There is a great deal of talk about the opportunity to use more hydrogen in the energy system. Governments around the world are pursuing aggressive emission reduction targets and hydrogen is seen as offering great promise to assist. Here are some facts and developments on hydrogen.
Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe — the first in the periodic table as we will all remember from high school chemistry.
A hydrogen molecule — H2 — is often called an “energy carrier” as it is produced from sources of energy and then is used to store or deliver energy. A hydrogen molecule therefore is very adaptable — it is useful in many different parts of the energy system.
Hydrogen does not emit any carbon when combusted, and so many countries worldwide, including Canada, are looking to build out hydrogen economies to reduce worldwide emissions.
The natural gas delivery industry is looking closely at hydrogen and playing a role in both the production and the consumption sides of the hydrogen equation, as natural gas is a source of hydrogen (e.g. through steam methane reformation) and the industry has the means to blend hydrogen with gas and distribute it through its extensive energy infrastructure.
The energy density of hydrogen by volume is about one third of the energy density of natural gas. As a result, a hydrogen blend of 20% by volume in the natural gas system equates to a blend of 7% on an energy basis.
“The natural gas delivery industry is looking closely at hydrogen and playing a role in both the production and the consumption sides of the hydrogen equation…”
PRODUCTION: The most common production method of hydrogen in Canada uses natural gas in a process known as steam methane reformation (SMR). Canada is currently a top 10 producer of hydrogen using SMR, producing approximately three million tonnes of hydrogen annually. When combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS), it can deliver very low-emission hydrogen supply. By 2050, the Canada Energy Regulator forecasts that Canada’s hydrogen production will grow to 4.7 million tonnes with 57% of it being produced from natural gas.
CONSUMPTION: With a large and extensive network of underground infrastructure, Canada’s natural gas delivery system will play an essential role in delivering hydrogen to end users. Many of CGA’s member utilities have begun working on projects to blend hydrogen into the existing natural gas network across Canada. Some of the more prominent projects are identified below:
Since Fall 2021, Enbridge Gas and Cummins have been operating a facility in Markham, Ontario that will blend up to 2% hydrogen into Enbridge’s gas network and deliver it to 3,600 customers.
In Alberta, ATCO is starting a pilot project in Fort Saskatchewan that will see 2,000 customers receive up to 5% hydrogen by volume blends. The initiative is scheduled to start in Fall 2022.
In Québec, Gazifère has partnered with Evolugen on a hydrogen electrolysis project that will inject 425,000 GJ of hydrogen annually into Gazifère’s distribution system.