Amidst its well-established reputation as an oil and gas hub, Alberta is set to embark on a transformative journey toward a greener energy landscape.
The province has unveiled an ambitious hydrogen initiative, backed by substantial funding through Alberta Innovates and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA). This significant investment aims to propel the development of crucial technologies that underpin Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap and Natural Gas Strategy, charting a course towards a cleaner energy future.
The cornerstone of Alberta’s strategy revolves around the integration of clean hydrogen at scale into the province’s domestic energy system by 2030. Notably, this endeavor seeks to leverage the region’s abundant natural gas resources, harnessing low-carbon hydrogen production through innovative technologies.
Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates, underscores the magnitude of this shift, asserting, “The hydrogen economy is the next frontier for Alberta.” As the largest producer of hydrogen, Alberta is well-positioned to leverage its existing resources, infrastructure, and expertise to transition into this new era.
The province envisions clean hydrogen as a linchpin of its integrated energy system, powering transportation, heat, power generation, renewable energy storage, and various industrial applications. In alignment with this vision, ERA will channel $25 million towards advanced hydrogen innovations via the Accelerating Hydrogen Challenge, while an additional $20 to 25 million from Alberta Innovates will bolster early-stage innovations through the Hydrogen Centre of Excellence Competition 2. Notably, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is also contributing to the funding pool, highlighting the multi-faceted support for this hydrogen endeavor.
The proposed scope for hydrogen innovation encompasses every facet of the hydrogen value chain—from production and storage to transmission and utilization. Heavy-duty transportation, industrial heat, power, chemicals, commercial and residential heating, and other industrial sectors are all encompassed under this umbrella.
The timeline for these groundbreaking projects is succinct, with ERA-backed initiatives slated for completion within 36 months, while Alberta Innovates-funded projects are expected to wrap up in 24 months.
While Alberta’s hydrogen vision holds transformative potential, it does not evade scrutiny. The concept of blue hydrogen, derived from natural gas, has been met with reservations. Critics argue that continued reliance on natural gas for hydrogen production contradicts the pursuit of entirely fossil fuel-free energy solutions. The concerns extend to issues like orphaned infrastructure, environmental risks associated with gas wells, and even seismic events related to hydraulic fracturing.
Notwithstanding these challenges, Alberta’s commitment to hydrogen remains unwavering. The province’s sustained efforts in this direction were earlier exemplified by the establishment of the Alberta Hydrogen Centre of Excellence, which allocated $20 million to 18 pioneering hydrogen projects through its inaugural funding competition.
Nate Glubish, Minister of Technology and Innovations, encapsulates the sentiment driving Alberta’s hydrogen revolution, stating, “Clean hydrogen is a fast-growing industry and represents an enormous opportunity for our province.” With a strong foundation in natural gas, carbon capture, and renewable electricity, Alberta aims to redefine its energy sector, embracing hydrogen as the catalyst for a diversified and sustainable energy future.