A Chinese public-private consortium is investing 33bn yuan ($4.5bn) into what it claims will be the largest green hydrogen project using proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers, according to local reports.

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The project, to be located near the city of Fengzhen in Inner Mongolia, will produce up to 50,000 tonnes of green hydrogen a year from 3GW of wind and solar power.

However, while the consortium — made up of the Fengzhen municipal government, state-owned China Power Construction (PowerChina) Kunming Institute, and Tsinghua University spin-out Rongke Hydrogen Energy — claims the facility will be the world’s largest using PEM technology, it has not disclosed exactly how much electrolyser capacity it plans to install.

The 50,000-tonne figure suggests an electrolyser of around 500MW, which would only require about 1GW of wind and solar power, so the project may also be providing as much as 2GW of renewable energy to the grid.

And while this facility has been described as the world’s largest by the developers, bigger PEM green hydrogen projects have been announced elsewhere, including HIF Global’s 1.8GW e-fuels plant in Texas.

The Chinese consortium indicates that it plans to use PEM electrolysers made in China.

While the country has led on alkaline electrolysers, producing machines that are as much as 75% cheaper than Western equivalents, it has been slow to develop PEM technologies, which are newer and more expensive than alkaline, but are said to be better at quickly ramping up and down when linked directly to variable renewable enertgy.

US and European PEM-focused manufacturers such as Plug Power and ITM are already outpacing Chinese companies in global production capacity.

But China is starting to build up its own PEM manufacturing facilities. In May this year, a joint venture between US firm Cummins and Chinese state oil company Sinopec started up the initial 500MW phase of a 1GW PEM electrolyser factory, which is reportedly capable of delivering its first electrolysers to customers by the end of this year.

Sinopec last week announced its 260MW Kuqa project — the world’s largest to date — had started producing green hydrogen, although research house BloombergNEF has raised questions about how “green” the project truly is.