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Opinion: Edmonton region poised to capitalize on the hydrogen economy

A hydrogen manufacturing unit at the Scotford Shell site, near Fort Saskatchewan. File photo PHOTO BY RICK MACWILLIAM/Postmedia

On Wednesday, April 14, the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub was launched, backed by over $2 million in funding from three orders of government. This is an exciting first step in the establishment of Canada’s first hydrogen hub. As the economic development organization for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, Edmonton Global welcomes the news of this launch, are extremely proud to partner in its activities, and are excited to see the impacts that this will have on the acceleration of the hydrogen economy for our region and beyond.

The global race to export hydrogen is on and right now we have some advantages, but we can’t assume that these will last forever. That’s why we’re encouraged by this launch. We are coming together as a region to take a proactive and strategic approach to capitalize on this opportunity and move aggressively forward.

We know that for Canada and the world to meet our climate and greenhouse gas reduction targets, hydrogen must be part of the solution. And it must be produced in ways that dramatically reduce the carbon intensity. This is where our region has a significant and global advantage. We have the technologies, talent, and abundance ofnatural gas combined with proven carbon capture and storage that allows us to produce near-zero emissions hydrogen and we’re one of the lowest-cost producers in the world. A global hydrogen economy will flourish once there is adequate demand matched with an abundance of low-cost and low-emissions hydrogen — simply put, the economics need to work and right now, the Edmonton region has what’s needed to check all the right boxes.

The economic benefits that the hydrogen economy could bring to our region are truly transformative. Make no mistake, the opportunity is massive — Canadian hydrogen has a national and international wholesale market of up to $100 billion a year.

Even beyond the production and export of hydrogen and the creation of good quality, clean energy jobs, the hydrogen economy will bring significant opportunities to our region. The establishment of a hub can and will attract OEM and energy tech companies to the region — and more. The economic spin-off potential can’t be overstated. From tech start-ups to fuel cells, service companies to innovation labs, power generation to the infrastructure needed to export, and the finance and capital markets needed to bankroll these projects — it’s critical that we are paying attention to the bigger picture to ensure that we capitalize on all aspects of this opportunity. If the hydrogen economy will eventually result in hundreds of billions of immediate and spin-off benefits, we want as much of that as is possible, to be centred right here in the Edmonton metropolitan region.

When we look at how the oil and gas sector played out in our region, we can learn a few things. While significant investments were made into our region, we failed to capture a lot of the value-added benefits of this industry. This time around, it’s critical that we embrace a bold vision — one that would realize the radical transformation of our regional economy.

We must anchor this opportunity within a long-term plan to support economic development and investment attraction across our regional economy. That’s why the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub has been embedded into an economic development framework. It’s an incredibly competitive world when it comes to investment attraction and we must play to our strengths. Beyond being among the world’s least expensive producers of low-carbon hydrogen — we have a high quality of life, diverse and highly skilled talent, expertise in artificial intelligence, strong logistics and supply chains, and access to global markets. With focus and collaboration across our region, we can compete to win on the global stage.

Through this launch and the bringing together of key regional partners, we have the potential to accelerate the impacts that hydrogen can bring to our region, to Alberta, and to all of Canada —we’re excited to get started.

Event highlights – The California market for hydrogen

Understanding international demand for Alberta hydrogen exports

As the world transitions to renewable energy sources, hydrogen will play an integral role in Canada’s and the world’s transition to a low carbon economy. As such, hydrogen represents a significant economic opportunity for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and the province of Alberta. The race to export hydrogen is on and our region holds some unique advantages and is well suited to become Canada’s first hydrogen node. The Edmonton region is one of the lowest cost places in the world to make low-carbon hydrogen and we have the expertise, talent, infrastructure and resources (low-cost natural gas and the ability to safely store CO2) in our region to accelerate the launch of the hydrogen economy – but these advantages won’t last forever. That’s why Edmonton Global, together with our partner Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, are hosting a series of online workshops aimed at exploring the export market in key regions including:

  • Japan
  • California
  • China
  • South Korea

The workshop exploring the California market took place on March 25, 2021. It included some great insights from key stakeholders from both the public and private sector about California’s emerging hydrogen market.  Panelists from the California Governor’s office, the California Energy Commission, and the California Hydrogen Business Council spoke about California’s ambitious targets for shifting to zero emission fuels over the coming 25 years, and how hydrogen will play an important role in this shift.  Some of the key points raised during the workshop included:

  • Don’t get confused by the colors.  California’s expectations around low cost, low carbon fuels include hydrogen derived from natural gas that makes use of carbon capture and storage technology.  California also has an established emission credit system that is part of their process for advancing low carbon fuels.
  • The transportation sector is a large focus for California, but power generation is an opportunity they are beginning to look at
  • The California regulators will evolve as required if presented with a compelling case for low-cost, low-carbon hydrogen supply—in particular, the requirements for “renewable” electricity mix on the grid, and “renewable” hydrogen content at the fueling stations.  They currently have subjective categories but anticipate moving to objective requirements such as carbon intensity.
  • California has a rapidly growing hydrogen market and there will be advantages associated with having a diverse energy portfolio including a range of hydrogen suppliers from multiple jurisdictions, including Canada.
  • Decisions on how to meet the state’s demand will be driven by the market, including the how hydrogen will be transported (rail, pipelines, ships) and its form (eg. liquified hydrogen, ammonia, methanol).
  • Current gaps include the installation of hydrogen transport and distribution infrastructure and it will be important to work on this concurrently as hydrogen production and demand increases.
  • Scale is a huge factor in delivered costs.  They were projecting cost equivalency to retail gasoline in the next 5-10 years and a recent Executive Order (N-79-20) is expected to speed that up.
  • California is eager to share research results and best practices associated with the development of standards, including the blending of hydrogen into natural gas distribution systems.  Stakeholders within the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub are working hard to advance similar opportunity areas and there is value in connecting with the California Energy Commission process to learn more.

