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Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. However, it is rarely found on its own. Hydrogen is usually connected with other elements in molecules such as water (H2O), or hydrocarbons. Hydrogen can be produced from a range of sources but methane(CH4) is the most common. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that when combusted, produces only water and heat.
Hydrogen 101 explains hydrogen, production, transportation, and storage.
Canada ranks in the top 10 of global hydrogen producers. Alberta is the largest hydrogen producer in Canada. In 2018, Alberta produced approximately 2.4 million tonnes of hydrogen per year for various industrial applications, including oil upgrading and refining, as well as chemical manufacturing.
Alberta has considerable expertise with hydrogen, and that expertise could grow significantly to support growing demand.
Alberta has the potential to be one of the lowest-cost producers of hydrogen in the world. Alberta’s current strengths in the emerging clean hydrogen economy include:
- Experience and Scale: Alberta is already the largest hydrogen producer in Canada. Alberta’s workforce knows how to produce, handle and use hydrogen safely at large scales.
- Energy Resources: Alberta can leverage its existing natural resources such as our world-class natural gas reserves, renewable energy resources, extensive energy infrastructure, and geological storage capacity to play a leading role in Canada’s clean hydrogen economy.
- Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) Capacity: Alberta is home to world-scale CCUS projects and multiple industrial clusters.
- Innovation Leadership: Alberta is a committed leader in innovation, GHG emission research, and carbon management.
- Environmental Commitment: Alberta has best-in-class environmental standards and practices in place. The province is also in the process of developing a forward looking ESG strategy, allowing Alberta to build on its strong ESG record and further push the boundaries as a leader in this space.
- Competitive Business Environment: Alberta offers several investment attraction programs, such as the Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program, which provides direct financial incentives to attract investment in the province’s petrochemical sector, including new or expanding hydrogen production facilities utilizing CCUS.
When combusted, hydrogen produces no greenhouse gas emissions. Given growing global concerns about climate change, there is interest in using hydrogen within difficult to decarbonize sectors, such as industrial processes, heavy-duty transportation, and utility heating markets.
Hydrogen has the potential to provide environmental benefits for Alberta. These include reductions to our greenhouse gas emissions across the province, which reduces negative impacts and environmental costs to human health and biodiversity.
Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap set Measures of Success, which includes reducing emissions by 14 million tonnes from integrating clean hydrogen into Alberta’s markets by 2030. Most of the reduction in emissions is anticipated to come from integrating clean hydrogen into industrial processes. Between 2030 and 2050, hydrogen could contribute to greater greenhouse gas emissions reductions as hydrogen deployment gains momentum across the province.
Alberta’s clean hydrogen exports can help decarbonize Canadian, North American, and global markets, helping meet emissions reductions targets the world.
The framework for hydrogen development in the province is managed by 2 entities.
- Information bulletin 2022-01 – Regulation of hydrogen (October 3, 2022)
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Alberta has been producing and using hydrogen safely for over 50 years.
Hydrogen is considered safe to handle compared to other fuels used today but precautions are still needed. If released under normal atmospheric pressure conditions, hydrogen is non-toxic and disperses quickly. However, hydrogen gas is highly flammable and can ignite more easily compared to natural gas. When pure hydrogen burns, the flame is difficult to detect because it is nearly invisible, and it does not have an odour.
Alberta will be working with national standards groups to ensure hydrogen use remains safe and safeguards are put in place for new applications of hydrogen.
Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap identified five hydrogen markets in Alberta. Alberta is focused on producing clean hydrogen and providing this as a clean energy option for domestic use and for exports. The hydrogen markets in Alberta include:
- Industrial Processes – where hydrogen is used for oil refining and bitumen upgrading, ammonia and fertilizers, chemicals, and liquid synthetic fuels.
- Heating – where hydrogen is either blended with natural gas or burned directly for use in residential and commercial heating.
- Power Generation and Storage – where hydrogen turbines and fuel cell generators generate electricity, or hydrogen is produced by renewable-based electrolysis and used for energy storage.
- Transportation – where hydrogen is used for fuel-cell electric vehicles, such as cars, trucks, buses, trains, aviation, and hydrogen co-combustion engines (primarily for heavy-duty applications).
- Exports – where growing international demand for clean hydrogen in key North American, Asia-Pacific, and European markets is met by Alberta’s expertise in energy exports.
The hydrogen economy is expected to bring both widespread direct and indirect economic benefits to the province. As world-scale hydrogen projects are developed, new employment opportunities are expected for professionals, scientists, and trades while other jobs integrate with the new hydrogen economy.
Learn more about hydrogen markets.
By 2030, Alberta aims to integrate hydrogen into domestic markets on a large scale and a number of projects are already underway. See economic opportunities for a listing of current hydrogen investment.
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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