Federal plan aims to boost hydrogen use via regional hubs

The federal government has announced a plan to increase the use of hydrogen as a low-carbon fuel to help meet its climate targets.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan says the clean-burning fuel could provide up to 30 per cent of Canada’s energy needs by 2050.

He says it could be an industry worth $50 billion and could provide 350,000 jobs.

The plan proposes that over the next five years, several regional hubs will be set up across the country in areas where hydrogen fits local needs or expertise in the fuel already exists.

The hubs are to include the Edmonton region, which has abundant access to hydrogen feedstocks and carbon storage facilities.

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The plan also proposes hubs in ports such as Vancouver and at high-traffic corridors such as Windsor-Detroit, where hydrogen could meet fuel demands for heavy equipment and transport.

The strategy is to be funded by $1.5 billion announced last week as part of the government’s climate change strategy.

The Alberta government says it is working on its own strategy on hydrogen for use in heating, transportation and electricity generation and supports the federal government’s work on a collaborative strategy.

The province’s energy minister, Sonya Savage, said in a statement that Alberta is already one of the world’s biggest producer’s of hydrogen, largely from natural gas. “Our abundant natural gas supply and experience with carbon capture and storage means we have the tools and experience to produce clean hydrogen right now and for decades to come,” she said.

Not everyone was pleased with the plan. The environmental advocacy group Environmental Defence called it a missed opportunity for Canada to become a leader in renewable hydrogen that locks the country into future fossil fuel use.

“Not only does the strategy focus on promoting fossil-derived hydrogen, but the government has also committed to more huge handouts for the oil and gas sector,” Julia Levin, the group’s climate and energy program manager, said in a statement.

The Pembina Institute, a clean energy think-tank, echoed those sentiments, saying not all hydrogen is created equal.

It says Canada should focus on processes that extract hydrogen from water using renewable energy and from natural gas as long as robust carbon capture and storage is in place.

“Further research is needed to determine the most appropriate uses for hydrogen within the suite of energy solutions available as we move toward our net-zero target,” the organization said in a news release.

Ottawa said the strategy was supported by a federal investment of $1.5 billion in a Low-carbon and Zero-emissions Fuels Fund to increase production of fuels such as hydrogen.

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