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Southeast Alberta’s hydrogen HUB advances

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The Southeast Alberta Hydrogen Task Force (Task Force) announced the publication of its foundational report, Towards Hydrogen: A Hydrogen HUB Feasibility Study for Southeast Alberta (Towards Hydrogen), which outlines the region’s strong potential for significant supply and demand, as well as a road map for implementing hydrogen as a major fuel economy in Southeast Alberta.

The Task Force is an independent public-private working body made up of municipalities, economic development agencies, and private businesses. City of Medicine Hat, Brooks Newell Region, APEX Regional Innovation Network (Alberta Innovates, Community Futures – Entre Corp, and the Medicine Hat College), Palliser Economic Partnership, CF Industries, Methanex Corporation, Rockpoint Gas Storage, Campus Energy, ComTech Energy (4Refuel), and the Transition Accelerator are some of the members. The report was made possible in part by a $50,000 federal funding via PrairiesCan.

Randy O. Litun, P. Eng, HUB Facilitator consultant, explains in Towards Hydrogen how Southeast Alberta has the potential to become a major merchant hydrogen generation location and Canada’s second Hydrogen HUB. The research analyzes and describes the region’s substantial assets and possibilities, including its strong regional demand and its potential to be one of North America’s lowest-cost producers of low-carbon intensity hydrogen.

“Hydrogen is a vital part of our future clean energy system, and it also represents a tremendous economic opportunity,” says Dinara Millington, Western Network Lead for The Transition Accelerator. “This report provides the strategic context needed for Southeast Alberta to leverage its regional strengths, expand its role in Canada’s hydrogen transition, and create a foundation for long-lasting economic success.”

“The development of hydrogen fuel in Southeast Alberta will have a positive impact on both our economy and our environment by creating high quality jobs for Alberta’s energy workers while helping Canada to reach net-zero emissions by 2050,” said the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister for PrairiesCan. “Our government’s support for this initiative is contributing to evidence-based analysis that will create new opportunities for industry, investors and other stakeholders in the Prairies and across Canada.”

Among the conclusions of the report, the region:

  • possesses an abundance of hydrogen feedstocks, including natural gas and renewable energy, and is capable of producing hydrogen through a variety of techniques to meet regional and export demand.
  • demonstrates significant promise for carbon capture and sequestration using high-quality saline aquifers to meet CO2e emissions from existing and future industrial activity.
  • key location within the trans-Canadian road and rail transport and export corridor
  • forecasts robust regional demand from a variety of energy-intensive industrial and agricultural enterprises, and
  • Existing industrial complex produces and fully utilizes around 20% of Alberta’s hydrogen, primarily as an intermediate for chemical products such as ammonia and methanol, with the remainder used as fuel.

“Methanex has been an industrial partner in Southeast Alberta for over 30 years. We believe that methanol can be an effective hydrogen carrier and we support the development of enabling carbon capture, utilization and storage in the region” says Mark Allard, VP North America, Methanex Corporation.

The Towards Hydrogen report suggests four strategic actions upon the establishment of the Southeast Alberta Hydrogen HUB:

  • Develop CCUS as rapidly as feasible to solve existing CO2e emissions, establish low-cost blue hydrogen generation, and initiate regional demand and industry attraction.
  • Initiate discussions with regulatory and renewable power proponents to incorporate green hydrogen as part of a long-term electric generation strategy for use as both a product and a generation fuel in order to optimize existing transmission capacity, maximize regional generation capacity factor, and capture excess off-peak renewable energy.
  • Establish regional demand for hydrogen by constructing refueling stations and return-to-base operations throughout the Trans-Canada transportation corridor. Assemble a “Coalition of the Committed” consisting of industry, associations, transport fleets, municipal fleets, and rail operations in order to establish supply and demand relationships, and
  • Develop external demand from other supply-deficient places in Canada (Calgary, Lethbridge, Swift Current) and the United States (Montana, California, Mid-West). Utilize existing road and rail transport infrastructure to increase demand for hydrogen and hydrogen carriers at scale in order to position the region for larger long-term export infrastructure and opportunity.

“As expected, this feasibility study shows that Southeast Alberta is well-positioned to capitalize on opportunities in carbon capture utilization and storage and hydrogen production, in addition to the role we can potentially play as a hydrogen demand generator,” says Mayor Linnsie Clark. “The City of Medicine Hat looks forward to continuing work with its municipal, economic development and industrial partners towards establishing Canada’s second Hydrogen HUB, right here in Southeast Alberta.”

Following the publication of Towards Hydrogen, the Task Force will actively engage with public and private stakeholders and funding providers to establish a formal Hydrogen HUB in Southeast Alberta, launching hydrogen pilots and education and awareness initiatives.

Nedim Husomanovic

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