How Ottawa hopes to supercharge Canada’s hydrogen fuel sector

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How Ottawa hopes to supercharge Canada's hydrogen fuel sector
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For years, David Lloyd has been intrigued by hydrogen-powered automobiles. Residing in Burnaby, B.C., he often passes by Ballard Energy Methods — the hydrogen gas cell firm — and infrequently wonders when the know-how would go mainstream.

Then final month, whereas his RAV4 was getting serviced at a Toyota dealership, he noticed a hydrogen automobile within the showroom. He could not consider it.

Lloyd wasn’t available in the market for a brand new automobile, however he purchased it anyway.

He is owned the Toyota Mirai for a couple of weeks and enjoys the sleek, quiet drive. Filling up at one of many three close by hydrogen stations is fairly easy, he stated, and prices about $50 if the tank is empty. The automobile is emission free.

“I am shocked that I might get in on this form of subsequent wave of know-how,” stated the 69-year-old former college teacher.

WATCH | Take a spin within the Toyota Mirai:

It is a new expertise driving a gas cell automobile, however David Lloyd is having fun with the trip. 1:27

Canada needs in on hydrogen, too, in an enormous method.

The gas is having a second globally, largely as a result of it is seen as a important element in combating local weather change, bettering air high quality and creating financial development in a carbon-constrained world.

Amid this resurgence of curiosity in hydrogen, Ottawa has been crafting a long-term technique aimed toward  securing a spot for a Canadian sector in what’s anticipated to be a major, world trade within the many years forward.

The federal government anticipates it should launch its plan this fall.

‘Issues are taking place shortly’

As momentum round hydrogen builds globally and different international locations execute their personal methods, Ottawa is below strain to behave.

“Issues are taking place shortly,” stated Pure Assets Minister Seamus O’Regan, who remembers driving on a Ballard hydrogen-powered bus throughout Expo 86 in Vancouver.

“It appears to be like like tendencies we noticed earlier than the pandemic have accelerated. We need to be forward of it.” 

WATCH | O’Regan on what hydrogen might imply for Canada:

Pure Assets Minister Seamus O’Regan on hydrogen’s potential and what it might imply for Canada. 5:46

However hydrogen’s hurdles embrace know-how, economics, infrastructure and transportation necessities. Producing massive quantities of the gas in a low-carbon and inexpensive method has additionally been difficult. The cleanest method of creating hydrogen is to make use of renewable electrical energy to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen by way of a course of referred to as electrolysis.

Governments world wide have begun investing cash to kick-start the sector, a transfer the federal authorities and a few provinces have signalled they’ll observe. Alberta and Quebec have already dedicated funding to hydrogen.

The federal pure sources division has been working with trade and completely different ranges of presidency for the final three years on the mission.

The technique is predicted to lean into the strengths Canada already possesses, together with low-carbon intensive electrical energy, like hydro, and ample fossil gas reserves, in keeping with background paperwork offered by the federal authorities.

Alberta has been working with Ottawa on the nationwide technique and is growing its personal blueprint. 

Hydrogen in Alberta is historically made out of pure gasoline, however the province believes it might change into a frontrunner in cleaner “blue” hydrogen by introducing carbon-capture-and-storage know-how to the method.

“By 2050, [hydrogen] goes to be a $2.5-trillion trade,” stated Dale Nally, Alberta’s affiliate minister of pure gasoline, citing world hydrogen trade figures.  “We have to maintain advancing this sector.”

The ‘gas of the longer term’

For many years, hydrogen has been known as the gas of the longer term. A historical past of sophisticated challenges has stored it from changing into the gas of in the present day.

A part of the attraction is hydrogen produces water — not carbon — when utilized in a gas cell. 

Enthusiasm has returned with hope that advances in low and zero-carbon manufacturing know-how might have the potential to supply the hydrogen that governments and industries are wanting for to assist slash greenhouse gasoline emissions over coming many years.

Powering automobiles is one factor, however most consultants say hydrogen’s true potential is in decarbonizing some industrial sectors like steel-making, offering warmth for buildings and being a dependable gas for trains and heavy-haul vans. 

A few of the pleasure round hydrogen nowadays is because of hope that advances in know-how will in the end enable for manufacturing from renewable power, like photo voltaic. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Although not a panacea, some analysts anticipate hydrogen might meet 24 per cent of world power demand by 2050. 

Environmental teams, such because the Pembina Institute, say the local weather profit is extremely depending on how the hydrogen is made.

Canada is without doubt one of the bigger hydrogen producers on this planet in the present day, making about three million tonnes a 12 months utilizing steam methane reformation of pure gasoline — a course of that is drawn scrutiny for as a result of it additionally produces carbon emissions.

However authorities officers and analysts consider Canada has the constructing blocks to develop low or zero-carbon hydrogen by way of a wide range of instruments, together with renewable power. Within the case of pure gasoline, carbon-capture know-how may very well be used to supply low-carbon hydrogen.

