Long known for its abundance of natural resources that have fuelled its economy, both literally and figuratively, for decades, Alberta has found itself in an advantageous position with regard to hydrogen and natural gas.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the world and is making a name for itself and providing the province with an opportunity to supply a clean and responsibly sourced natural gas in a world with increasing momentum towards a low carbon future.
The province is making waves and taking the opportunity that is in front of them, an opportunity that could potentially be a $100 billion per year market. Earlier in June, the Albertan and Canadian governments signed a deal for a $1.3 billion hydrogen plant that could be built near Edmonton. The province has put up $15 million so far in support of the project.
Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, science and industry, is quoted, saying “this is a very concrete step towards one of the first facilities that will help make Canada, Alberta, and Edmonton global leaders in growing the clean hydrogen sector.”
If the plant project goes ahead, it could be up and running by 2024, creating roughly 2,500 jobs, and would produce hydrogen-fuelled electricity and liquid hydrogen for transportation. The article states the plant would also capture three million tonnes of CO2 per year and produce 1,500 tonnes of hydrogen per day.
In May, Suncor Energy announced it is partnering with ATCO to collaborate and develop a clean hydrogen project near Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. Suncor said the project would produce more than 300,000 tonnes per year of clean hydrogen using advanced technology.
The facility could be operational come 2028. Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan are right in the middle of Alberta’s heartland, and well set up to be Western Canada’s hydrogen hub.
Also, roughly 65% of the produced clean hydrogen would be used in refining processes and electricity at their Edmonton refiner, reducing its emissions by up to 60%, and the project would reduce CO2 emissions in Alberta by more than two million tonnes per year.
Alberta also has advantages in the production of blue hydrogen, which is derived from fossil fuels. Blue hydrogen offers potential due to Alberta’s supply of natural gas.
While past proponents of the element have raised concerns that it requires infrastructure investment and production costs, a Calgary-based company, Proton Technologies, has been developing a technology and process that allows hydrogen to be separated from water and extracted from oil sands.
With global demand for hydrogen projected to increase, it appears the global race is on, and this could be a game changer for the province. Through developing and commercializing these projects and technologies, this adds more to Alberta’s arsenal and positions the province to be a global leader in hydrogen production.
In Alberta’s Natural Gas Vision and Strategy, Premier Kenney states that “As the world’s energy needs evolve, so too must the way we approach our role as a responsible energy producer. Alberta is uniquely positioned to live up to this challenge.”
These projects signal the vast potential and gift horse staring at Alberta. Even in a time of recovered oil prices and demand for traditional oil and gas services and products, having a diversified natural resources sector that offers various energy avenues is a boon for both province and country.