Edmonton: A Global Epicenter for Hydrogen

Edmonton: A Global Epicenter for Hydrogen

Canada’s first hydrogen hub, located in the Edmonton region, is one of the largest in the world, attracting investments in innovation, production and new technologies due to its ability to produce low-cost, low-carbon hydrogen at a global scale.

Launched in April 2021, the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub is a commitment by the Edmonton region’s municipal leaders, provincial and federal governments, Indigenous communities, and economic development agencies to leverage the region’s position as a low-cost producer of low-carbon hydrogen to develop its hydrogen value chain and capture a part of Canada’s future $100 billion hydrogen economy.

The governments of Canada and Alberta are investing heavily in the region’s hydrogen ecosystem and its enabling infrastructure for carbon dioxide capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). Private and public sector investments are positioning the Edmonton region for exponential growth in both the production and use of hydrogen, which will play a key role in ensuring government and industry are able to deliver on their net zero commitments. Initiatives include a wide range of pilot projects to demonstrate how hydrogen can be used as a net zero fuel for transportation, residential heating and heavy equipment. The projects include both the supply and demand side of the hydrogen economy, including hydrogen fuel cell heavy duty vehicles, hydrogen bus fleets, hydrogen blending into natural gas distribution systems, and hydrogen fuel cell locomotives operating between Calgary and Edmonton.

A Strong History in Sustainable Energy Leadership

Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global, the region’s economic development organization, is optimistic about the potential that hydrogen holds for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. “Energy has long been the backbone of the Edmonton economy, and we are excited about the opportunity that hydrogen represents for our region to continue to lead in providing sustainable energy solutions for Canada and beyond. The Edmonton region is well positioned to take on a leadership role in this new energy transition.”

The region has more than 40 years of experience in hydrogen production – roughly 66 percent of all hydrogen produced in Canada comes from Alberta, with most of this from the Edmonton region, one of the world’s lowest-cost hydrogen producers, which is attracting international investment. Edmonton Global is projecting more than $30 billion of capital investment into hydrogen production projects by 2030. The Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub forecasts that by 2032 the region will include over 60 hydrogen refueling stations, converting approximately 20,000 heavy duty Class 8 trucks to a combination of dual-fuel trucks and hydrogen fuel cell trucks.

A Launch Point for the Emerging North American Hydrogen Economy

Already a global competitor in the hydrogen marketplace, the Edmonton region is home to three of the world’s leading carbon capture projects related to hydrogen production. These projects benefit from being connected to a vast network of pipeline infrastructure, including the world’s largest CO2 pipeline and a dedicated H2 pipeline.

Last year, Air Products announced its intention to build the world’s largest net zero hydrogen facility in the Edmonton region and Western Canada’s first hydrogen liquefaction facility. This is the first of several similar projects about to get underway.

As director of the Hydrogen Initiative for Edmonton Global, I believe Air Products is a good fit because the Edmonton region is the largest site of hydrogen production in all of Canada. When you look at our geological storage potential, it’s easy to see why companies are eager to invest here. Alberta is home to the world’s third largest stores of natural gas, the feedstock for low-cost hydrogen production. The Edmonton region is appealing to industry for initiatives aimed at decarbonizing energy production and will become a key hub for a decarbonized transportation and logistics sector because of this. Current and future carbon taxes and government regulations are making hydrogen fuel a competitive alternative to traditional fuels, and we anticipate strong adoption rates in long-haul, heavy-duty trucks and bus fleets. The growing demand for hydrogen in Western Canada, and in places like California, Japan and South Korea, will drive the growth of our hydrogen production sector.

The region is also one of the few in the world with experience in storing CO2 in geological formations at a commercial scale. An example is the Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility in the region, which has successfully demonstrated that the process is both safe and effective. Quest was built by Shell ahead of schedule and under budget. Since opening in late 2015, the facility has captured more CO2 than expected, and stored it safely underground. To date, Quest has captured and stored over six million tonnes of CO2. Shell recently announced a second large-scale sequestration project in the region which will continue to advance its emissions reductions. The Alberta government is supportive of establishing CCUS hubs within Alberta and recently announced six projects related to CO2 storage within the Edmonton region, including one being jointly developed by Shell, Suncor and ATCO.

Other Regional Initiatives to Support the Hydrogen Economy

In April 2022, the Edmonton International Airport announced a series of initiatives aimed at including hydrogen as part of its sustainability goals, including partnerships with Toyota to bring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to its taxi and rental fleets, hydrogen-diesel/dual-fuel trucks and ground service vehicles, hydrogen buses and refueling stations.

Edmonton Global’s vice-president of global marketing and communications, Chris McLeod, highlights that there is also a need to prepare the workforce for the emerging hydrogen economy. “Work is already underway with the hydrogen labor market research study led by Edmonton Global, which brings together industry and post-secondaries from across the province to inform a workforce strategy.”

McLeod states a need for ongoing consultation with experts to understand business needs and how to remain globally competitive in this space, including the need to update rules and inform regulations that will provide clarity and de-risk projects.

The Edmonton region includes a highly skilled workforce in the energy sector with a large talent pool of qualified engineers and tradespeople. Post-secondary institutions (University of Alberta, NAIT) support innovation and ensure talent needs are met, guaranteeing world-class expertise in CCUS technology.

Continued Investment

The province recently announced that it will be investing $50 million to create a new Hydrogen Centre of Excellence, led by Alberta Innovates, to support entrepreneurs developing hydrogen technologies.

To learn more about Canada’s first and largest hydrogen hub, and the alliance of three orders of government, Indigenous, economic development and academic leaders implementing a strategy to accelerate the development of a regional hydrogen economy, contact Edmonton Global at 800-261-4952 or online at https://edmontonglobal.ca.

Author Profile

Brent Lakeman is director for Edmonton Global’s Hydrogen Initiative, where he is leading the Metropolitan Edmonton Region’s activities to position the region as Canada’s preeminent hydrogen hub. He collaborates with other regional partners in the transition to this low carbon fuel. Activities include working closely with other partners, including the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub, to attract industries to the region, grow the region’s hydrogen value chain, and support economic development within the region. 

Prior to joining Edmonton Global, Lakeman served as the executive director for teams within the Alberta government focused on the growth and diversification of the province’s economy, with a strong focus on the clean technology, life sciences and digital technology sectors. He has worked to foster partnerships between advanced technology enterprises and Alberta’s research and innovation system to drive growth of the knowledge economy, attract investments and accelerate diversification.

Lakeman has also had leadership roles at Alberta Innovates Technology Futures and the Alberta Research Council, including leading the organizations carbon and environmental management.  He has over 30 years of experience working on Alberta’s technology, energy, environment and economic diversification priorities. Lakeman holds a master’s degree in public administration from Queen University.

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