Maggie Hanna the President of Common Ground Energy Corporation and Fellow at the Energy Futures Lab attended the event and said, “The three presenters at this workshop are clearly the key people that Alberta needs to be talking to in order to further explore how to capitalize on the California market. Blending projects, in particular, look like they will create opportunities for Alberta hydrogen. If Alberta were to supply a maximum of 15-20% blended hydrogen into their existing natural gas exports, aimed at the California power grid, that would take them a significant way towards their decarbonization goals. It would also be pipeline friendly at less than 20% hythane.”

You can watch a recording of the workshop here:


The next workshop in this series, which will take place on April 15, 2021, will explore the Korean market for hydrogen.

New tech converts waste into clean energy

Clean Energy Technology by Stamped Engineering Clean Energy Technology by Stamped Engineering



Stamped Engineering has developed a clean energy technology that converts organic waste into useable a clean energy source in three forms:

  • Liquid biofuel – which can be customized to suit the end user’s needs
  • Electricity
  • Electricity and heat

Their technology, which is currently patent pending, is fully customized to the end user’s needs and is completely adaptive to the type of organic waste used. This means that the technology has no identified limitations on the type of organic waste inputs that can be used and would provide solutions for a wide variety of clean energy applications.

A pivot to building innovation

Stamped Engineering has developed technology that converts organic waste into clean energy

 Stamped Engineering is a consultancy firm that specializes in design engineering customized to the needs of their clients. Like many consultancies, they experienced a bit of a slowdown in the number of contracts that they were taking on during the pandemic. They decided to pivot and threw the bulk of their effort and resources behind refining their technology for their Organic Waste to Clean Energy innovation.

“We weren’t content to play a passive role when it comes to business development,” said Jeenu Riat, CEO and president of Stamped Engineering. “We had been working on the idea behind using organic waste to produce clean energy for a while. This just gave us the opportunity to accelerate those plans and refine this technology that will help solve a global challenge.”

Organic waste a major contributor to GHGs

 Many people may not realize that emissions from Canadian landfills account for 20% of national methane emissions. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential. While landfill gas recovery is one method currently being used to deal with the organic materials already in landfills – it’s far from perfect. More than half of all emissions generated in landfills in Canada are still entering the atmosphere. That’s why it’s critical that we find ways to divert organic materials such as food and yard waste from landfills – and Stamped’s technology does just that.

“This technology solves a number of problems,” said Jeenu. “We’re able to produce clean energy out of what is essentially a free product. This waste is just sitting in our landfills – and it’s important to remember that it’s not innocuous – it’s actually releasing a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. We’re able to convert this ‘resource’ into a clean energy source with really low emissions. And we’re confident, that with the right funding we can get to a zero-emission product. Our technology is infinitely scalable and adaptable for our clients.”

Environmental impact

 Jeenu sees a lot of benefits in partnering with municipalities to support both their individual waste strategies and their goals around developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies. And she’s on to something, from an investment attraction perspective. ESG is steadily growing in importance within the international investment community. By building in processes and technologies that reduce GHGs and embrace clean energy sources, there’s an opportunity for cities to play a leading role in the transition to net-zero.

To get an idea of the potential impact of this technology, Jeenu points to a couple of stats:

  • A town with a population of 10,000 generates an average of 2.3 million pounds of food waste in a year. If Stamped’s technology converted this food waste into clean energy they could supply enough energy to power 1600 computers for a full year’s worth of working hours. And remember, this is just food waste.
  • You can also look at the potential from a national perspective – Canadians generate over 8.6 billion pounds of food waste per year. If this food waste was converted into energy, it would generate enough power to power more than 80,000 homes or 265,957 electric vehicles for an entire year.

For both of these examples, the number is even higher if we consider all organic waste generated and not just food waste.

Patents have been filed for the technology in both Canada and the US, and the Stamped team has plans to do the same for the European market. According to Jeenu, there are currently no similar patents filed in North America.

Jeenu Riat, CEO, Stamped Engineering

Building a clean tech innovation hub

 Much of Jeenu’s career has been spent in both the aerospace and energy sector and she understands from experience the need to invest in clean energy solutions.

“I see Stamped as an innovation hub for a variety of industries and am excited to include clean technology in our portfolio,” said Jeenu. “We’ve got a phenomenal team who are united around a common goal of providing the solutions that our clients are looking for. ESG policies are growing in importance – both to governments and businesses. With this technology, we can provide solutions from start to finish. From collecting the waste to converting it into a usable end product and then delivering it to the end-user – we’re ready to do it all.”

Stamped’s business model is different than most consultancy firms. While the majority of the team are full-time employees of Stamped, Jeenu purposefully built the company structure to include a network of expert consultants from a broad range of backgrounds. They’re able to provide niche services on topics where they are the experts in their fields. This network of experts, combined with their in-house team of experienced engineers, technologists and project support staff, allows Stamped to build a customized team that suits the needs of each client and each project.

