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Australian billionaire proposes green hydrogen hub in Prince George

Plans call for a $2B project delivering more than 100 permanent direct jobs
Fortescue chairman and founder Andrew Forrest says Prince George has "everything going for it" as the company moves forward with plans for a $2B green hydrogen plant.

Global green energy and metals company Fortescue has taken a step toward establishing a major green energy hub in Prince George.

The project is led by Australian businessman Dr. Andrew Forrest, executive chairman and founder of Fortescue.

The company has submitted an initial project description and early engagement plan with the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office proposing the construction of a large-scale green hydrogen and ammonia production facility.

Green hydrogen is a zero-carbon fuel that, when used, produces primarily water.

It is described as a practical and implementable solution that can help to decarbonize heavy industry and create jobs globally.

The proposed facility would be situated at the Willow Cale Industrial Park in Prince George.

The company said the green ammonia and green hydrogen produced from the potential 1,000 MW facility could be exported or used domestically to reduce fossil fuel use and help meet climate targets in B.C. Canada and globally.

Forrest said he chose Prince George as the location for the project because of the city’s leadership and natural resources.

“If you don't get leadership, just forget it. They could have the best energy in the world. If you don't have good leadership, don’t waste your time,” said Forrest.

“There [the region]’s got clean air. It's got heaps of water. It's got heaps of electricity. It's got everything going for it and so this first 1,000 MW facility sounds really big but it’s a stepping stone to what could be built out here in this beautiful part of the world.”

This project has already been in the works for two years.

In October 2021, the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and Fortescue signed a Memorandum of Understanding. They are negotiating an impacts and benefits agreement.

Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dolleen Logan said the project aligns with the nation's vision and values.

“It's been two years coming I'm really excited about it,” she said.

“I’ve had to learn about the project and what grant green hydrogen was and this is something good for the environment not only for Prince George but the whole world.”

The project would be a $2 billion capital investment and has the potential to result in a wide range of benefits for the local community including more than 250 direct jobs during the construction phase, and over 100 permanent, direct jobs during the operations phase of the project.

“This is a really large investment, which will have very significant multiplier impacts into the local community,” said Forrest.

“This is permanent, we're not mining something that will run out or drilling something that will run out. This will be here forever because that's sustainable fuels, right? It doesn't run out. It doesn't destroy anyone, so you can use it forever. It is a legacy economic asset.”

Prince George Mayor Simon Yu said Prince George is uniquely situated to be a green hydrogen hub because it is a mid-point between Asia and the Americas.

He said this project would put Prince George on the map in a significant way.

“We are the transportation hub. If there's anybody who can do it, we should be the one to do it,” said Yu.

“The world is transitioning from a dangerous energy model, we need to survive as a human species, we need to get together and work as one. This technology will provide hope. We can slow down climate change and buy enough time so more even better technology will come around.”

Forrest said if everyone supports the project, he hopes to have shovels in the ground for studies sometime this year.

Fortescue has also engaged the Qalipu and Miawpukek First Nations in Newfoundland, as well as the provincial and federal governments, to explore potential green hydrogen production and export development on that province. Its plans for Newfoundland include a hydrogen electrolysis and green ammonia production plant, liquid ammonia marine export terminal, and wind power generation facilities.