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Path for hydrogen
The Hydrogen Roadmap is Alberta’s path to building a provincial hydrogen economy and accessing global markets. The following markets are targets for the growth of clean hydrogen.
Export of clean hydrogen
Canada ranks in the top 10 of global hydrogen producers. Alberta is the largest hydrogen producer in Canada, producing approximately 2.4 million tonnes of hydrogen per year in 2018 for various industrial applications, including oil upgrading and refining, and chemical production. International demand for clean hydrogen is growing in Asia Pacific, European and North American markets. Alberta is in a very strong position to support this emerging global hydrogen demand and hydrogen export could play a major role in Alberta’s future energy competitiveness.
Analysis conducted in support of the Hydrogen Roadmap indicates that Alberta’s capacity for clean hydrogen production could be approximately 45 million tonnes per year, demonstrating that Alberta has production capacity to satisfy local demand, and provide significant export quantities to other Canadian provinces as well as international markets.
Alberta industrial processes have used natural gas-based hydrogen as an industrial process input. Alberta currently produces approximately 2.4 million tonnes of hydrogen per year for industrial processes. About 55% of Alberta’s current hydrogen production is used for heavy oil upgrading, 38% is used for the chemical sector and chemical industry by-products, and 7% for oil refining.
Industrial processes using hydrogen includes bitumen upgrading and refining for the oil and gas industry, as well as chemical applications such as ammonia and methanol production for the agricultural sector. See Hydrogen 101 for more information.
Current hydrogen producers are already looking at a variety of solutions to reduce emissions for their existing industrial processes, including decarbonizing existing ways of producing hydrogen. See the listing of current producers in economic opportunities.
This can include using carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies. CCUS uses integrated technologies and methods to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. For hydrogen production, the optimal CCUS method depends on the purity of hydrogen, the carbon dioxide required for end-use and sequestration, and the production costs.
The first step in CCUS is to separate and capture carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes. The emissions are then compressed and transported to a utilization or storage site. At storage sites, the emissions are injected and stored deep underground in dedicated geologic formations (often underground salt-caverns or depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs).
Captured carbon dioxide can also be used for enhanced oil recovery, or as a commodity and feedstock to make other products, such as building materials and chemicals. Research is ongoing to establish and demonstrate future applications for carbon dioxide use.
To enable the advancement of more carbon sequestration hubs and de-risk investment, Alberta is looking at issuing carbon sequestration rights through a competitive process, learn more about Carbon Sequestration Tenure Management.
Power generation and storage
Hydrogen has the potential to reduce carbon emissions in the power generation sector and can also be used as a form of energy storage. This potential is because hydrogen can be stored and distributed efficiently. Hydrogen fuel cells can be used for power generation and storage or stationary and portable power.
Hydrogen can also help balance power supply from variable renewable energy sources. Large volumes of hydrogen produced by renewable power can be compressed and stored in geologic formations. This provides an opportunity to store surplus energy long-term and can help accommodate variations in energy demand and support renewable energy when those power supplies may be interrupted. Stored hydrogen can be converted to power on demand or be used as gas and integrated into natural gas systems, building stronger connections between the electricity and natural gas sectors.
To reduce the carbon intensity in the power generation sector, hydrogen-powered gas turbines can also provide low-carbon solutions for electricity generation. Hydrogen can ensure energy system security while adding flexibility to how electrical power in Alberta is generated,supplied and stored. Air Products and Capital Power are both working on hydrogen power, learn more in economic opportunities or for more information on generation and storage standards see Hydrogen 101.
Hydrogen has received significant global interest as a compelling option to decarbonize commercial and residential heating systems. Hydrogen use in heating applications includes appliances such as furnaces, boilers, water heaters, gas fireplaces, stoves, and laundry dryers.
Builders and utilities in Alberta are exploring hydrogen for residential and commercial heating. Hydrogen blending or adding 15-20% hydrogen to the low-pressure natural gas distribution network would require minimum physical changes. Pure hydrogen networks require systems that are easier to incorporate at new building stages, see Hydrogen 101 for heating standards.
Using hydrogen in existing energy systems is an economical way to decarbonize heating systems. Hydrogen blending is poised to become an early deployment market that can introduce hydrogen into the wider provincial energy system. Blended hydrogen has been demonstrated in other countries, and is now being tested in Alberta. The Fort Saskatchewan Hydrogen Blending pilot project with Canadian Utilities, a subsidiary of ATCO, will test a 5-20% by volume blend for the residential natural gas distribution system in 2022.
Pure hydrogen networks
Pure hydrogen communities will initially emerge at a small scale in new developments as they require fuel cells and specialized appliances. Alberta could become a global leader in pure hydrogen heating, taking advantage of increasing housing needs in the province and our experience and expertise with hydrogen.
Within Alberta, ATCO Gas is looking to construct facilities to supply hydrogen for several pure hydrogen demonstration homes in a new residential community in the Edmonton area.
Pure hydrogen communities are at a pilot and demonstration stage globally, the Rotterdam borough of Rozenburg in the Netherlands has an apartment building trial and Fife, Scotland, plans a 300 household conversion.
Vehicle transportation fuel
Using hydrogen as vehicle fuel is a possible solution to help lower carbon emissions since hydrogen combustion only produces heat and water. Hydrogen fuel cells can eventually replace batteries in electric vehicles. Hydrogen fuel has the potential ability to compete with liquid fuels, but cost competitiveness factors and fuel distribution will need to be determined before hydrogen is adopted in the consumer vehicle transportation sector.
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles
Fuel cell technology first captured the international spotlight during the oil shocks in the 1970s. In 2014, Toyota offered the world’s first consumer fuel cell vehicles, sold in British Columbia and Quebec where hydrogen fuelling stations are available. Fuel cells are used in a range of transportation applications, most commonly in fleet vehicles that have access to a hydrogen fuel source.
Some mobility applications, such as personal light-duty vehicles, forklifts, and buses are already commercially available. Hydrogen fuel cell use in other mobility segments, such as trucks, is currently at the prototype and demonstration phase.
Hydrogen can also be blended with diesel and used in an internal combustion engine, when the engine in retrofitted. This technology is known as dual-fuel technology.
Dual-fuel vehicles could be an important bridge technology to help with eventual wider adoption of pure hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Dual-fuel vehicles that are retrofitted have a lower cost than fuel cell vehicles which require a fuel cell electric system. These vehicles also have additional flexibility to operate with or without an assured hydrogen supply.
Research on dual-fuel engines is also ongoing at the University of Alberta, they have partnered with the Transition Accelerator and an engine original equipment manufacturer, to integrate hydrogen injection technology into the software of an engine’s electronic control unit, the project is called, the Blue Hydrogen-Diesel Dual Fuel Engine Technology Development. The Transition Accelerator also hosted a webinar in 2021, Towards Canada’s New Hydrogen Economy: A Base Case for the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub.
Current hydrogen vehicle transportation projects
- Alberta Zero emissions (trucks and buses)
- Canadian Pacific (trains)
- Walmart Canada (forklifts)
A partnership is also working on a co-injection of hydrogen and Diesel into a Class 8 diesel internal combustion engine, see economic opportunities for more information.
Connect with the Natural Gas Strategy and Engagement Branch:
Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Email: [email protected]:
Natural Gas Strategy and Engagement Branch
6th Floor, North Petroleum Plaza
9945 108 Street*
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2G6
* Couriers, please report to the 2nd floor.
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