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Path for hydrogen
The Hydrogen Roadmap is Alberta’s path to building a provincial hydrogen economy and accessing global markets. Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap identified five hydrogen markets in Alberta. The hydrogen markets in Alberta include:
Alberta currently produces approximately 2.4 million tonnes of hydrogen per year for industrial processes, which use hydrogen as a feedstock to their operations. 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.
Alberta’s hydrogen producers are already looking at a variety of solutions to reduce emissions in their industrial processes, including hydrogen production. See the listing of current producers in economic opportunities.
Emissions reductions may include using carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies. CCUS uses integrated technologies and methods to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
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 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.
See Hydrogen 101 for more information on hydrogen in industrial processes.
Hydrogen has received significant global interest as a compelling option to decarbonize commercial and residential heating systems, for use in appliances such as furnaces, boilers, water heaters, gas fireplaces, stoves, and laundry dryers.
Home builders and utilities in Alberta are exploring hydrogen blending with natural gas for residential and commercial heating. Hydrogen blending in low volumes (for example, 15-20%) with the existing low-pressure natural gas distribution network requires minimal physical changes to infrastructure. Pure hydrogen networks require systems that are easier to incorporate at new building stages.
Hydrogen blending in Alberta
Blending hydrogen with natural gas has successfully 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, is planning to test a 5-20% by volume hydrogen blend with natural gas in a small subset of the residential natural gas distribution system in late 2022.
Pure hydrogen networks
Pure hydrogen communities will require specialized appliances and may emerge at a small scale in new community developments. Alberta could become a global leader in pure hydrogen utility heating, leveraging our experience and expertise with hydrogen.
Pure hydrogen communities are currently in the pilot and demonstration stage. Globally, the community of Whitby, Ellesmere Port in England is planning a hydrogen village concept planned to convert approximately 2,000 properties by 2026 and Fife, Scotland, is planning a 300 household conversion to pure hydrogen.
Power generation and storage
Power generation facilities in Alberta continue to undergo coal-to-gas conversions, with the majority of coal-fired electricity being replaced by natural gas. This provides the opportunity for clean hydrogen to be integrated with natural gas as a fuel source and also support energy storage.
Hydrogen can serve as large-scale energy storage for intermittent renewables and can fuel hydrogen-capable turbines or stationary fuel cells. The future state of integrating hydrogen into the power generation and storage sector will ultimately depend on proving technology at the commercial scale and ensuring competitiveness. The transition toward a clean hydrogen economy will need to support market competition and affordability of power generation for end users.
Air Products and Capital Power are both working on hydrogen power. Learn more in economic opportunities.
Using hydrogen as fuel for vehicle fleets such as buses and commercial trucks is a viable solution in Alberta to help lower carbon emissions in the transportation market. Hydrogen has the ability to be very competitive in the transportation sector, but infrastructure and fueling stations will need to be in place.
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.
Hydrogen fuel cells are already commercially available for some personal light-duty vehicles, forklifts, and buses. Hydrogen fuel cells can also be used for trucks for the mining industry or Class 8 commercial trucks, and is currently at the prototype and demonstration phase.
While there are several options to decarbonize the transportation sector, hydrogen is considered a viable option globally in transportation segments that require long ranges, shorter refueling, and ability to support heavy weights, such as the trucking industry.
Already hydrogen fuel cells are being tested in the trucking industry and buses in Alberta. The Alberta Zero Emissions Truck Electrification Collaboration (AZETEC) is a C$18 million project, partially funded with approximately C$7.3 million from Emissions Reduction Alberta, where two long range (700 km) fuel cell electric trucks will operate between Edmonton and Calgary.
In addition, the Alberta Zero Emission Hydrogen Transit (AZEHT) project will demonstrate two hydrogen fuel cell electric buses to be used in road trials shared by the municipalities of Edmonton and Strathcona County. The AZEHT project will give Alberta municipalities hands-on experience with fuel cell technology.
Dual fuel vehicles
Hydrogen can also be blended with diesel and used in an internal combustion engine, if the engine is retrofitted.
Dual fuel vehicles could be an important bridge technology to help with eventual wider adoption of pure hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Dual fuel vehicles have a lower cost than fuel cell vehicles. 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. The post-secondary institution has partnered with the Transition Accelerator and an 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 has worked on hydrogen transportation scenarios for the Edmonton Region, outlined in their webinar, Towards Canada’s New Hydrogen Economy: A Base Case for the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub.
Clean hydrogen export
Canada ranks in the top 10 of global hydrogen producers. International demand for clean hydrogen is growing in the 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.
A cost competitive opportunity for Alberta is to export hydrogen in the form of ammonia. Major Japanese power utilities are interested in burning clean ammonia in gas turbines or co-burning with coal to reduce GHG emissions for power generation. Moving hydrogen in the form of ammonia could improve export cost competitiveness, especially if end-use sectors can use ammonia directly in their applications. Other hydrogen carriers, such as methanol or liquid organic hydrogen carriers, will also be explored as Alberta evaluates its export opportunities.
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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