Will Liège company John Cockerill become world champion in electrolysers for green hydrogen?

This is confirmed by the industrial company John Cockerill in Liège to the business newspaper L’Echo that it is striving for a new factory for the construction of electrolysers, generators of (green) hydrogen, in Belgium in 2025. It must be 1 of the intended 8 distributed worldwide gigafabrikker for electrolysers.

Why is this important?

Hydrogen (H2) is a possible CO2-free energy carrier for many industrial activities and can also drive cars, trucks and maybe even planes in the future. The European breakthrough depends on two things: Can hydrogen be produced and stored on a large scale and in a sustainable way, and will there be a network of regional pipelines?

Electrolysis is the chemical decomposition process in which hydrogen is extracted from water using electricity. Only if that electricity comes from a sustainable source, such as wind turbines, is it called green hydrogen.

The construction of installations for green hydrogen requires a great deal of effort, because it does not only concern the electrolysers – e.g. The “splits” – themselves, but also the nearby source of sustainable energy (for example a wind farm) and the transport network for the produced hydrogen afterwards.

But because the EU – “Hydrogen is a strategic product”, says the European Commission – and other governments are also ready to subsidize such hydrogen installations, John Cockerill is preparing for explosive growth in the electrolyzer market. The company specializes in large electrolyzers of 5 to 6 megawatts.

Quantum leaps

John Cockerill’s current production, at a plant in China (Cockerill Jingli Hydrogen Suzhou), has a capacity of 350 megawatts. The Liège company is thus the global market leader in the ever-emerging market for electrolysers, but its Norwegian competitor Nel is not standing still and aiming for 10 gigawatts (10,000 megawatts) in the coming years. John Cockerill takes up the challenge and also aims for a quantum leap, to 8 gigawatts.

Less than a year ago, John Cockerill announced the construction of a gig factory at his Anspach-Michelbach location in Alsace. If all goes according to plan, the site should start producing its first electrolyzer early next year. In a first phase, the target is 200 megawatts of annual capacity, which will increase to 1,000 megawatts (1 gigawatt) by 2030.

In addition, another similar European gig factory, and Raphaël Tilot, head of renewable energy in the company, confirms L’Echo that it comes to Belgium. According to the business newspaper, the first talks with SRIW, the Walloon government’s investment fund, are already underway. Given its historical ties to Wallonia, a location in the region is the most obvious. An investment amount of 100 million euros would be involved in the project.

The current site in Suzhou, China (350 megawatts) will be tripled, which should bring the capacity up to 1 gigawatt. In addition, an additional gigabyte will be built, bringing the total Chinese capacity up to 2 gigawatts.

In India, John Cockerill and local partner Greenko hope to have 2 gigabytes operational over the next 12 to 18 months. This involves a total investment of $ 500 million, reports Economic Times

  • Middle East and unknown location: 1 gigawatt each

In the Middle East and in a region that has not yet been announced, John Cockerill hopes once again to be able to build an electrolysis plant with 1 gigawatt capacity, which will eventually bring the total worldwide capacity up to 8 gigawatts.

From steel to hydrogen

The name John Cockerill is still reminiscent of steel. The British Belgian was the founder of the Belgian steel industry in the nineteenth century.

But two centuries later, the company of the same name (947 million euros in revenue in 2021) is rapidly evolving as a global player in hydrogen technology. Its hydrogen team has more than 260 employees worldwide, and that number will only increase in the coming years, the company says. (mah)

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