“We have consultants who have over 50 years of experience and are world-renowned experts,” said Jeenu. “That’s certainly an advantage for us – and it helps to accelerate and encourage innovation within our own team.”

Jeenu points to one example where her firm was contracted by a large energy company with over 70,000 employees.

“They came to us with a problem that they were trying to solve for three years,” explains Jeenu. “In just three weeks, we built them a solution that provided the safety and assessment assurance that they needed in order to proceed.”

Applying their unique and innovative approach and business model helps Stamped analyse and solve their clients’ complex challenges quickly.  With their clean energy technology, they applied their client model to their own technology with incredible results.

Talent is key to innovation

 Talent is a key factor when it comes to driving innovation. So too, is breaking down barriers for innovators, by providing the support that industry needs to bring their ideas to market. Beyond their own proprietary technology, Stamped provides support to clients with securing patents – and they’re helping to solve challenges around design constraints, parameters and safety regulations – a common problem that innovators face when they are working to commercialize their ideas.

The Stamped team has worked with organizations from all over the world, including the Middle East, Europe and the US. Though there is potential to expand, Jeenu believes that the Edmonton region is the absolute best place for her company to be headquartered.

“I love the Edmonton region,” says Jeenu. “It’s where I started my career and where I always wanted to come back to. And on a really practical level, the access to talent we have here is second to none. The expertise here represents a broad range of industries and the quantity and quality of talent coming out of the post-secondary institutions means we have some of the world’s brightest minds right here – ready to provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

Learn more about technology and innovation in the Edmonton Region.

Edmonton tech firm building bridges to net zero future

IFS has entered into an agreement with Westcan Bulk Transport and have implemented IFS’ technology on one of their trucks with five more to be outfitted in March, 2021

Edmonton based tech start-up, Innovative Fuel Systems (IFS) has developed a multi-fuel technology that allows heavy-duty truck engines to displace up to 55% of diesel fuel with natural gas or other cleaner burning fuels. Last year, they successfully filed a PCT International Application with the United States Patent Office to seek full global patent protection for their Multi Fuel Technology Platform (MFTP™). With a focus on worldwide commercialization in the road transportation sector, they are beginning the process of rolling out the first trucks outfitted with this technology. 

While businesses in a lot of traditional sectors have been experiencing increased uncertainty and anxiety throughout the global economic recession, IFS is bucking the trend as they successfully move into the commercialization stage of their technology.

“The government grants that we’ve been able to access have been really helpful in reaching this stage,” said Leland Oberst, CEO of Innovative Fuel Systems. “It’s clear that the government wants us to succeed. And what I’ve found, is that a lot of our angel investors view these grants as a stamp of approval and it really helps to move the dial on an investor’s final decision to invest in our company.” 

Already IFS has entered into an agreement with Westcan Bulk Transport and have implemented IFS’ technology on one of their trucks with five more to be outfitted in March. They’re also experiencing a lot of interest in their company by the investment banking community, which isn’t surprising when we look at global investment trends. 

Growing emphasis on ESG 

Over the last 12 months, the pandemic has overshadowed nearly every other newsworthy story in the media including climate change. But what we’ve also seen is an increased interest in ESG (environmental, social and governance) policies by international investors. This means that businesses that are paying attention to these trends are the ones thriving in our current economic climate. 

Globally, this was the year the “net zero by 2050” climate commitment went mainstream with the number of commitments to reach net zero emissions from local governments and businesses roughly doubling in less than a year. Governments and industry are prioritizing climate action in their recovery from Covid-19 and as part of the UN Race to Zero campaign, many are aiming for a zero-carbon economy by 2050. There’s also a growing alliance aiming to reach these targets as early as the 2040s. And the buy-in is significant. This alliance now encompasses 22 regions, 452 cities, 1,101 businesses, 549 universities and 45 of the biggest investors. This shift isn’t just happening in emerging sectors, traditional sectors are finding new innovative practices and technologies to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels. 

The challenge that exists in traditional sectors, like the heavy-duty trucking industry, is that the macroeconomics make it incredibly challenging to undertake this type of transition. Currently, any green technologies that are emerging for this sector (electrical, hydrogen, etc.) are incredibly cost-prohibitive. With cost savings being the biggest driver to change for this industry, there hasn’t been a significant onus to innovate. That’s where Innovative Fuel Systems comes in. 

The need for bridge technologies

IFS’ technology reduces operating fuel costs, preserves torque and engine performance characteristics, and at the same time, reduces greenhouse gas emissions. IFS’ technology, which is sold and licensed to customers as an aftermarket product, also preserves the integrity of a manufacturer’s engine -warranty making the technology infinitely scalable.

Leland Oberst, CEO, Innovative Fuel Systems

“‘Bridge technologies’ have a major role to play in the energy transition,” said Leland. “Traditionally, diesel fuel has been getting the job done in terms of functionality and transportability. But there is also a growing recognition within the industry that there is a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The beauty behind our technology blending natural gas with diesel fuel is that, while it lowers emissions and introduces significant fuel savings, it is also able to deliver the same power that these heavy-duty trucks need. Natural gas is plentiful and cheap in North America and IFS’ technology doesn’t create any trade-offs as far as functionality. We really see our technology as a win-win-win scenario.”

