Alberta is investing $45 million into projects intended to advance the province’s hydrogen fuel technologies.
The funding will be funnelled through two competitions that will select a proposal in its early stages of development, and another that is closer to completion. The first competition will be held by Emissions Reduction Alberta, while the second will be hosted by Alberta Innovates, the province’s research agency.
Applicants will be aiming to find better ways to produce, store and distribute hydrogen that, in turn, powers heavy-duty transportation and drives industrial, commercial and residential heating.
“Alberta is known for its entrepreneurial spirit and, as we are already a leader in this field, this competition will explore and advance clean hydrogen technologies while generating fresh, exciting new projects and ideas,” Environment and Protected Areas Minister Rebecca Schulz said at a Tuesday news conference.
The competitions, which will receive an additional $5 million from the federal government, will be the second iteration of Alberta’s push to develop its market for hydrogen production as the world races to limit its carbon footprint.
The first, held last year by Alberta Innovates and whose prize money was restricted to $20 million, resulted in 18 mid-stage technological development and engineering studies that helped generate $130 million for companies in the industry, according to Laura Kilcrease, CEO of the research agency.
“Can you imagine, if that’s what we could do with $20 million with our partners today, what we’re going to do with $50 million, and how that’s going to affect the future for us all?” Kilcrease said at the news conference.
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Hydrogen, deemed a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels, can be produced in several ways.
The most common techniques involve separating it from water in a process called electrolysis, or breaking down methane into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, the latter of which can be removed using carbon capture and storage technology.
Alberta, with its natural gas reserves and extensive pipeline infrastructure, is Canada’s largest producer of hydrogen, manufacturing approximately 2.5 million tonnes per year.
However, the production of hydrogen through fossil fuels has come under scrutiny by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, which says it emits toxic gases such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.
The problems also extend to its storage, which is prone to explosions.
However, the demand for hydrogen, estimated to be about 92 million tonnes in 2022, could balloon to 500 million tonnes by 2050, stated a report by PwC.
“And we want a piece of that action worldwide,” said Kilcrease.
As a result, to mitigate the risks of producing hydrogen, the province is inviting its best minds to come up with solutions.
Those interested in the Emissions Reduction Alberta’s Accelerating Hydrogen Challenge can submit their application by 5 p.m. on Sept. 22. Those planning to apply for Alberta Innovates’ Hydrogen Centre of Excellence Competition 2 can do so by 5 p.m. on Sept. 26.