STUDY TO SPEED BAT­TERY PLANT

Con­sor­tium could start $ 2b project within nine months

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - DOMANII CAMERON domanii.cameron@news.com.au

CON­STRUC­TION of a $ 2 bil­lion bat­tery fac­tory in Townsville could start within nine months, with mem­bers of the con­sor­tium be­hind the project sign­ing off on a pre- fea­si­bil­ity study.

It comes just three months af­ter the con­sor­tium, led by Bos­ton En­ergy and In­no­va­tion, signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with Townsville City Coun­cil to in­ves­ti­gate the vi­a­bil­ity of build­ing the 15GWh Lithium- ion Bat­tery Gi­gafac­tory in the city.

Bos­ton En­ergy and In­no­va­tion di­rec­tor Corey Cooney said tick­ing off on the scop­ing study was a ma­jor mile­stone for the project.

“The ( scop­ing) study looked at fi­nan­cial analysis, mar­ket analysis, tech­nolo­gies, chem­istry, pro­cesses and equip­ment,” he said.

“The scop­ing has been done in a way that will fast­track the fea­si­bil­ity study, which is ex­pected to take be­tween three to six months.”

The re­port will be handed to the coun­cil within 14 days.

Mr Cooney said the project was on track for op­er­a­tions to start by 2020, with con­struc­tion to po­ten­tially start be­fore April 2018.

A land par­cel of 400ha at t Wood­stock has been cho­sen for the project, with 60ha to be used specif­i­cally for the bat­tery fac­tory.

“If we’re go­ing to be in­vest­ing nearly $ 2 bil­lion we want to en­sure there’s room to grow,” Mr Cooney said.

“It will be ( for) in­dus­tries that will be com­ple­men­tary to the project and it will also be different in­no­va­tion and cor­po­rate tech­nol­ogy.

“It’s not just a bat­tery plant, it’s the be­gin­ning of a new- age bat­tery hub.”

The fac­tory would cre­ate 1000 di­rect jobs, with 80 per cent of work­ers to be trained on site. Mr Cooney said that fig­ure did not in­clude the “down­stream” sup­ply chain, which could to­tal 7000 jobs.

The plant would be ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing 250,000 car bat­ter­ies a year, one mil­lion home bat­tery units, or s sup­port 300 mi­cro­grids to power small towns. “De­pend­ing on the de­mand, it’s look­ing to com­bine a few ( prod­ucts),” Mr Cooney said.

The con­sor­tium is in dis­cus­sions with pri­vate in­vestors as well as the State and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments in re­la­tion to fund­ing the project.

“We have had a lot of in­ter­est with pri­vate in­vestors. There has been a lot of en­gage­ment,” he said. “We could have picked any­where in Aus­tralia, how­ever we are very pas­sion­ate about North­ern Aus­tralia.

“North­ern Queens­land is a very … strate­gic part of the world and Townsville has all the es­sen­tial in­fra­struc­ture.

“We will be speak­ing to mul­ti­ple on­shore and off­shore fund­ing part­ners and will be talk­ing to gov­ern­ment fund­ing bod­ies.”

Mayor Jenny Hill said the bat­tery fac­tory was one of the largest projects the re­gion had seen in a decade.

“I know that they’ve been meet­ing with the North­ern Aus­tralia In­fra­struc­ture Fa­cil­ity so there’s a lot of in­ter­est from gov­ern­ment,” she said. “We ob­vi­ously have to do our due dili­gence and this re­port is part of that.”

Con­sor­tium part­ner Mag­nis Re­sources is among a raft of com­pa­nies sus­pended from trad­ing on the Aus­tralian Stock Ex­change amid con­cerns over the Tan­za­nian Gov­ern­ment’s plans to in­crease taxes on min­ing com­pa­nies.

CEO Frank Poul­las told the Bul­letin this week that the com­pany, which plans to pro­vide the graphite an­ode to the Townsville bat­tery fac­tory, did not ex­pect any ad­verse ef­fects on the project. He said the com­pany wanted clar­ity on the reg­u­la­tory charges.

Pic­ture: EVAN MOR­GAN

GOOD TO GO: Bos­ton En­ergy and In­no­va­tion di­rec­tor Corey Cooney ( right) with Dr Frank Houllis, CEO of con­sor­tium part­ner Mag­nis Re­sources.

How the Bul­letin re­vealed the bat­tery fac­tory plan in April.

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