And industry agrees. 

“Westcan is committed to reducing GHG emissions and will continue to play a leadership role in reducing both GHG emissions and fuel costs in order to make our operations efficient and sustainable,” says Mike Royer, Vice President, Fleet Services, Westcan. “Utilizing IFS’ technology gives us the potential to impactfully reduce GHG emissions and fuel costs from Class 8 heavy-duty trucks, including trucks with payload in excess of 80,000lbs.”

As Leland points out, the bridge to carbon neutral by 2050 is not a short bridge and technologies such as their Multi Fuel Technology Platform allows businesses operating in this sector to reduce their environmental impact in a way that is accessible. At the same time, bridge technologies can give the emerging green technology sector the time needed to build solutions that address the scalability issues around these innovations in a way that makes sense from a macroeconomic and business development standpoint. 

“At IFS, we believe any technology that reduces GHG emissions must also be economically viable – this ensures comprehensive market adoption,” said Leland. “By taking a pragmatic approach to product development, IFS ensures our cleantech provides customers a tangible and quantifiable economic benefit.”

A view to a carbon neutral future

It’s that pragmatic approach that has Leland and IFS keeping their sights on the future of where this industry is headed. “It’s important to note that our technology platform has ability to utilize other cleaner burning fuels,” said Leland. “As such, our patent is designed around the use of multiple fuels. This means that we’re ready to broaden the applicability of our technology with other fuels as new opportunities emerge. We know that hydrogen is likely to play a major role in energy transition broadly and in this industry specifically. When appropriate, we’re less than one year away from being able to introduce hydrogen fuel capability into our technology.”

When it comes to the future of IFS Leland is bullish about their prospects. “When I look at our company, I see rapid market adoption because our prospective customers are able to reduce fuel costs, while also reducing GHG emissions. Also, we’ve put together an experienced and driven team that’s excited about contributing to IFS’ future. There’s a real entrepreneurial spirit within our team. Our goal is to have our kits outfitted on at least 7,700 trucks by 2026, which means we’re looking to expand our customer base well beyond the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.”

Learn more about innovations in clean energy in the Edmonton Region

Temperature Log Confirms Geothermal Power Generation Potential in Alberta

Photo courtesy of Voltage Wireline Inc.

No. 1 Geothermal LP is pleased to announce that its recently completed detailed temperature log returned a bottom hole temperature of 118°C. Conducted on a secure energy well south of Grande Prairie, this test confirms that the Alberta No. 1 project location has the required temperature to effectively generate geothermal power. The Alberta No. 1 project expects to be providing clean heat and power to Alberta’s energy mix by 2024.

“We are quite encouraged by this test. These results exceed the minimum of 100°C required to efficiently generate power from geothermal resources,” says Dr. Catherine Hickson, CEO of Alberta No. 1. “We were also excited to have worked with SECURE ENERGY and Voltage Wireline to carry out this geothermal temperature log. This work continues to highlight the synergies between geothermal and the energy sector, demonstrating how Albertan expertise can make Alberta a leader in the geothermal space.”

The data was obtained from the Winterburn Group at a depth below 4,000 metres in an inactive well owned by SECURE ENERGY. This result, which exceeds the publicly reported bottom hole temperature by 10°C, assists the Alberta No. 1 team in correlating the subsurface information gathered from decades of energy industry operations in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin to geothermal applications.

“This result provides us with confidence as we develop additional opportunities in this space,” says Stean Smith, Managing Partner of Terrapin Geothermics and Director of Alberta No. 1. “We see the Alberta No. 1 project as the first step in creating a robust geothermal energy industry in the province.”

“We are quite encouraged by this test. These results exceed the minimum of 100°C required to efficiently generate power from geothermal resources,” says Dr. Catherine Hickson, CEO of Alberta No. 1. “We were also excited to have worked with SECURE ENERGY and Voltage Wireline to carry out this geothermal temperature log. This work continues to highlight the synergies between geothermal and the energy sector, demonstrating how Albertan expertise can make Alberta a leader in the geothermal space.”

About Alberta No. 1: Alberta No. 1 is a geothermal energy project located in the Municipal District of Greenview No. 16. Owned by No. 1 Geothermal Limited Partnership, it is developed and managed by Edmonton-based Terrapin Geothermics Inc. Alberta No. 1 is partially funded through the Emerging Renewable Power Program, administered by Natural Resources Canada.

Project Highlights:

  • Five wells proposed (production and injection)
  • Expected net electrical output – 10 MW
  • 300 TJ/year of clean, baseload heat for a district heating system, providing heat to several light industrial facilities
  • 300+ direct and indirect jobs created

New Solar manufacturer to set up at EIA

WeFaces Technology Inc. to develop and manufacture advanced solar products at Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre

An example of the solar-powered LED lighting WeFaces plans to manufacture

Asia-based solar LED manufacturer WeFaces Technology Inc. will build its new North American headquarters within the sustainability campus at Edmonton International Airport’s growing Airport City. The new facility bolsters the airport’s commitment to energy diversification and job creation.

EIA has entered a strategic partnership to help WeFaces begin research and development as well as the mass production of advanced solar panel lighting systems. WeFaces will set up offices as well as a product showcase area at EIA by fall 2021 and immediately begin research and development work. By 2022 the company will begin manufacturing Canadian made solar lighting products for international export from the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. This private partnership will generate long-term jobs, drive advanced solar panel manufacturing opportunities, diversify and grow Alberta’s economy.

