John Cockerill completes groundbreaking of the first US alkaline electrolyzer gigafactory in Houston

December 09th 2023

Continuing its progress in the US energy sector, John Cockerill is proud to announce its entry into the North American market with a new gigafactory in Baytown (Texas), where the Group will operate the first alkaline electrolyzer gigafactory in the United States.

The formal groundbreaking of this new gigafactory was celebrated at an event attended by the Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo, the John Cockerill Group CEO Francois Michel, and John Cockerill President Americas Nicolas de Coignac. Numerous journalists, representatives from Chambers County, and local stakeholders such as the Greater Houston Partnership, wera also in the attendance.

“Deepening the supply chain between Belgium and Texas”

Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, stated: “Today’s ribbon cutting at John Cockerill’s Houston manufacturing facility is the first step into deepening the supply chain between Belgium companies and the Texas Gulf Coast.

François Michel, CEO of John Cockerill explained: “We at John Cockerill look forward to growing our presence in the hydrogen sector in North America, following in the footsteps of many other large-scale activities that we have established in the US in the energy, heavy industry, and defense sectors since 2004. We have a long history of pushing industrial innovation all around the world. 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. North America, and the US in particular, has clearly long been a major development focus for John Cockerill, and I am excited to take our vision to the next level by building out capacity to create green hydrogen solutions. And it’s thanks to our market diversity, expertise, and strong financial footing that 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. By efficiently producing green hydrogen, this system will play an essential role in decarbonizing sectors such as transportation, chemicals, energy, and heavy industry, getting the US and individual businesses much closer to their emission reduction goals.

A promising environment for green hydrogen

Several recent events led John Cockerill to advance its US expansion in the hydrogen business. Over the past few years, the US government has shown a commitment to supporting the hydrogen sector through various initiatives and policies, implementing funding programs, tax incentives, and research investments to stimulate the development and deployment of hydrogen technologies. This has created a promising environment for green hydrogen and has driven the Group to act quickly to bring its large-scale technological solutions to US customers as soon as possible. In particular, the Inflation Reduction Act —which further incentivizes hydrogen investment— played a pivotal role in John Cockerill’s decision to enter the US.

John Cockerill selected the Baytown area outside of Houston. With a long history as an energy hub, Houston has the skilled workforce, infrastructure, and local support necessary to expand further and establish the region as a clean energy hub as well. Nicolas de Coignac said: “The building of our new gigafactory was pre-owned. 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. 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. 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. With this complete, we’ll be able to produce our first electrolyzers out of the factory before the end of next year.

Starting electrolyser assembly by summer 2024

The Prime Minister insisted on speed of execution and on mobilising the expertise from large manufacturers to make the green transition real. François Michel concluded : “We have bought this site less than two month ago, and we will start assembling electrolyzers by the summer of next year. I would like to thank the Greater Houston partnership, the center for Houston’s future, Chamber’s County, and the city of Baytown for their strong support. I also would like to thank the Belgium government for being such a driving force to spur cooperation between Belgium and the Houston area. This investment here is a direct, tangible consequence or the government’s policy.

The facility is expected to produce 1 GW per year of electrolyzers, creating 200 jobs and bolstering Houston’s position as a hydrogen hub.