The opportunity and promise of hydrogen in the Edmonton region will be highlighted again when the f-Cell Canada conference comes to the Edmonton Convention Centre on May 25 and 26, a month after the Canadian Hydrogen Convention ignited interest and investment.
Edmonton Global has touted both events as opportunities to attract money to the region. April's convention saw announcements ranging from $50 million for a Hydrogen Centre of Excellence to a variety of commitments made by the Edmonton International Airport to pilot new technologies.
"As global markets and economies shift to reduce emissions, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region is poised to be a world leader in renewable energy in solar, geothermal, and particularly in hydrogen," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi declared during his inaugural state of the city speech on May 10.
While questions have been raised about whether hydrogen is as climate-friendly as proponents say, it is undeniable that every level of government in Canada is persuaded hydrogen is key to reaching the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Given that lofty goal, it's worth examining what the current situation is and what has to happen to execute on this momentum.
Where is Alberta at with hydrogen currently?
Alberta is producing around 2.4 million tonnes of hydrogen annually, said Amit Kumar, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta and the NSERC/Cenovus/Alberta Innovates associate industrial research chair in energy and environmental systems. The oilsands industry uses hydrogen to upgrade bitumen, and the chemical industry uses it to produce fertilizer, for example.
"We're already producing hydrogen on a large scale, and this is a key advantage," Kumar said. "We have the resources, expertise in producing it at scale, and the trained workforce who can do it." In addition to those already working in this field, the energy workforce could be "easily" transitioned as more workers are needed, he added.
Kumar, whose team advised the provincial government on its hydrogen roadmap, said that Alberta's advantage is that it makes a lot of natural gas. "If we can convert that natural gas to a resource (hydrogen) which is accepted and which is wanted by different jurisdictions around the world, we can continue to grow our economy, and we can continue to prosper," he added.