As the world moves towards a low-carbon future, hydrogen is looming large — since when combusted to release energy it doesn’t create any greenhouse gases.
David Layzell, Energy Systems Architect and Research Director with The Transition Accelerator, a Canadian organization promoting pathways for Canada to reach Net-Zero by 2050, says hydrogen — like electricity, natural gas or gasoline — is really an energy carrier.
Layzell says hydrogen can be produced in one location and then transported via various means to where it is needed. He says a viable hydrogen industry in Alberta and Canada will most likely be successful in combination with electricity, which is well established and can be generated from sources like solar, wind or water hydro.
According to Layzell, smaller passenger electric vehicles are already well served with rechargeable batteries, but a hydrogen fuel cell is the better zero emissions solution for powering large transportation vehicles like transport trucks, buses, trains, ships or airplanes.
“It’s hard to see those carrying enough batteries,” he points out.
Another good use of hydrogen would be heating large, remote facilities, since it is costly to build an electrical grid sufficient to handle winter heating loads, which is then underutilized the remainder of the year.
Layzell says hydrogen currently lacks the transportation infrastructure of other energy carriers, such as the grid for electricity or pipelines for natural gas, but Canada already produces about 8,000 to 9,000 tonnes of hydrogen every day, with Alberta responsible for two-thirds.
Alberta’s hydrogen is currently used as industrial feedstock, such as being combined with nitrogen to make fertilizer ammonia.
“We’re basically using hydrogen [now] to modify the chemistry of materials. What the hydrogen economy is about is extending the use of hydrogen so it becomes an energy carrier or fuel in its own right.
“So we will use it to generate electricity in a fuel cell, to heat a house or heat water, we use it where we would normally use gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and natural gas. It’s a whole new energy system we’re building here,” says Layzell. “And we probably only get to do this once every 80 to 100 years.”
The Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB alliance is working to kickstart a hydrogen economy that could serve as a model for others in Canada.
HUB chair and Sturgeon Country Mayor Alanna Hnatiw says the region is one of the lowest cost places in the world to make low-carbon hydrogen and the global hydrogen market is expected to be worth up to $2.5 trillion by 2050.
“We already have the talented workers, expertise and pipelines to succeed,” says Hnatiw. “That’s good news for the economy, the climate and job creation.”
Numerous projects have already been announced with more unveiled at the first Canadian Hydrogen Convention recently held in Edmonton.
Hnatiw says the goal is to attract, create and pivot companies that can manufacture goods that produce, move and use hydrogen, such as trucks, fuel cells, buses, power generation and pipeline technology, “leading to even more jobs and economic benefit to our communities.”
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division.