Blog – Towards a Western Hydrogen Network

Sep 22, 2021

By Chris Bayley & Andrew Ikeman, for The Transition Accelerator

With the recent announcement that a Southeast Alberta Hydrogen Task Force has been launched to establish a framework to implement a hydrogen economy in Southeast Alberta,  Alberta’s low-carbon hydrogen economy is continuing to gain strong momentum. This announcement positions the region to potentially become Alberta’s second hydrogen HUB after its foundation report and other milestones are completed. Of course, The Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB was launched earlier this year and is already working to break the vicious cycle of insufficient hydrogen supply and demand and position the region to become a world-leading producer, user and exporter of this low-carbon fuel the world wants.  

Canada has many strengths that can make it a hydrogen superpower. It is one of the lowest cost places to make low-carbon hydrogen in the world, and Alberta’s energy workers in particular already have the skills and expertise needed to lead the way in this emerging energy field. But a Canada-wide hydrogen economy won’t emerge unless the right conditions are set and additional hydrogen HUBs are created and linked across the country. That’s why we’re working to facilitate the next phase of development: a western hydrogen network.  

How are Hydrogen HUBs created?

In accordance with our research and the federal government’s Hydrogen Strategy for Canada, we have been working with local stakeholders in regions across Canada, including multiple levels of government, First Nations and industry representatives, to develop regional hydrogen HUBs. The Transition Accelerator’s four stage process for launching hydrogen HUBs is as follows below.
  1. Undertake a Foundation Report

Partner with local industry, government, and academics to understand the unique opportunities of the region. Document the regional assets that could be harnessed in a transition to a hydrogen economy. This would include an evaluation of the following:

  • Production potential – identify the ability to produce low-carbon hydrogen and use byproduct hydrogen as a fuel source
  • Demand Potential – identify sources of demand from a wide range of sectors such as transportation fleets owed by governments or private companies, residential and commercial heat, and industrial use
  • Transportation opportunities – how to move hydrogen to where it is needed, such as through existing or unused pipeline infrastructure
  • Funding opportunities – opportunities from various levels of government, the private sector and philanthropic source
  1. Develop shared visions for possible transition pathways

Build on the previous step to engage a coalition of the willing to articulate a strategy for building and connecting hydrogen supply to demand.

  1. Perform a techno-economic analysis

To critically assess the ideas that are generated in the previous stage, we perform a techno-economic assessment and review the available technologies and their economic feasibility. We do not support commercialization of new technologies, and instead focus on using proven products. This review is meant to analyze big system changes rather than individual projects.

  1. Build support pilot, demonstration and commercialization projects

Using the insights gained in all previous stages, create compelling arguments for public and private investments in pilot, demonstration, and commercialization projects related to hydrogen fuel cell electric buses and heavy trucks and more.

Where we are looking next

As the network of hydrogen HUBs continues to expand, we are looking at regions that can provide low-cost and low-carbon hydrogen and are connected to major transportation corridors. Some of the areas we have identified for potential future HUBs include:

  • Calgary 
  • Regina 
  • Winnipeg 
  • Kamloops
  • Vancouver 
  • Prince George 

These areas have been identified as they meet the following criteria: 

  • They have the resources to make low-cost hydrogen
  • There are substantial nearby markets for this hydrogen
  • They have the ability to connect supply to demand via road, rail or pipeline
  • They have a scale of supply and demand where the economics work without sustained public investment
  • Engaged industry, governments and academics are present.
This is an example of what a Western Hydrogen Network could be

Next Steps

Hydrogen is poised to become a major energy commodity in Western Canada, which will lead to massive new investments and growth for the region. The Transition Accelerator is working to find partners to launch large scale hydrogen HUBs that will grow the network towards a viable hydrogen economy.

Contact Dinara Millington if you are interested in being a funding partner to launch a foundation report. Together, we can shape a safe, vibrant, and sustainable hydrogen economy that will lead us into a low-carbon future.