, will herald great potential for green manufacturing and employment in regional Australia.”
Several other companies are developing or building their own gigascale electrolyser production facilities, including ThyssenKrupp in Germany (5GW), Nel in Norway (2GW), ITM Power in England (1GW), McPhy in France (1GW), Plug Power in the US and South Korea (1GW in total) and Cummins/Iberdrola in Spain (1GW).