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    Alberta unveils hydrogen roadmap


Province will lean heavily on natural gas reserves and CCUS to develop a hydrogen economy.

by: Dale Lunan

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Alberta unveils hydrogen roadmap

The government of Alberta, the natural resources engine of Canada’s economy, unveiled a seven-pillar Hydrogen Roadmap November 5 which it says could reduce the province’s nation-leading greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 14mn mt by 2030.

But that 2030 target, the roadmap says, represents only a “solid starting point” for continued reductions between 2030 and 2050. In 2019, Alberta’s CO2-equivalent emissions were estimated at 275.8mn mt, with its oil and gas sector responsible for 51% of the total and power generation for 11%.

“With our enormous natural gas reserves, land well-suited to storing carbon emissions, and a rapidly growing renewable energy sector, we have the assets needed to make clean hydrogen at a low cost,” Alberta premier Jason Kenney says in his introductory message to the roadmap. “With our robust energy infrastructure, early investments and expertise in carbon capture, and decades of experience in natural gas and hydrogen production, we have all the knowledge and tools needed to grow hydrogen development.”

Alberta is already Canada’s largest source of hydrogen, producing an estimated 2.4mn mt/yr for various industrial applications. It’s also home to 60% of Canada’s natural gas production, producing about 10.2bn ft3/day.

At a virtual conference hosted by Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada on November 4, Nally hinted at the pending release of the roadmap, and likened the potential for hydrogen as Albertas next oil sands. Speaking with reporters following the document’s release, he suggested investments into Alberta’s economy reaching as high as C$100bn would not be out of the question.

“The global hydrogen market is predicted to be worth upwards of $2.5 trillion by 2050, he said, and Alberta is already a world leader in Hydrogen. 

Just simply maintaining that leadership position is going to ensure that we get a significant proportion of that in Alberta,” he said.  We believe that $100bn  would not be unexpected.

While most of the hydrogen produced in the province today is grey, two major carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) projects are operational: Shell Canada’s Quest project, which has captured and sequestered nearly 6mn mt of CO2 since 2015, and the 14.6mn mt/yr Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) system, which began operations in 2020 and is transporting 1.6mn mt/yr of CO2 to central Alberta, where it is used in enhanced oil recovery operations.

“With initial CCUS infrastructure in place, Alberta is in a good position to support the scale-up of a clean hydrogen economy as part of our integrated energy system,” the roadmap says. 

Some of that “scale-up” may already be underway. Earlier this year, infrastructure developers Pembina Pipeline and TC Energy announced a partnership a develop a world-scale carbon transportation and sequestration system, the Alberta Carbon Grid, capable of storing as much as 20mn mt/yr of CO2. And media reports have suggested the two are seeking to merge that project with at least two others, the Anglo-Dutch Shell-led Polaris project and the Oil Sands Pathway, which has been proposed by the province’s largest oil sands producers.

“Our natural gas sector is already a significant part of efforts to reduce emissions and move towards a cleaner energy future,” Dale Nally, Alberta’s associate minister of natural gas and electricity said in his introductory message. “But hydrogen offers an even greater opportunity to advance towards this future.”

The Hydrogen Roadmap sets out a plan for Alberta to accelerate the deployment of clean hydrogen into the provincial economy by collaborating with industry, partnering with other Canadian governments and unlocking research and innovation support for the commercialization of new technologies.

It will be built on seven policy pillars:

  • Build new market demand,
  • Enable carbon capture, utilisation and storage,
  • De-risk investment,
  • Activate technology and innovation,
  • Ensure regulatory efficiency and codes to ensure safety,
  • Lead the way to a hydrogen economy,
  • Pursue hydrogen exports.

“The Hydrogen Roadmap identifies four leading domestic markets for clean hydrogen, which include heating (residential and commercial), power generation and storage, transportation and industrial processes,” the plan says. “The roadmap also recognises hydrogen exports as a significant economic opportunity for Alberta beyond its borders.”