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Opinion: Hydrogen will drive Alberta into the future

Edmonton Journal
April 22, 2024
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With the best and brightest of the new energy landscape descending upon Edmonton this week for the Canadian Hydrogen Convention, some praise is due to the industry driving our province into the future while anchoring us in our past and present strengths. 

Hydrogen is a promise with potentially powerful outcomes. While nations and industries worldwide are focused on decarbonization, there are some applications where electrification remains insufficient for the job. Heavy industries like petrochemical production, steel production and transportation like rail and commercial trucking can be decarbonized through the innovative use of hydrogen. 

According to the Government of Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmapthe industry will be worth $2.5 trillion by 2050, providing up to 24 per cent of global energy demand. This is an industry that Alberta can simply not let pass by, especially as our province is already home to the talent and expertise needed to deliver innovative energy products, much like our province did over a century ago with the Athabasca oilsands. 

This is also an opportunity for the provincial and federal governments to work collaboratively together for the benefit of all Albertans and Canadians. The federal government has been actively growing the industry, guided by its own Hydrogen Strategy for Canada, published in 2020.  

Alberta, meanwhile, is also working hard with its Hydrogen Roadmap acting as the guide, championing the hydrogen industry both at home and abroad, and supporting investments in new low-carbon hydrogen production assets through the Alberta Petrochemical Incentive Program and the Alberta Carbon Capture Incentive Program. The expertise in our current oil and gas industry and the close relationship between natural gas production, carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technology and hydrogen production are demonstrations of our government taking advantage of the strengths that already exist in our province. 

Similarly, Pembina Pipeline announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Marubeni, also from Japan, to develop a low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia facility in our region to supply the Japanese market. Dow selected Linde as its industrial gas partner for the supply of clean hydrogen and nitrogen for its proposed net-zero carbon emissions integrated ethylene cracker and derivatives site in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, and Hydrogen Canada Corp. secured $10 million in financing to develop a low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia supply chain for South Korea and other Asian markets.

If one thing is clear, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland is the heart of Canada’s hydrogen future.

We cannot rest on our laurels, though. With competition in this burgeoning, trillion-dollar industry heating up across the globe, the steps we take must be impactful and tangible. Alberta’s Industrial Heartland is already competitively placed, having been made a designated industrial zone by the province, one of the most impactful developments in its 25-year history.

This designation ensures a best-in-class regulatory framework that provides regulatory assurances for investors by having consistent and co-ordinated approvals, shared access to infrastructure and resources, and minimized cumulative environmental impacts through participative governance and commitment to continuous improvement.

This is an innovative way to maintain the Alberta Advantage and positions Alberta as an energy leader where companies can meet both their economic and environmental goals.

The Canadian Hydrogen Convention will host some of the most impactful conversations our province can have for advancing the hydrogen economy. As a province, we must continue forging ahead as government policy and industrial investment align to deliver a prosperous, energy-producing Alberta that continues to shape the energy landscape for generations to come.  

Mark Plamondon is executive director of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association. AIHA is a non-profit municipal collaboration between its five municipality members, including the City of Fort Saskatchewan, Lamont County, Strathcona County, Sturgeon County, and the City of Edmonton. Formally created in 1998, the municipalities take a proactive and collaborative approach to planning and industrial development.