France Relance recovery plan: Kem One to receive 15 million euros of government funding to support conversion of Fos-sur- Mer electrolysis unit


The French minister in charge of industry has given her support to converting the technology at Kem One’s chlorine, caustic soda and hydrogen production unit in Fos-sur-Mer. The new process will make it one of the most high performance sites in Europe in energy terms.

On 4 March, 2021, the minister in charge of industry declared her support for Kem One's plan to convert the electrolysis technology at its Fos-sur-Mer site, as part of the country's recovery plan for strategic sectors of industry. The project will receive a 15 million euro subsidy as part of an estimated total investment of over 100 million euros. The new electrolysis unit is expected to start operating in 2024.

The conversion involves replacing the existing diaphragm process used at Fos-sur-Mer with a membrane process. By adopting the very best technology available, Kem One aims to both improve competitiveness and reduce its environmental footprint.

“We are very grateful for the government’s support for our modernisation project,” said Kem One's managing director, Frédéric Chalmin. “We believe that the future of French industry lies in building production models that are more virtuous in terms of the environment.”

Electrolysis apparatus requires large quantities of energy to operate, but Kem One thinks that this new project will reduce its consumption of electricity by 16% per year (or 106 GWh/year, the amount of electricity consumed each year by a town with a population of 25,000) and of natural gas by 36% (or 270 GWh/year). As a result, 50,000 tonnes less CO2 will be emitted each year. 

By changing its technology, Kem One will also be ensuring the sustainability of its production of low carbon hydrogen, of which it is France’s leading producer. The membrane electrolysis unit at Fos-sur-Mer will produce either low carbon or renewably sourced hydrogen, depending on the origins of the electricity consumed by the process. This hydrogen can be used for projects in the Fos-sur-Mer industrial zone.

The conversion of the electrolysis process is part of the company’s energy performance strategy, which aims to reduce energy consumption by 30% and gas emissions by 50% by 2030, compared with its 2013 baseline year.

This project demonstrates tyet again the company's determination to continue modernising its industrial apparatus. In 2021, Kem One will have invested over 500 million euros since it was taken over by Alain de Krassny in late 2013.

The Kem One site at Fos-sur-Mer currently employs 340 staff. This project is expected to mobilise a workforce of 400 during the final year of construction (2024). Construction of the new unit will create extra jobs and involve a wide network of subcontractors from the Etang de Berre industrial basin.

Kem One's project has received the support of the French Ministry of Industry as part of the country's recovery plan in strategic sectors. The project will benefit from a subsidy of 15 million euros, for a total investment estimated at over 100 million euros.