Hydrogen sources

Hydrogen is the chemical element with the symbol H and atomic number 1, it is the most common element on the planet. It is usually connected with other elements in molecules such as water or hydrocarbons, such as methane. Methane (CH4) is primary component in natural gas but it also contains Ethane (C2H6), Propane (C3H8) and Butane (C4H10), and may contain other compounds. Hydrogen production methods separate hydrogen from these molecules.

Image 1: Illustration of the hydrogen process

Image of the hydrogen process

Production

Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of sources, such as fossil fuels, biomass, and water,some production methods that are being used or considered in Alberta include:

Steam Methane Reforming with Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS)

Alberta’s industrial sector has used natural gas-based steam methane reforming to produce hydrogen for industrial processes for more than 5 decades. Steam methane reforming can be paired with CCUS technology to capture production emissions. Hydrogen can also be used for chemical production, upgrading and oil refining.

Autothermal Reforming with (CCUS)

Autothermal reforming of natural gas is another reforming technology that is gaining increased interest and can be used for large-scale hydrogen production. Autothermal reforming paired with CCUS technology has high carbon capture ratios.

Renewable-based Hydrogen Production

Hydrogen is produced using renewable power in a process called electrolysis, it requires a hydrogen fuel cell. Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The hydrogen reacts with oxygen across an electrochemical cell similar to that of a battery to produce electricity, water, and small amounts of heat. Many different types of fuel cells are available for a wide range of applications. The facility can use the electricity or sell it to the electricity grid.

Other processes generating significant interest include: methane pyrolysis, biomass conversion, and emerging in-situ methods.

Transport and storage

Hydrogen in gas or liquid form requires extremely cold storage. Large-volumes of compressed hydrogen can be stored underground for later use.

Transporting hydrogen

Hydrogen requires cold storage trucks, sea-cans or rail cars for transport. Existing pipelines can safely transport low volumes (up to 15%) of hydrogen when it is blended with natural gas, ammonia or methanol. At delivery these liquids are converted back to separate products.

Alberta has over 100 km of pipelines in the province that can transport pure hydrogen to industrial users, where hydrogen is used as a part of industrial applications. However, there currently are no large, high pressure pipelines in Canada that deliver pure hydrogen to major centres of demand.

Ammonia and methanol are other chemical compounds that can effectively carry hydrogen by acting as liquids which can be converted back to hydrogen gas at their destination. This method of moving hydrogen is a major contributor to Alberta’s hydrogen economy today. Both substances can efficiently transport hydrogen over long distances by pipeline and rail, including to overseas markets

There are also other hydrogen carriers that can store hydrogen and are promising opportunities for Alberta to transport hydrogen to international markets.

National and International blending trials

  • Enbridge and Cummins Hydrogen Blending Project: 3,600 customers in Markham will be receiving blended hydrogen at a concentration of 2% into the Enbridge natural gas network.
  • Gazifère and Evolugen Hydrogen Blending Project: 43,500 customers in Gatineau, Chelsea, and elsewhere in the Outaouais region will receive a hydrogen blend in Gazifère’s natural gas distribution network.
  • FortisBC Hydrogen Blending Research: FortisBC invested $500,000 to study how the utility company can reduce emissions by blending hydrogen into the natural gas distribution network.
  • HyDeploy: A hydrogen blending project in the United Kingdom that aims to prove that blending 20% hydrogen with natural gas is safe.
  • Hydrogen Park Gladstone: An Australian hydrogen blending project by Australian Gas Networks, producing hydrogen that will be blended into the natural gas distribution network at volumes of up to 10% for 770 customers.
  • Windgas Haurup Project: Excess wind power will be used to produce hydrogen, which is blended at a volume of 2% into a distribution network for 600 apartments.

Hydrogen storage

Hydrogen, as an energy carrier, has great potential to be stored and distributed efficiently.

Hydrogen production facilities typically have short-term hydrogen storage on site, where hydrogen is stored as compressed gas or as an extremely cold liquid in tanks.

Large-volumes of hydrogen can also be compressed and stored in underground salt-caverns or depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs. This provides an opportunity to store surplus energy from renewable power generation, such as solar power that is not needed to feed the electrical grid. This excess renewable power can be used to make hydrogen, which can then be stored and used later to accommodate variations in energy demand and support renewable energy when those power supplies may be interrupted.

Standards

Hydrogen heating standards

National and international hydrogen heating standards are being updated to support hydrogen blending.

CSA Group, an international organization that performs standards development, testing, inspection, and certification, is in the process of updating several standards applicable to hydrogen heating, including:

Delivery, transmission and distribution

Hydrogen Storage

Gas Installation

Appliances & Equipment

  • CSA Z21 Series of 60+ standards for appliances on controls for residential and commercial heating, cooking, HVAC, drying, and hearth products
  • CSA Z83 Series of nine standards for gas-fired heating and cooking

CSA Group has also conducted research specific to hydrogen blending:

Hydrogen power generation and storage standards

Hydrogen Generators

  • CSA C22.2 No. 22734, Hydrogen generators using water electrolysis, – Industrial, commercial, and residential applications (in progress)
  • CSA/ANSI FC 5, Hydrogen generators using fuel processing technologies – Part 1: Safety

Hydrogen Storage

End uses of hydrogen

Hydrogen can be used for heating, hydrogen cell vehicles, industrial processes, power generation and as an ingredient for other products.

Some product examples include:

  • Ammonia is a chemical compound used :
    • In fertilizer for agriculture
    • As a starting material to manufacture synthetic fibers or pharmaceuticals
    • For mining extraction in metallurgic sectors
    • For industrial refrigeration, and for the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.
  • Methanol is a chemical compound used:
    •  to produce plastics, foams, resins
    • Paints
    • cleaning products
    • formaldehyde for building products
    • pharmaceutical products
    • in fuel-blending as a clean-burning fuel for turbines and internal combustion engines.

Contact

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]:

Mailing Address:
Alberta Energy
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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