Belgian electrolyser manufacturer John Cockerill has begun construction work on its 1GW factory in Texas, less than two months after buying the site, the company announced on Saturday.

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The facility in Baytown, just outside Houston, will be the first alkaline gigafactory in the US when it begins assembling machines in the summer of 2024, John Cockerill said.

John Cockerill is targeting the completion of the first electrolyser from the facility by the end of next year — part of the Belgian company’s plan to swiftly develop its US capacity in response the various tax credits and subsidies available for green hydrogen production.

Speedy development of the facility has been made possible by the company’s decision to buy an already-existing building, explained the head of John Cockerill’s US division, Nicolas de Coignac.

“This is part of our strategy to hit the ground running and move quickly in the North American market, where the hydrogen sector is developing at an incredibly rapid pace,” he said. “First, by purchasing an existing building, we’re able to expedite or eliminate much of the permitting and construction that can cause projects to stagnate, and instead move straight into getting this facility up and running.

“From here, the interior will be cleaned and refurbished, and state-of-the-art machines, developed thanks to expertise gained from John Cockerill’s other hydrogen factories, will be installed.

He added: “For this new chapter, we’re focusing on sourcing much of the components of our equipment right here in the US, as we create a robust supply chain base that we will be building out in Houston and the surrounding region.”

The largest electrolyser factory in the US is said to be Bloom Energy’s 2GW facility in Delaware, which makes solid-oxide machines, although it is believed to be operating at well below its maximum capacity.

Plug Power, which makes PEM electrolysers, says its “gigafactory” in Rochester, New York state, “has a capacity of 100 MWs per month of electrolyzer stacks”, although the facility, which also makes fuel cells, was announced as having a 500MW electrolyser manufacturing capacity when it opened in 2021.

But John Cockerill is just one of several European electrolyser manufacturers looking to establish or expand their US base in the wake of the IRA. Norway’s Nel, which already has plans to expand its 50MW Connecticut factory to 500MW, recently announced a 4GW factory for its proton exchange membrane (PEM) and alkaline machines in Michigan, while Denmark’s Topsoe is also establishing a US factory to make solid-oxide electrolysers.

The “groundbreaking” ceremony at John Cockerill’s new facility was attended by Belgium’s prime minister Alexander De Croo, whose government, according to the company’s CEO François Michel, has also been instrumental in bringing the project about by forging ties between Belgium and the Houston area.

Michel explained: “We see Belgium as both one of the most solid gateways to Europe and one of the most vibrant innovation hubs of the continent. And we believe that there are many good reasons for Houston to play a similar role in North America.”

“John Cockerill can confidently stand behind the long-term performance guarantees that are needed to de-risk and make real large-scale green hydrogen projects.”

John Cockerill, which is named after its 19th-century English founder, is targeting 8GW of global electrolyser capacity by 2025, with two 1GW factories already operational in China under its 100%-owned Cockerill Jingli brand.