“We’re committed to helping grow Alberta’s economy with strategic partners such as WeFaces Technology. This is a long-term approach to creating jobs and attracting investment to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Our focus on innovation and technology developments, along with transportation partners, tourism and entertainment are making Airport City a major place to do business and invest in this region.”
– Tom Ruth, EIA President and CEO

“Collaboration with EIA will enable us to quickly develop our solar energy and intelligent control technologies and expand in the global market.”
– Vilens Lin, CEO of “WeFaces Technology Inc. & Vilens Group Co. Ltd.

By locating at Airport City, WeFaces will tap into other opportunities made possible by partners such as Edmonton Global and other businesses who use the existing Foreign Trade Zone. In addition to its air cargo services, Airport City offers close access to rail transportation and the North American CANAMEX highway corridor. This helps both for supply chain imports and exports. WeFaces will also join the EIA-sponsored Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre, a business and technology incubator located in Airport City, to participate in industry partnerships around solar technology.

“On behalf of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, we are excited to welcome WeFaces Technology Inc. to our community. The combination of WeFaces Technology Inc.’s North American Head Office and major solar and lighting manufacturing facility will have a significant impact on our regional economy. We worked closely with EIA on attracting this important investment. EIA is becoming known as Canada’s Innovation Airport in part due to their innovative approach to attracting international investment and businesses to our region – well done!”
-Malcolm Bruce, CEO Edmonton Global

“Alberta abounds with sunny days and opportunities to improve energy efficiency. With rapid increases in investment in both solar energy and efficiency in recent years, we know that the economic opportunities from these technologies will continue to grow in leaps and bounds. As such, the value chain that feeds into these investments will continue to expand, meaning new jobs and business opportunities for Albertans. This collaboration between WeFaces and EIA is an exciting initiative to grasp these opportunities for the region.”
– Heather MacKenzie, Executive Director, Solar Alberta

This development will be the second major solar-power related investment at EIA, following the announcement this past summer of Airport City Solar. The two projects are unrelated to each other but represent EIA’s commitment to fostering growth and diversity in the energy sector.

About WeFaces Technology Inc.
WeFaces Technology Inc. is a new Alberta company, which will act as the North American head office and distribution point for NanDe Solar Energy Technology Co Ltd. Based in China. 

NanDe Solar Energy Technology Co., Ltd., formerly the Zhongshan Wanxin Lighting Technology Co., Ltd., was founded in 2003 with a registered capital of 10 million RMB, located in Xiaolan Town, Zhongshan city, Guangdong province, China. Nande Solar outdoor lighting and integrated application products are the best combination of latest solar energy and LED lighting technology. Nande Solar has projects in 65 countries from Kenya to Australia. For more information visit: www.wefaces.ca

About Edmonton International Airport
Edmonton International Airport is a self-funded, not-for-profit corporation whose mandate is to drive sustainable economic prosperity for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. EIA is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic and the largest major Canadian Airport by land area. For more information please visit flyeia.com, or follow @flyeia on TwitterInstagramLinkedInor Facebook.

About Edmonton Global

The purpose of Edmonton Global is to radically transform and grow the economy of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. We are a not-for-profit corporation founded by 15 municipalities that make up the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Our focus is attracting foreign investment, helping regional businesses export with the world, enhancing our region’s global competitiveness, and bringing our region together with a unified voice to attract the attention and interest of investors the world over.

Media Contact:
Darrell Winwood
Edmonton International Airport
Corporate and Digital Communications

Vilens Lin
CEO, WeFaces Technology Inc.

Chris McLeod
Vice President, Global Marketing & Communications
Edmonton Global

How growing global electric car sales could be a boon for Alberta

Lithium used in batteries found in brine already pumped by oil operations

Lithium, a key component in electric vehicle batteries, can be found in brine pumped during the petroleum extraction process. (The Associated Press)

It may sound paradoxical, but electric cars could soon be an economic driver for oil-rich Alberta.

Global sales of electric vehicles grew by 43 per cent in 2020, according to numbers recently released by sales database EV Volumes. A key component of their batteries is lithium, a mineral found in Alberta — if you know where to look.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for lithium in Alberta,” said Roy Eccles, a senior consultant with Apex Geoscience in Edmonton, in an interview with CBC’s Radio Active.

Eccles says exploration in the last decade by companies of the Devonian-aged oil and gas reservoirs — between 1,600 and 3,330 metres below the surface — has confirmed the accompanying salt-water brine is enriched with lithium.

The Leduc Formation, the source of Alberta’s first big oil boom, is also a rich lithium deposit. There are about 10.6 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent identified in the province, according to the Canadian Lithium Association, and the potential could be even higher.

London-based commodity researcher and market consultant Roskill released an August report that notes demand will grow for the mineral at least until 2030. 

Eccles says current major lithium extraction areas in arid climates near the equator use evaporation pods that can take months to years and leave a large environmental footprint. 

That’s not possible in Canada’s climate, he said. Instead, companies are attempting to develop new technology that will rapidly extract lithium from the brine.

Lithium is plentiful in Alberta, and companies are hoping to capitalize on growing demand for lithium batteries by finding an easier and greener way to extract the light metal. (CBC)

Existing infrastructure 

The Alberta advantage is that it can use already existing oil operations and technologies.

