Medicine Hat News
Hydrogen-powered future taking shape
A world powered by hydrogen may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but industry observers say it’s being written into business plans of energy companies today and citizens could see the results in mere years.
This week the Canadian government released its hydrogen roadmap, joining other major industrial nations, following an initial action list released by the Alberta government in October.
It initially concentrates on pilot projects and eventually support to create network systems to use the clean burning fuel in transportation and power production as a major leg of a climate change strategy.
As well this fall, CF Industries announced it will now transform its business plan, global ammonia production facilities, including its Medicine Hat plant and, shipping network toward using the clean burning fuel to reduce carbon emissions in transportation and electricity production.
Maggie Hanna has watched the sector for the last decade working as a fellow in the Energy Futures Lab, a research group that studies energy markets, technology and climate change.
“We’re already in a hydrocarbon reality for energy,” said Hannah. “All we really need, though, is the hydrogen, and there is tremendous opportunity for first movers.”
She said Canada has work to do to catch up to other nations that see the alternative, clean burning fuel as a way to reach carbon reduction goals.
Alberta’s Associate minister of Natural Gas, Dale Nally, said developing the hydrogen industry in Alberta is still in the early stages, but it holds promise and could be an important add-on to traditional energy production.
“In southern Alberta, the Medicine Hat region is forming a strong petrochemical cluster which already uses and produces hydrogen for industrial purposes,” said Nally. “As we look to build out the province’s hydrogen economy, regional strengths and opportunities like those in Medicine Hat could be leveraged to support the wider provincial hydrogen industry.”
Alberta’s natural gas and diversification strategy, released in October, builds on a twoyear-old plan to make the province more attractive to upgrading and petrochemical production investments, and now includes a major section on hydrogen development.
A short-term action plan will see strategic review take place of infrastructure and potential projects in region specifically noted as potential hubs, including Medicine Hat and the Industrial Heartland economic region around Edmonton.
The “first mover,” said Hanna, will likely be the Industrial Heartland, because heavy industrial companies there already produce and use hydrogen in an established network.
Initial heavy transport route for hydrogenfuelled long distance hauler is in place between Calgary and Edmonton, and the next stage will be to expand north to Fort McMurray, then east and west on the TransCanada Highway.
That would put hydrogen fuel cell charging stations in Medicine Hat within five to seven years, said Hanna, if a node system and transportation system plans are met.
Wider scale production here could be likely as well due to the nature of its production.
Hydrogen or ammonia, which is mostly hydrogen, or even methanol, can be made from natural gas (dubbed ‘blue’) in typical fashion, or from water and carbon dioxide using electrolysis (“green”), but requiring huge amounts of electricity.
Power is more efficiently used closest to where it is produced, meaning areas with large renewable power potential, but relatively low demand, such as Southeast Alberta, could be well suited for production facilities.
“There’s great opportunity in Southern Alberta and around Medicine Hat,” said Hanna.
“Southwest Alberta has the best wind resource and Southern Alberta all the way through Saskatchewan has the best solar resource in all of Canada.”
CF has said it will build a $100-million green ammonia facility in Louisiana next year and will also determine projects at its fleet of global production facilities.