A $50 million all-green hydrogen plant, the first of its kind in Quebec, will see the light of day in Sorel next October, and it will do so “in a private way” without resorting to public funds.
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“If you ask me who our competitors are in the production of exclusively green hydrogen, there is none,” proudly launches Johann Bureau, executive vice president of Charbone, the company that originated the project, over the phone.
“The first $7 million phase will create approximately 13 jobs. Our 400,000 square foot property is designed to increase production capacity,” he adds. The company will have 1.2 megawatts and up to 20 megawatts depending on demand.
Founded in 2019, Charbone came about in part after Johann Bureau and current Big Boss Dave Gagnon met in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while the two men were working on energy projects.
When asked if the company sees fit to apply for public funds to start the factory project, Johann Bureau is categorical.
“No no no. It started privately and we went to the TSX,” he replies tit for tat.
Prior to the IPO, Charbone was worth around $14 million, he says. Today it weighs more than $22 million in Toronto.
Foreign giants lured
Unlike “grey” hydrogen, which is produced using fossil fuels, “green” hydrogen is produced from electricity, making Quebec a prime location for the development of the burgeoning sector.
“Many international companies have seen Quebec as a kind of cake to bite into,” continues Johann Bureau.
Green hydrogen is currently used in the steelmaking, oil refining, and ammonia and fertilizer industries.
Unlike the electric terminals that are springing up like mushrooms, hydrogen refueling stations remain extremely rare, but the technology could one day dethrone that of the batteries in first-generation electric cars that criss-cross our streets.
“We charge a car with hydrogen in less than two minutes and what comes out are drops of water,” summarizes Charbone’s Mr. Bureau.
A promising sector
Green hydrogen projects hold promise for the Legault government. Two European companies are already targeting North Shore.
“By relying even more on our hydropower, wind power, biofuels and soon green hydrogen, we will successfully move away from the impact of fossil fuels on our economy and portfolio,” Prime Minister François Legault said last March.
“The hydrogen produced from our hydropower will be some of the most environmentally friendly in the world. We must continue research to optimize large-scale production,” explained his Minister for the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon.
Two months later, last May, Quebec announced its first green hydrogen and biofuels strategy. The State of Quebec plans to invest US$1.2 billion in this sector.
Coal in a nutshell
- Foundation, endowment : 2019
- The headquarters : Brossard
- Employee : 8th
- market value: $22M
THE SOREL FACTORY
- First phase : $7M – 13 jobs
- Second phase: $43 million – 37 jobs