“It’s essentially using infrastructure that’s already in place,” Eccles said, adding that petroleum production is measured in short timelines, pumping up hydrocarbons before reinjecting the brine back underground.

There is also an environmental feature to the process, according to University of Alberta associate professor of earth sciences Daniel Alessi.

“They’re taking something that’s already being produced, essentially, and adding value to that with very little carbon footprint,” Alessi said. 

“It’s exciting because there’s certainly a green aspect to it.”

Alessi said it would also be advantageous for Canada to have its own internal source of lithium.

The limiting factor is technology to convert the brine into a usable product.

“We’re at the point right now where the technology is, I would say, holding back the commercialization of the process,” he said. Alessi added that some key players have reached the pilot stage with aims to reach an industrial scale process in two to five years.

Daniel Alessi is an associate professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in clean lithium extraction from the oilfield. (Audrey Neveu/Radio-Canada)

Canadian companies developing processes

In December, Vancouver-based Lithium Standard announced it had successfully completed a proof-of-concept to extract lithium from a brine in Arkansas.

There are a number of companies in Alberta developing their own processes, including Summit Nanotech.

The Calgary-based startup delayed plans for testing in 2020 due to the pandemic but further developed its process, which CEO Amanda Hall says resulted in improved operating expenses and reduced end-to-end greenhouse gas emissions.

“The opportunity to grow a sector that supports the future of renewable energy storage and electromobility while in parallel continuing efforts to create a low carbon barrel of oil sets Alberta apart in the energy landscape,” she said in an email.

“We are excited to be a part of this.”

Hall said a pilot is on schedule to be commissioned in Chile this year. 

Reducing greenhouse gas output

Calgary-based E3 Metals was founded in 2016 and hopes to run a pilot of its own lithium extraction process by the end of this year. It aims to eventually drill its own project into the Leduc Formation.

CEO Chris Doornbos said the eventual operation’s greenhouse gas output will be mitigated by using electricity from its own gas-fired power plant, creating a net zero emission for the product.

He also said that compared to mining a more traditional lithium operation, the model uses only about three per cent of the land use and will not consume fresh water or leave tailings.

“When you look at it from that perspective, producing lithium in Alberta is much more environmentally responsible than most other production of lithium in the world.”

Doornbos said lithium extraction presents an opportunity for expertise already present in Alberta’s energy sector to be put to a new use.

“At the end of the day, it’s still putting Albertans back to work — it’s nothing we don’t know how to do or haven’t done before.”

E3 Metals’ current roadmap aims for commercial operations by 2024.

Greater Edmonton Region Well-Suited to Become Canada’s First Hydrogen Node

New report from Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Task Force Builds on Previous Finding that Canadian Hydrogen has a Market Potential of up to $100 Billion a Year.

Released November 16, 2020, the new report from Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Task Force lays out a roadmap for how to implement a hydrogen as fuel economy in the Greater Edmonton Region. The Task Force was organized by The Transition Accelerator and led by Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Gale Katchur, Strathcona County Mayor Rod Frank and Lamont County Reeve David Diduck. With the release of its report, the Task Force has completed its mandate. The final report is available to read here.

Titled “Building a Transition Pathway to a Vibrant Hydrogen Economy in the Alberta Industrial Heartland,” the report has found that the Greater Edmonton Region is well-suited to become Canada’s first hydrogen node, defined as an initiative to accelerate the development of a regional hydrogen economy that can later be connected to other nodes across the country to achieve sufficient scale for a vibrant Canada-wide hydrogen economy. In particular, the region is a good place for Canada’s first node because of its access to low-cost natural gas, existing experience in hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage, a vast network of pipeline infrastructure, a large talent pool of engineers and tradespeople, and engaged industries, governments, First Nations and university and college academics. The report also complements the Government of Canada’s upcoming hydrogen strategy and the Government of Alberta’s recently released Natural Gas Vision and Strategy, which lays out a future vision for Alberta hydrogen production, use and export.

Among the main findings in the Task Force’s report are that heavy transport and heating are key to building demand for zero-emissions hydrogen. For instance, heavy-duty commercial and municipal vehicles such as fleets of trucks and buses are vital to creating demand in the region because they use large amounts of fuel and travel the same routes every day, requiring the construction of only a limited number of strategically-placed fueling stations. Heating residential and commercial buildings could also drive demand, as hydrogen can be blended with natural gas to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The report recommends that this demand for hydrogen be met through centralized large-scale hydrogen production potentially moved through repurposed abandoned or discontinued pipelines, which are crucial to reducing capital costs and reaching both key transportation corridors and neighbourhoods. Government investment may be required in the short-term, but the objective of the node is to drive the implementation of a hydrogen economy where the scale of supply and demand ensures that the full economic and environmental benefits of hydrogen will be realized without sustained public investment.

The Task Force’s report is supported by findings from a recent Transition Accelerator report, which establishes hydrogen as a vital component of Canada’s future clean energy system and the fuel of choice to decarbonize heavy freight, shipping, planes, space heating in cold climates and heavy industries such as steelmaking. The Transition Accelerator’s report also projects that Canadian hydrogen has a wholesale market potential of up to $100 billion a year, factoring in both domestic earnings and international export opportunities, and reveals that hydrogen can be made in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland for about half the wholesale price of diesel.

