Alberta looks to hydrogen as the “next frontier” in energy, invests $45 million in related technologies

Hydrogen tank
The financing will come via Alberta Innovates and Emissions Reduction Alberta.

Alberta is pumping $45 million into hydrogen-related technologies.

The province, best known for oil and gas, said the money will come through Alberta Innovates and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA). The new funding will be used to support researchers, innovators, companies, and industry to develop technologies that are critical to advancing the province’s Hydrogen Roadmap and Natural gas strategy released in 2021.

By 2030, the province wants clean hydrogen integrated at-scale into Alberta’s domestic energy system.

According to the strategy, Alberta plans to produce low-carbon hydrogen fuel using natural gas-based technologies.

“The hydrogen economy is the next frontier for Alberta,” said Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates, the provincial innovation agency. “The province is the largest producer of hydrogen and has the people, resources, and infrastructure in place to move us into the new economy.”

The province has all the resources, expertise, and technology required to be a global supplier of clean, low-cost hydrogen, according to the government of Alberta.

“Clean hydrogen has the potential to become a major part of Alberta’s integrated energy system,” the government said in its strategy document.

By 2030, the province wants clean hydrogen integrated at-scale into Alberta’s domestic energy system for use in transportation, heat, power generation and renewable energy storage, as well as for industrial uses.

To help realize this, ERA will make $25 million in funding available for later-stage innovations through their Accelerating Hydrogen Challenge and an additional $20 to 25 million will come from Alberta Innovates to support early-stage innovations through the Hydrogen Centre of Excellence Competition 2. Additional funding will also come from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), according to the Alberta government.

Areas accepting proposals include hydrogen production, storage, transmission, and end-use in heavy-duty transportation, industrial heat, power, and chemicals, commercial and residential heating, and other industries.

ERA-funded projects must be completed in 36 months, and Alberta Innovates-funded projects must be completed in 24 months.

This competition is open to technology developers, industry, industrial associations, small and medium-sized enterprises, research and development (R&D) organizations, post-secondary institutions, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, Indigenous businesses, municipalities, government research labs, and more.

Blue hydrogen is made from natural gas, and producing it would require continued reliance on natural gas, whether through conventional drilling or hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, noted an investigative story in The Narwhal. Alberta has long dealt with issues around orphaned infrastructure, unpaid bills, and environmental and health risks associated with some gas wells. One of these problems is the continuation of fracking-induced earthquakes near Fox Creek, Alta.

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While hydrogen is viewed as a clean energy because it produces lower greenhouse-gas emissions when burned, it can be produced from natural gas and coal. The Narwhal noted that, “Some climate advocates argue that forms of energy that don’t rely on fossil fuels at all, such as wind and solar, should be the focus.”

Nonetheless, Alberta is moving to bank on hydrogen: this is not the first announcement of its kind in the province. In January, Alberta announced the Alberta Hydrogen Centre of Excellence (HCOE) will award $20 million to 18 successful projects to advance innovations in hydrogen through its first funding competition.

“Clean hydrogen is a fast-growing industry and represents an enormous opportunity for our province,” Nate Glubish, Minister of Technology and Innovations said in a statement. “Our strengths in natural gas, carbon capture and renewable electricity will help us expand our work in the hydrogen space and diversify our energy sector.”

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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