Electrolyser factory puts regional town on hydrogen map

An Australian first manufacturing facility that will develop hydrogen electrolysers has opened in central Queensland.

Fortescue Future Industries on Monday officially opened its electrolyser plant on a 100-hectare site in Gladstone.

It is the first stage of a wider green energy manufacturing centre that will export green hydrogen electrolysers to domestic and international markets, with approvals for stage two signed off by the Queensland government on Monday.

Electrolysers produce hydrogen by using electricity to split water molecules into their component elements, hydrogen and oxygen.

Initial production capacity for Fortescue's facility is forecast at more than two gigawatts per annum.

Altogether the facility at full capacity over a 10-year period could sell electrolysers that produce about 11 million tonnes of green hydrogen, the equivalent of converting 40 per cent of the cars in Australia to hydrogen, FFI Energy CEO Mark Hutchinson said.

Stage two of the project is a 50-megawatt green hydrogen facility known as PEM50 that will use locally made Proton Exchange Membrane electrolysers, with approval to produce green hydrogen for domestic and international exports.

Once operational, it will be Fortescue's first commercial-scale green hydrogen facility.

The electrolyser factory was previously a 50-50 joint venture between Fortescue Future Industries and US partner Plug Power, before the latter exited in January 2023. 

It is expected the facility will turn Gladstone into a leading manufacturer of green energy technology, Mr Hutchinson said.

"The machines that are produced here are miracle machines," he told reporters on Monday. 

"It's really the ability to take renewable energy from somewhere in the world to somewhere else in a molecule form.

"This is really the first time that we can see we have a real tangible alternative to fossil fuels."

Queensland Premier Steven Miles said the facility will be Australia’s largest manufacturer of hydrogen electrolysers and one of the largest in the world.

“Queensland is now leading the nation on investment in renewable energy, and we are now seeing that translate into good manufacturing jobs in our regions," he said.

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