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Moss-backed Imperium3 to set up battery plant in Townsville


Former Macquarie banker Bill Moss’s plans for a $US1.6 billion ($2bn) lithium-ion battery factory in the hard-hit north Queensland city of Townsville would deliver 746 technical and manufacturing jobs, according to the information memorandum for an early stage capital raising.


The Imperium3 consortium — which includes US heavyweights Eastman Kodak, C4V and electronics manufacturer C&D Assembly along with Mr Moss’s Boston Energy and Innovation and Australian-listed miner Magnis Resources — plans factories in New York, the Middle East and Australia in a bid to tap into the energy storage market.


The information memorandum, obtained by The Australian, shows Imperium3’s local offshoot is seeking to raise $12m to fund a feasibility study and a detailed engineering design for a vast factory in Townsville capable of delivering batteries for home, automotive and renewable energy storage.


he consortium’s progress on a Townsville plant was slower than in other locations, Mr Moss told The Australian, as the group pushes for federal and state government support amid the Queensland election campaign and continued debate on energy costs and supply.

The lithium-ion battery consortium is converting an old IBM facility in upstate New York for its first factory with committed state funding, while in Townsville, the city council has signalled it will grant part of a former CSIRO research station to the group in exchange for equity in the project, though no contract for a portion of the 365ha site at Woodstock has been signed.


“The decision on whether we go ahead in Queensland rests well and truly with next premier of Queensland and the federal government,” Mr Moss said.


Imperium3 had sought support from the Queensland government and held discussions with the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency, he said.


Mr Moss said the Townsville factory would have a floor area of 22ha and would employ 1000 people including 250 ancillary staff such as cleaners.


Townsville has been “doing it tough” said Mr Moss noted. He said the project would present to an opportunity to create an innovative factory hub in the northern city.

Mr Moss said the group was in advanced discussions with 30 suppliers mostly based in Europe and the US, many of which had said they would want operations alongside the battery factory.


Townsville is attractive, it’s close to Asia, and with an international airport, rail and a sea port, he said.


Townsville mayor Jenny Hill supports both the lithium-ion battery factory and the controversial Adani coalmine, saying the council’s focus is on employment as the fragile Townsville economy still reels from the closure of Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel refinery.


She said the council had recommended support funding through the state government’s Advance Queensland grants program with hopes to foster technology and innovation businesses in Townsville and on the Woodstock site.


The Imperium3 Townsville information memorandum says global sales of lithium ion batteries — currently dominated by Asian manufacturers — are expected to reach $US77 billion by 2024, up 58 per cent from 2017 sales.


It also forecasts that the cost of batteries — and their production — will fall in price 2.5 per cent a year in short term.


The 15-gigawatt Townsville plant is forecast to generate annual sales revenue of more than $US2.5bn at full capacity.


The document shows an internal valuation of $217m for the Imperium3 Townsville company, which includes work to date and intellectual property.


The company had received interest from high net worth investors and superannuation funds, Mr Moss said.


According to the funding document, Imperium3’s international advisory board includes Nobel science nominee Stanley Whittingham who is a distinguished professor of chemistry at the State University of New York, former Aston Martin chief executive Ulrich Helmut Bez, Magnis Resources chief executive Frank Houllis and Mr Moss. Both professor Whittingham and Dr Bez are also on the board of Magnis Resources which developing a high-purity graphite mine in Tanzania to supply the battery factory in the US, and potentially Australia and the Middle East.


Mr Moss is a former head of property for Macquarie Group.

By Turi Condon

The Australian

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