O’Regan factors to Ballard’s inventory worth greater than tripling within the final 12 months as one signal of the renewed curiosity in hydrogen know-how.

The federal technique will embrace authorities incentives seemingly aimed toward growing manufacturing, constructing transportation and storage infrastructure, and a distribution community.

Many years from now, hydrogen might have the potential to exchange oil because the dominant gas supply, he stated.

“Presumably — that is your finest and trustworthy reply from the pure sources minister in the midst of a pandemic, when issues are altering so shortly,” stated O’Regan, if prices lower and know-how accelerates.

“We do know although that oil goes to be with us for fairly a while. Even probably the most bold Paris accord targets have it occupying a really massive house in power consumption.”

‘Large’ progress made

Business is already making “large progress” in reducing prices and bettering effectivity of hydrogen infrastructure, in keeping with Wayne Leighty, hydrogen enterprise improvement supervisor for Royal Dutch Shell in North America.

The newly developed refuelling stations are half the worth and twice the efficiency because the stations that are simply completed being constructed, he stated.

“It is a very quick tempo of progress and as we obtain that progress, come down the fee curves, then the dimensions of the chance grows,” stated Leighty.

WATCH | Why some conventional oil and gasoline corporations are investing in hydrogen:

The corporate is concentrated on constructing a refuelling community, says Wayne Leighty, Shell’s hydrogen enterprise improvement supervisor 2:30

With a lot of hydrogen’s future as but uncharted, there’s room for innovation, together with on the wind-swept prairie of west-central Saskatchewan.

That is the place Proton Applied sciences is trying to show the stays of a bankrupt heavy oil play right into a zero-carbon hydrogen improvement.

The pilot mission goals to develop a industrial course of the place oxygen is injected into oil fields, elevating their temperature and making a response that frees the hydrogen.

Because the hydrogen is drawn to the floor, the corporate stated different gases, like carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, are filtered out and keep under floor.

The purpose of Proton’s patented course of is a carbon-free hydrogen at a value properly under present inexperienced hydrogen applied sciences.

The location of Proton Applied sciences’ pilot mission close to Kindersley, Sask. The corporate is engaged on a method to produce hydrogen by injecting oxygen into oil fields. (Tony Seskus/CBC)

“I believe hydrogen shall be extensively adopted if individuals can get monetary savings for heating their houses or industrial processes or transportation gas,” stated Proton’s chairman, Grant Strem.

If all goes as deliberate — and so they can show the know-how could be scaled-up — Proton goals to supply 500 tonnes a day of hydrogen from the positioning inside about two years.

Starting later this 12 months, Strem stated the corporate plans to promote smaller quantities of hydrogen from the positioning utilizing above-surface separation and delivery it by truck. 

Nonetheless the gas of the longer term?

Regardless of present curiosity in hydrogen, it stays to be seen precisely how important a task it should play sooner or later. 

Challenges and unknowns stay, akin to its skill to supply a revenue, shopper attitudes and even sudden leaps by rival applied sciences. The economics can even need to work  — and the worldwide capital price of the gear for low or zero-carbon hydrogen manufacturing has been estimated to be lots of of billions of {dollars} over the following three many years.

An ongoing dedication to decarbonization by governments can also be anticipated to be key.

“It is a lot tougher to construct one thing up than it’s to tear one thing down,” stated Alex Klaessig, director of gasoline, energy, and power futures at IHS Markit. 

“Quite a lot of issues need to go proper for it to work, whereas … simply a few huge issues might go mistaken for it to not.”

Nonetheless, he believes hydrogen will play a major position transferring ahead as a part of a mixture of power options, together with renewable power.

WATCH | What Proton needs to realize with its know-how:

Seta Afshordi with Proton Applied sciences explains the innovation underway and the potential of hydrogen. 1:05

Others are cautious of presidency involvement in constructing out hydrogen infrastructure.

I am a free-market man,” stated economist Peter Tertzakian, deputy director of the ARC Vitality Analysis Institute in Calgary. “I am not satisfied the federal government needs to be concerned in choosing applied sciences.”

‘Individuals say, “Oh, properly, when the worth of hydrogen comes down, then will probably be aggressive.” Properly, it isn’t simply the worth of hydrogen that has to return down. Anyone has to pay for all of the infrastructure in between to make it work,’ says economist Peter Tertzakian. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

As for Lloyd, who purchased a hydrogen automobile final month, he is completely comfortable to drive the automobile regionally within the Vancouver space, and he is excited new filling stations are deliberate for Victoria and Kelowna, B.C.

For now, regardless how the hydrogen trade evolves over the following few many years, he is having fun with the trip.

“Whenever you ask for a little bit little bit of acceleration, it strikes simply with out hesitation,” he stated. “Being clear and quiet is nice.”

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