“Hydrogen will be a critical part of the future clean energy system, and the race is on to innovate value chains and business models to implement a vibrant Canadian hydrogen economy,” said Dan Wicklum, CEO, The Transition Accelerator. “Canada’s low-cost hydrogen offers a significant competitive advantage, and convening groups like the Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Task Force to implement regional hydrogen economies across Canada will allow us to join global leaders.” 

“The synergies our region possesses through industry expertise, our educated and skilled workforce, carbon capture and storage and a supportive municipal alliance puts Alberta’s Industrial Heartland at a great advantage to build Canada’s first hydrogen node,” states Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw. “It’s a win-win not only for Alberta, but one that will reap many benefits for Canada nation-wide as the world continues moving toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and we’re ready.”

“The natural resources, pipelines, talent, leadership, and innovative spirit that made Alberta an energy powerhouse are the same aspects that will allow us to be a leader in the clean energy future,” said Mayor Don Iveson, City of Edmonton. “The regions that figure out how to quickly scale up the use and production of hydrogen as a fuel will win economically and environmentally in a quickly changing world.”

“Alberta’s government applauds the work of the Alberta Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Task Force in exploring the enormous potential of large-scale commercial hydrogen production in the province and for creating a well-thought out roadmap on how hydrogen could be integrated into our economy,” said Dale Nally, Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity. “We have the resources, talent and experience to reap significant long-term economic benefits from this clean-burning fuel source, and we need to be ready to leverage them in the coming years. We are proud to partner with the Task Force on their work, which will be invaluable as we build our province’s roadmap for advancing a strong and profitable hydrogen economy.”

“We’re a vast country, and when it comes to producing hydrogen, there are advantages in every region,” said Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. “This announcement is great news for Edmonton. This is how Canada will lead a global hydrogen economy.”

For a full list of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Task Force members and advisors, click here. To read the Task Force’s final report, click here.

Petrochemical program is open for business

A new program to turn Alberta into a top global producer of petrochemicals is launching with an aggressive industry-driven strategy to spur long-term international investment and thousands of jobs to the province.  

The Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program (APIP), part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, will help attract billions in petrochemical project investments and continue to diversify the province’s economy while drawing directly on our abundant reserves of natural gas. The goal is to aggressively compete with several jurisdictions across Asia, the Middle East, and those in the Gulf of Mexico in the United States, many of which also offer similar incentives for petrochemical manufacturers, to become a global destination for petrochemical investment.

“Today we’re adding another incentive to Alberta’s already world-class opportunities for petrochemical development. On top of our existing petrochemical producers and all the companies that feed in and support them, we have a multi-generational supply of natural gas, an experienced workforce, and one of the lowest tax rates in North America. By launching this program, Alberta moves towards achieving the goal of becoming one of the most attractive investment opportunities for petrochemicals in the world.”

Dale Nally, Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity

The program is one of the key pillars of the Natural Gas Vision and Strategy, which outlined the province’s goal of becoming a top global producer of petrochemicals. According to Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, there is an opportunity to grow Alberta’s petrochemical sector by more than $30 billion by 2030, resulting in more than 90,000 direct and indirect jobs over the construction and operations of new facilities, and more than $10 billion in revenue for the Government of Alberta from corporate and personal income taxes.

To encourage additional investment in the sector, Invest Alberta and Alberta international offices will be courting petrochemical companies and investors by highlighting the many benefits of investing in Alberta’s growing petrochemical industry. Alberta’s industrial associations are also doing their part, working with current members and leveraging contacts within the petrochemical industries to share the opportunities available. Hydrogen-producing facilities will also be eligible for APIP, ensuring continued interest from investors in the province’s nascent hydrogen economy.

“Diversifying our energy industry is key to ensuring Albertans will have good-paying jobs and careers to get excited about in the future. Alberta has the potential to become a major player in low-carbon hydrogen and sustainable plastics production, but we’ll only get there if we have a competitive edge over other jurisdictions. Petrochemical companies have dozens of factors to consider when choosing where to invest, and we’re putting together a winning formula to ensure Alberta is at the top of their lists.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation

APIP offers a direct financial incentive on new petrochemical or fertilizer facilities, or on expansions to existing ones. High-level details include:

  • Once a project is up and running, companies that have successfully applied will receive grants worth 12 per cent of their eligible capital costs.
  • The grant will be issued in the final step in the process, ensuring that only projects already built and employing Albertans receive funds.
  • Prior to the grant, companies will need to show their project meets the program requirements by detailing the scope and expected cost of the project.
  • The application window for small projects (between $50 million and $150 million in capital costs) will be open for five years. Applications for larger projects will be open for 10 years.

“The Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program is a meaningful incentive program that will strengthen Alberta’s value proposition for large-scale petrochemical investments. As Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region and a critical partner in Canada’s energy future, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland is focused on capturing a potential $30 billion in new, diversified, value-add investments by 2030. As an investment attraction tool, APIP will increase our region’s competitiveness and enhance our ability to attract petrochemical investment projects that diversify Alberta’s economy.”

Mark Plamondon, executive director, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association

“Low-cost, low-carbon and abundant – Alberta’s natural gas and natural gas liquids make it a global player in industrial chemicals manufacturing. The Alberta government recognizes this potential and the Petrochemicals Incentive Program goes a long way to level the playing field with other jurisdictions competing for new investment. The opportunity for growth in this sector exists in the province and that is good news for jobs, new global-scale investment, and Alberta’s economy.”

