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Opinion: New Edmonton plant a giant leap forward for Alberta’s hydrogen economy

Published On
June 11, 2021

Air Products Hydrogen Facility op-ed from Edmonton Global CEO Malcolm Bruce featured in the Edmonton Journal this week:

Air Products has announced plans to build the world’s largest net-zero hydrogen complex in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. The first phase of this new facility will include $1.3 billion in capital expenditures and will be the first of its kind in Canada. It also represents a giant leap forward in building a hydrogen economy in our region.

As the world responds to the challenges of climate change, energy systems are evolving — and they’re evolving quickly. We’ve seen a rise — and dramatic cost reduction — in alternative energy sources that are now becoming mainstream. Hydrogen will be a breakthrough energy source and will support Canada’s goal of reaching carbon-neutrality by 2050; key investments in infrastructure and projects like this are critical.

This investment will establish our region as a global centre for net-zero energy and hydrogen. We need scale for the hydrogen economy to work, and this project and future phases will bring that scale; the planned first phase of this facility will produce 1,500 tonnes per day of net-zero liquid hydrogen for the growing industrial and mobility hydrogen markets across Western Canada.

Over and above the immediate job creation that this project will bring to our region (2,500 during the two-and-a-half-year construction period and 30 long- term permanent positions), this will enable the development of jobs in downstream green technology markets. It will also support heavy-emitting industries in reducing their carbon emissions. This project will also spur innovation and support breakthroughs in technology in clean energy and will serve as an anchor project around which a cluster can be built.

We know that in the world of investment attraction, clusters attract the attention of the global investment community. The establishment of this network will attract global attention. From traditional sectors like transportation and freight, to emerging opportunities like fuel cells and AI application in the energy sector and we want as much of that as is possible, to be centred right here in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region has the potential to attract hundreds of billions of immediate and spin-off benefits and become a global centre for the hydrogen economy.

Some examples of sectors that could benefit from this investment include:

  • In transport, the competitiveness of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles depends on fuel-cell costs and availability of refuelling stations. For long-transport trucks, the priority is to reduce the delivered price of hydrogen. Municipal transportation and busing, shipping and aviation will each benefit from having abundant access to liquid hydrogen.
  • In buildings, hydrogen can be blended into existing natural gas networks, with the highest potential in multi-family and commercial buildings. In fact, this is already happening on a small scale within the region by Atco.
  • In power generation, hydrogen is one of the leading options for storing renewable energy, and hydrogen and ammonia can be used in gas turbines to increase power system flexibility. Here in the region, Capital Power is doing this in their coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions.
  • In export, the global demand for hydrogen is expected to reach $2.3 trillion per year. Our region can capitalize on this if we move early, collaborate with other provinces and logistics companies to ensure the infrastructure needed is prioritized and built. This is in our nation’s and the world’s best environmental interests. This is an economic and environmental imperative.

Unlike traditional products in the energy sector, which were built independently of each other, the hydrogen economy requires a high degree of collaboration across a broad range of stakeholders to unlock its potential. And this is exactly what is happening here; a broad spectrum of stakeholders worked together for many months to make this announcement possible. And this too, sends a message to the global investment community, we’re collaborating locally to compete globally. We’re working together to make the Edmonton region an attractive place for investment — and it’s working. This project is proof of that fact.

Malcolm Bruce is chief executive of 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.

Source: https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-new-edmonton-plant-a-giant-leap-forward-for-albertas-hydrogen-economy