Intel's 1nm-class fabs in Germany delayed by too much black soil and EU subsidy approval

Intel
(Image credit: Intel)

The construction of Intel's Fab 29 module 1 and module 2 near Magdeburg, Germany, has been delayed due to pending EU subsidy approval and the necessity to remove black soil to reuse it at a different site, with a new timeline pushing the start to May 2025, reports Volksstimme. The fab could still come online more or less on time in late 2027 – early 2028 if Intel is quick with construction and tool installation. But this could still be an issue for the company. 

Initially, construction was slated to begin in the first half of 2023, but was delayed to summer 2024 due to delays with subsidies, which caused Germany's Finance Minister Michael Richter to intervene and ensure Intel got what it needed. However, the EU Competition Authority has not yet approved the subsidy of €9.9 billion for the €30 billion project, causing the delay. Consequently, the topsoil removal has been postponed to May 2025. The state and Intel are adjusting plans accordingly, focusing on infrastructure development and land acquisition to prepare for the delayed construction, the report says. 

Intel's Fab 29.1 and Fab 29.2 were planned to begin operations in late 2027, which pointed to very particular fabrication processes, such as Intel's 14A (1.4nm) and 10A (1nm) process nodes. These manufacturing technologies are meant to be used to make very particular products from Intel's roadmap. Intel typically launches new products for client PCs in the second half of the year and ramps its production in the first half of the year. Therefore, Fab 29.1 and Fab 29.2 were meant to make client PC products slated for launch in the second half of 2028, so while Intel has time to ramp up the fab even if is ready in mid-2028, the schedule will be tight. However, the report draws a much more dire picture as it says that Intel now estimates it would take 'four to five years to build the two factories' and 'production would therefore start in 2029 – 2030.' 

As it turns out, the future construction site contains high-quality black soil that must be carefully removed and reused, as mandated by law. The state will handle the removal of the top 40 centimeters of soil, amounting to 80,000 truckloads, while Intel is responsible for any additional soil removal beyond this depth. This process is crucial to comply with environmental and building regulations. 

Infrastructure development is a significant part of the project too. The city of Magdeburg will build an access road from the B 81 to the Intel site by July 2024. Following this, the state will construct the main access road between Magdeburg and Wanzleben, starting in August 2024, with completion expected by April 2025. This will enable the transport of soil and construction materials. 

Land acquisition is ongoing, with the state-owned development company High Tech Park (HTP) purchasing 450 hectares for supplier settlements. The majority of landowners are willing to sell, and the state is offering €25 per square meter, which is significantly above the typical agricultural price.  

A public hearing on the plans is scheduled for May 29, addressing 13 objections raised by associations, private individuals, and the municipality of Burgstall. The state remains optimistic that the project will proceed smoothly once EU approval is secured.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • Notton
    I find it puzzling that Germany would go through the trouble of relocating very fertile soil, instead of relocating the fab.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    Notton said:
    I find it puzzling that Germany would go through the trouble of relocating very fertile soil, instead of relocating the fab.
    You can't put a FAB (or any industrial structure) just anywhere and any place that isn't already build upon will have fertile soil, unless you build in a quarry but that's a very bad place to build anything.
    Reply
  • PEnns
    Those krazy Germans, they care about fertile soil.....tsk tsk....
    Reply
  • bit_user
    PEnns said:
    Those krazy Germans, they care about fertile soil.....tsk tsk....
    Topsoil takes a long time to regenerate. They're smart to manage what they have.

    In the US, we had a huge wakeup call for the need to conserve topsoil in the 1930's, but a lot of those practices have started to fall by the wayside. Intensive farming methods also deplete it faster than it can be replaced.
    Reply
  • DS426
    bit_user said:
    Topsoil takes a long time to regenerate. They're smart to manage what they have.

    ...
    So does fossil fuel, which takes far longer. 180,000 truckloads of diesel, plus the diesel to power the excavators and bulldozers... I'm pretty sure we can generate fertile soil more efficiently.

    If I was Intel, I would just cancel. Intel (of course we should say IFS now) has had way too many years of delays on nodes to continue putting stakeholders and customers thru this. The funds haven't been approved, so I say take it elsewhere.

    Also great that taxpayers are on the hook for these mega corps. nVidia and Apple are stupidly wealthy now -- charge them a bigger premium for being on the most advanced nodes. It's these extra costs like Germany introduces on why TSMC has to charge a premium for customers to chose where chips are made if outside Taiwan. Yeah, we need a more diverse supply chain, BIG TIME, but as others have said, maybe this isn't the best site for this new fab (even if just somewhere else in Germany, and agreed, there's a lot that goes into deciding where these huge fabs are built, sometimes even proximity to power plants).
    Reply
  • bit_user
    DS426 said:
    180,000 truckloads of diesel, plus the diesel to power the excavators and bulldozers... I'm pretty sure we can generate fertile soil more efficiently.
    It's not my area of expertise, but I doubt it. Fertilizer is very energy-intensive to create and you can't make good quality topsoil just by adding fertilizer.

    DS426 said:
    nVidia and Apple are stupidly wealthy now -- charge them a bigger premium for being on the most advanced nodes.
    They have to charge an amount that's competitive with both other fabs and the value provided over their prior nodes.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    DS426 said:
    So does fossil fuel, which takes far longer. 180,000 truckloads of diesel, plus the diesel to power the excavators and bulldozers... I'm pretty sure we can generate fertile soil more efficiently.
    Em truck fuel-tank fulls are nowhere near truckloads...
    DS426 said:
    If I was Intel, I would just cancel. Intel (of course we should say IFS now) has had way too many years of delays on nodes to continue putting stakeholders and customers thru this.
    Stakeholders see their stakes grow larger for all those years of delays, if you would ask a stakeholder they would tell you to delay as much as possible since it does increase their stakes...

    DS426 said:
    Also great that taxpayers are on the hook for these mega corps.
    Yeah because these mega corps exist in their own pocket dimension, it's not like they are going to be paying like 3-4 different taxes and employ a bunch of people. directly as well as indirectly, people that will also pay several taxes.
    A mega corp generates a lot of money for the country they are in.
    Reply
  • Catpawzzz
    "which caused Germany's Finance Minister Michael Richter to intervene and ensure Intel got what it needed"That is not Germany's finance minister, but the state level finance minister (the state of Sachsen-Anhalt).
    Reply
  • PEnns
    bit_user said:
    Topsoil takes a long time to regenerate. They're smart to manage what they have.

    In the US, we had a huge wakeup call for the need to conserve topsoil in the 1930's, but a lot of those practices have started to fall by the wayside. Intensive farming methods also deplete it faster than it can be replaced.
    I neglected the put the universal sign of sarcasm in my post.

    Of course they should care about their fertile soil!! Unlike other countries that would just bulldoze over anything of value for Intel or whoever.
    Reply
  • Co BIY
    I seriously doubt that moving 40cm of topsoil is much of an obstacle. I watched a recent developement in Colorado dig down a hill that in many places would be considered a mountain just to remove a troublesome clay layer. They then evenly mixed that layer into the remaining fill and then essentially replaced the material back into a hill shape prior to building houses on it. It did not take very long.

    Trying to build a multi-billion dollar plant without the billions. That's a tougher nut.
    Reply