Bob Masterson, president and CEO, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

“We have heard directly from companies that they have been looking at Alberta for greater chemistry investments, but that we are also competing with the best locations around the world. The Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program helps to provide the necessary incentives to grow Alberta’s burgeoning petrochemical sector, which in turn will provide thousands of good jobs and sustainable economic growth while continuing to diversify our resource and energy sectors. I’m particularly excited that this program will incentivize hydrogen and fertilizer production. These are key growth and diversification opportunities for our province in a lower-carbon future.”

Adam Legge, president, Business Council of Alberta

“Alberta’s petrochemical industry competes globally with many other jurisdictions that are determined to bring new investment to their part of the world. This program will attract new value-added investments which will bring much-needed jobs and prosperity to the province. The Resource Diversification Council is confident that APIP will garner international attention and thanks the Government of Alberta for its collaborative approach in developing a meaningful and world-class investment attraction program.”

Denis Painchaud, executive director, Resource Diversification Council

“The Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program will help bring much-needed investment to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, diversify our petrochemical sector, create jobs, and boost our economic recovery. This program is great news for our many energy producers, processors, fertilizer producers, and the construction and service companies who work closely alongside them.”

Janet M. Riopel, president and CEO, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce

Projects eligible for the program must have:

  • A minimum $50 million in capital investment
  • Consume natural gas, natural gas liquids or petrochemical intermediaries
  • Create new and permanent jobs in Alberta
  • Meet the federally set definition of a manufacturing and processing facility

There is no cap to the program, but the government will report on expected costs each fiscal year, based on applications received and projects approved.

Full details on the eligibility and requirements for projects are available on alberta.ca, where companies can also register to begin the application process.

Alberta is already among Canada’s largest hubs for petrochemicals manufacturing, and global demand for petrochemical derived products is expected to continue increasing. The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown the continued need for petrochemicals to support the development of personal protective equipment, plastic food packaging and cleansing agents. A growing petrochemical industry will continue to feed into these integral products.

Alberta’s Recovery Plan is a bold, ambitious long-term strategy to build, diversify, and create tens of thousands of jobs now. By building schools, roads and other core infrastructure we are benefiting our communities. By diversifying our economy and attracting investment with Canada’s most competitive tax environment, we are putting Alberta on a path for a generation of growth.

Quick facts

  • The program was developed based on best practices in competing jurisdictions, including several American states with large petrochemical industries. The program was also refined with the input of stakeholders and interested companies.
  • Alberta has the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada at eight per cent, and compares favourably with the lowest tax rates in the United States.
  • Alberta has one of the most established petrochemical industries in Canada, with potential growth in existing centres like Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, Grande Prairie, Joffre and Medicine Hat.
  • Every day, people around the world use dozens of products that are made with petrochemicals, including:
  • Medical supplies, such as computers for X-rays and MRIs and personal protective equipment, including disposable masks and gloves
  • Polyester fabric couches, HD televisions, phones, bicycle helmets, coffee makers and computers
  • Car tires, engine hoses, gasoline, radio components and AUX cords, and car seats
  • Desks, chairs, computers, carpets, cellphones and other office supplies
  • Food packaging that keeps food fresh and safe during transport and storage
  • According to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, Alberta’s chemicals sector, comprised predominantly of petrochemicals, was valued at $12.1 billion and employed about 58,400 people directly and indirectly in 2019.

Related information

Newly released white paper explores the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s potential as a ‘hydrogen node’

The Transition Accelerator has released a white paper – Towards Net-Zero Energy Systems in Canada: A Key Role for Hydrogen. The report includes a pan-Canadian perspective on the work of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Task Force which was established in order to develop a framework for implementing a hydrogen economy in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. This white paper provides an assessment of the ability of the region to contribute to the transition towards a net-zero energy future through the acceleration of hydrogen adoption.

Part of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, represents a cluster of world-class refining and processing operations representing $40 billion in capital investments and a wealth of expertise in the energy sector.  

As Canada commits to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, most of the fossil carbon-based energy carriers – like gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and natural gas – that currently provide over 70% of secondary energy demand in Canada will need to be replaced with zero-emission energy carriers. Hydrogen has the capacity to fulfill this need.

In order to scale up the hydrogen industry in Canada to meet the anticipated demand, the white paper recommends the establishment of ‘hydrogen nodes’ in regions across the country where the following criteria can be met:

  1. Low cost/low carbon source of blue, green or waste hydrogen
  2. Substantial nearby markets for the hydrogen as fuel and/or industrial feed stock
  3. Ability to cost-effectively connect supply to demand
  4. Scale of supply and demand where the economics work without sustained public investment
  5. Engaged industry, governments and academics to drive and support the initiative

The unique strengths of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland make it an excellent choice when considering where to locate one of these ‘nodes’. The region is among the world’s lowest cost producers of hydrogen. Alberta’s hydrogen, in particular, is made with ultra-low emissions by upgrading natural gas and sequestering carbon dioxide.

As well, the region offers well developed existing infrastructure, excellent access to domestic and international markets, a growing clean-tech ecosystem, and skilled labour.   

Lastly, the establishment of the Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Taskforce has brought together government, industry and academia – clearly demonstrating well rounded support of this initiative.

You can learn more about the study by reading the white paper here.

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