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How 2023 could be pivotal for hydrogen technology in Canada

How 2023 could be pivotal for hydrogen technology in Canada

Because the Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive strikes alongside the tracks in Calgary, one thing is clearly amiss.

It’s the everyday measurement and look that you simply’d anticipate, however what’s absent is the low rumbling noise of the diesel engine.

As a substitute, this locomotive is powered by hydrogen gasoline cell and battery expertise as a part of a trial by the railway to discover whether or not the low-emission automobiles are robust sufficient and dependable sufficient to doubtlessly in the future revolutionize operations on the firm.

Over the past a number of years, there was an elevated give attention to the potential for hydrogen to decarbonize many industries and assist nations attain their local weather targets, whereas revamping power techniques alongside the best way.

The following 12 months will probably be crucial, specialists say, in understanding whether or not that imaginative and prescient may plausibly change into a actuality within the close to future or stay a part of the creativeness for many years to come back.

There may be pleasure within the Canadian business about what 2023 will convey as a number of demonstration initiatives are set to happen, whereas development may also start on a large new hydrogen manufacturing facility.

Testing underway

For CP Rail, the hydrogen locomotive accomplished its first “income journey” a number of months in the past with the expectation to have the trains working in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary by the tip of 2023. The following step will probably be testing out the expertise by the Rocky Mountains.

“It’s an ideal take a look at mattress. For those who can function there: heavy haul, chilly temperatures, probably the most difficult operational circumstances I’ve ever skilled in my profession. And if it really works there, it’ll work in every single place,” CP’s chief govt, Keith Creel, stated throughout a speech on the RailTrends 2022 convention in November.

“If this proves its mettle and it shakes out by the very powerful validation take a look at we’ll give it, [it will] really be transformational for this business.”

Counting on hydrogen as a gasoline supply isn’t a brand new idea, however expertise is advancing to enhance efficiency, concurrently there’s an elevated give attention to local weather change around the globe.

A brand new Metropolis of Edmonton hydrogen-powered bus sits within the parking zone of a transit storage. A second hydrogen bus will function in close by Strathcona County as a part of a one-year pilot venture. (Julia Wong/CBC)

This yr will mark the beginning of some different experiments as hydrogen-powered buses and semi-trucks hit the highway.

A pair of transit buses will transport passengers in Edmonton and close by Strathcona County as a part of a one-year pilot venture.

New manufacturing plant

In the meantime, a hydrogen fuelling station is underneath development in Edmonton to permit the Alberta Motor Transport Affiliation to check out semi-trucks on the province’s highways. The group is trying to supply as much as 4 completely different truck fashions this yr for native corporations to check out.

“I feel the following 12 months is essentially a proof of idea,” stated David Layzell, an power techniques architect with the Transition Accelerator — a non-profit group arrange to assist Canada attain its local weather targets — and professor emeritus in organic sciences on the College of Calgary.

trains buses and trucks how 2023 could be pivotal for hydrogen technology in canada 1
David Layzell, an power techniques architect with the Transition Accelerator and professor emeritus on the College of Calgary, says for hydrogen to be cheaper than diesel, the upper value of transporting hydrogen and establishing the fuelling station in Edmonton pose challenges. (CESAR)

“We are able to truly make hydrogen cheaper than diesel gasoline right now,” he stated, though the problem is the a lot greater value of transporting hydrogen and establishing the fuelling station.

“We’re solely going to get these costs down by attending to scale,” Layzell stated.

Hydrogen has been round for a very long time, however there’s renewed enthusiasm for the sector as a solution to jump-start the transition to a world reliant on low-carbon power.

Hydrogen is an power provider, and specialists say it may be used primarily for heating and as a gasoline for transportation.

The quantity of air pollution related to hydrogen is determined by the way it’s made. As an example, if photo voltaic or wind services — relatively than a coal energy plant — produce the electrical energy that’s used to create hydrogen, the emissions are comparatively low.

Development has simply begun in northeast Edmonton on the biggest hydrogen plant on this planet by Air Merchandise Canada. The $1.6-billion facility will use pure gasoline to supply hydrogen with the purpose of sequestering 95 per cent of the emissions and retailer them underground.

A man with white hair and wearing a dark suit and tie speaks at a podium.
François-Philippe Champagne, federal minister of innovation, science and business, is proven in Edmonton in November 2022, saying funding towards development of the $1.6-billion Air Merchandise hydrogen plant, the biggest on this planet. (Janet French/CBC)

“The problem with hydrogen is just a little little bit of the chicken-or-the-egg problem,” stated Kevin Krausert, chief govt of Avatar Improvements Inc., a Calgary-based agency that helps develop power transition applied sciences.

“Who’s going to construct a serious hydrogen facility if there’s no demand for it, and who’s going to construct a complete bunch of hydrogen vans or trains if there’s no hydrogen to provide it? So you’ve obtained this form of supply-demand problem.”

Development of the Air Merchandise facility, he stated, begins to beat that downside.

‘Too little, too late’

There may be momentum within the hydrogen sector in Canada, however some specialists warn that probably the most crucial query within the subsequent 12 months shouldn’t be a lot in regards to the expertise itself however how keen governments are to help the business.

“That’s relative to what’s happening to the south of us with the USA’ coverage helps which are very robust and really enticing and will take all of the capital [investment] that we would spend up right here and divert it southward,” stated Ed Whittingham, an Alberta-based public coverage marketing consultant.

A man wearing a T-shirt looks at the camera with a rainbow in the background.
Alberta-based public coverage marketing consultant Ed Whittingham says Canada might want to step up if it needs to be aggressive within the hydrogen expertise subject with the U.S., which underneath new laws may cowl as much as 75 per cent of the associated fee to supply low-carbon hydrogen. (CBC)

The U.S. authorities’s Inflation Discount Act [IRA] consists of vital subsidies to not solely offset the price of establishing a hydrogen facility however to subsidize its operations, amongst different funding packages.

In some circumstances, Whittingham stated, as much as 75 per cent of the associated fee to supply low-carbon hydrogen may very well be coated by the U.S. authorities.

“What actually goes to find out whether or not hydrogen stays area of interest and stays small scale in Canada or whether or not it goes mainstream and Canada actually turns into a severe competitor is our response to what the U.S. has executed,” he stated.

“And it may very well be a case, frankly, of too little, too late.”

The federal authorities is proposing a clear hydrogen funding tax credit score to entice corporations to develop new clear hydrogen initiatives. The tax credit score will probably be price at the least 40 per cent for initiatives that meet sure labour and low-emission necessities.

In its 2022 fall financial assertion, the federal authorities warned that the subsidies supplied in the USA had been extra beneficiant and enhance the problem to draw funding north of the border.

WATCH | Competitors between Canada and the U.S. to draw funding:

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What’s holding again the hydrogen business in Canada?

Ed Whittingham is a public coverage marketing consultant and the previous govt director of the Pembina Institute.

“Canada might want to do much more to safe our aggressive benefit and proceed creating alternatives for Canadian staff,” the report stated. “With out new measures to maintain tempo with the IRA, Canada dangers being left behind.”

Ottawa is at the moment accepting suggestions on its proposed hydrogen tax credit score.

The $1.6-billion Air Merchandise facility underneath improvement in Edmonton is receiving $300 million from the federal authorities towards development and a further $161.5 million from the Alberta authorities as soon as the plant is operational.