Construction of the world’s largest hydrogen plant will continue in northeast Edmonton after the provincial and federal governments agreed to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars.
Air Products Canada announced last year its intention to build the $1.6 billion plant, which should produce up to 100,000 tons of hydrogen per year when fully operational.
Federal Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne said in an interview Tuesday that the investment is a sign of corporate confidence in Canada, its workforce and infrastructure.
“My dream is that Alberta, in western Canada, becomes the hydrogen hub in the world that people look to when it comes to clean technology, when it comes to production, when it comes to using hydrogen,” he said.
The federal government is contributing $300 million toward construction of the facility, which comes from a fund established to help industry reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet Canada’s net-zero goal by 2050.
Once the plant is operational, which is expected in 2024, the Government of Alberta will award Air Products a $161.5 million grant over three years from the Alberta Petrochemical Incentive Program.
“Something quite dramatic has happened recently in Alberta as we recognize the important role hydrogen must play in delivering safe and clean renewable energy in the future,” said Energy Minister Peter Guthrie.
The project is expected to create 2,500 construction jobs and 30 permanent operational jobs.
Jan Gorski, director of the oil and gas program at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank, said the project will be the first of its kind designed to generate hydrogen on a large scale, compared to current processes that produce hydrogen as a byproduct. .
Hydrogen can be used in industrial applications, transportation, and as a source of energy or heat.
‘Right mix of renewable energies’
Government officials made the announcement at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in front of a hydrogen-powered Edmonton Transit bus.
Green hydrogen is generated from water, which releases no carbon emissions. Blue hydrogen is generated from natural gas and releases carbon dioxide as a by-product.
Federal Tourism Minister and Downtown Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault said “the colors don’t matter” as much as the intensity of the emissions from the process.
Air Products says that 95 percent of the carbon dioxide will be captured and permanently stored underground.
“Whether it’s green, whether it’s blue, whether it’s turquoise, we’re flipping the color wheel,” Boissonnault said. “Because what matters is having the right mix of renewable energy.”
Gorski said upstream production of natural gas, which releases methane, a greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, should be considered.
“It’s a positive step,” Gorski said of the hydrogen plant. “It’s a project in Alberta that is aligned with the direction of the world.”
Champagne and Boissonnault also downplayed the potential impact of the Alberta government’s anti-Ottawa and pro-sovereignty rhetoric on potential future international investment in the province.
Critics have warned that the Alberta Sovereignty Act promised by Premier Danielle Smith could create economic uncertainty and threaten potential investment in the province.
Guthrie also said his administration has yet to decide how a version of a proposed oil and gas site rehabilitation program called R-Star will work.
Smith lobbied the government to adopt such a program when he led the Alberta Enterprise Group and said the energy ministry plans to test a version of it.
R-Star proposes to give oil and gas companies a discount on the royalties they pay to the province in exchange for cleaning up their decommissioned sites.
Guthrie said his ministry is “weeks or months” away from revealing the details of such a program and is working with industry to design it.
“The cleanup, the rehabilitation of the site, is very important to our government,” he said. “Anything that we can be doing to try to help in that regard, we’re going to try to do that.”
In response to a reporter’s question, Guthrie also said he has no plans to rescind an order preventing coal mining exploration on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
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