Trains, buses and vans: How 2023 could possibly be pivotal for hydrogen expertise in Canada

Trains, buses and vans: How 2023 could possibly be pivotal for hydrogen expertise in Canada

Because the Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive strikes alongside the tracks in Calgary, one thing is clearly amiss.

It is the standard dimension and look that you just’d count on, however what’s absent is the low rumbling noise of the diesel engine.

As a substitute, this locomotive is powered by hydrogen gas cell and battery expertise as a part of a trial by the railway to discover whether or not the low-emission autos are robust sufficient and dependable sufficient to probably someday revolutionize operations on the firm.

Over the past a number of years, there was an elevated concentrate on the potential for hydrogen to decarbonize many industries and assist international locations attain their local weather targets, whereas revamping vitality techniques alongside the way in which.

The subsequent 12 months might be vital, specialists say, in understanding whether or not that imaginative and prescient may plausibly turn into a actuality within the close to future or stay a part of the creativeness for many years to come back.

There may be pleasure within the Canadian trade about what 2023 will convey as a number of demonstration tasks are set to happen, whereas development may also start on an enormous new hydrogen manufacturing facility.

Testing underway

For CP Rail, the hydrogen locomotive accomplished its first “income journey” just a few months in the past with the expectation to have the trains working in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary by the top of 2023. The next step will be testing out the expertise by means of the Rocky Mountains.

“It is an ideal check mattress. In case you can function there: heavy haul, chilly temperatures, essentially the most difficult operational situations I’ve ever skilled in my profession. And if it really works there, it should work all over the place,” CP’s chief govt, Keith Creel, mentioned throughout a speech on the RailTrends 2022 convention in November.

“If this proves its mettle and it shakes out by means of the very powerful validation check we’ll give it, [it will] actually be transformational for this trade.”

Counting on hydrogen as a gas supply is not a brand new idea, however expertise is advancing to enhance efficiency, similtaneously there may be an elevated concentrate on local weather change all over the world.

A large blue bus with its front door open sits in a parking lot.
A brand new Metropolis of Edmonton hydrogen-powered bus sits within the car parking zone of a transit storage. A second hydrogen bus will function in close by Strathcona County as a part of a one-year pilot mission. (Julia Wong/CBC)

This yr will mark the beginning of some different experiments as hydrogen-powered buses and semi-trucks hit the street.

A pair of transit buses will transport passengers in Edmonton and close by Strathcona County as a part of a one-year pilot mission.

New manufacturing plant

In the meantime, a hydrogen fuelling station is beneath development in Edmonton to permit the Alberta Motor Transport Affiliation to check out semi-trucks on the province’s highways. The group is seeking to provide as much as 4 totally different truck fashions this yr for native firms to check out.

“I believe the following 12 months is basically a proof of idea,” mentioned David Layzell, an vitality techniques architect with the Transition Accelerator — a non-profit group arrange to assist Canada attain its local weather targets — and professor emeritus in organic sciences on the College of Calgary.

David Layzell, an vitality techniques architect with the Transition Accelerator and professor emeritus on the College of Calgary, says for hydrogen to be cheaper than diesel, the upper value of transporting hydrogen and establishing the fuelling station in Edmonton pose challenges. (CESAR)

“We are able to truly make hydrogen cheaper than diesel gas in the present day,” he mentioned, though the problem is the a lot larger value of transporting hydrogen and establishing the fuelling station.

“We’re solely going to get these costs down by attending to scale,” Layzell mentioned.

Hydrogen has been round for a very long time, however there may be renewed enthusiasm for the sector as a strategy to jump-start the transition to a world reliant on low-carbon vitality.

Hydrogen is an vitality provider, and specialists say it may be used primarily for heating and as a gas for transportation.

The quantity of air pollution related to hydrogen depends upon the way it’s made. For example, if photo voltaic or wind services — slightly than a coal energy plant — produce the electrical energy that’s used to create hydrogen, the emissions are comparatively low.

Development has simply begun in northeast Edmonton on what is predicted to be the biggest net-zero hydrogen plant on the earth by Air Merchandise Canada. The $1.6-billion facility will use pure gasoline to supply hydrogen with the objective of sequestering 95 per cent of the emissions and retailer them underground.

A man with white hair and wearing a dark suit and tie speaks at a podium.
François-Philippe Champagne, federal minister of innovation, science and trade, is proven in Edmonton in November 2022, asserting funding towards development of the $1.6-billion Air Merchandise hydrogen plant, the biggest on the earth. (Janet French/CBC)

“The problem with hydrogen is a bit of little bit of the chicken-or-the-egg problem,” mentioned Kevin Krausert, chief govt of Avatar Improvements Inc., a Calgary-based agency that helps develop vitality transition applied sciences.

“Who’s going to construct a serious hydrogen facility if there isn’t any demand for it, and who’s going to construct an entire bunch of hydrogen vans or trains if there isn’t any hydrogen to produce it? So you have acquired this form of supply-demand problem.”

Development of the Air Merchandise facility, he mentioned, begins to beat that downside.

‘Too little, too late’

There may be momentum within the hydrogen sector in Canada, however some specialists warn that essentially the most vital query within the subsequent 12 months will not be a lot in regards to the expertise itself however how prepared governments are to help the trade.

“That’s relative to what is going on on to the south of us with the US’ coverage helps which might be very robust and really engaging and will take all of the capital [investment] that we’d spend up right here and divert it southward,” mentioned Ed Whittingham, an Alberta-based public coverage advisor.

A man wearing a T-shirt looks at the camera with a rainbow in the background.
Alberta-based public coverage advisor Ed Whittingham says Canada might want to step up if it needs to be aggressive within the hydrogen expertise discipline with the U.S., which beneath new laws may cowl as much as 75 per cent of the fee to supply low-carbon hydrogen. (CBC)

The U.S. authorities’s Inflation Discount Act [IRA] consists of vital subsidies to not solely offset the price of establishing a hydrogen facility however to subsidize its operations, amongst different funding applications.

In some instances, Whittingham mentioned, as much as 75 per cent of the fee to supply low-carbon hydrogen could possibly be lined by the U.S. authorities.

“What actually goes to find out whether or not hydrogen stays area of interest and stays small scale in Canada or whether or not it goes mainstream and Canada actually turns into a critical competitor is our response to what the U.S. has finished,” he mentioned.

“And it could possibly be a case, frankly, of too little, too late.”

The federal authorities is proposing a clear hydrogen funding tax credit score to entice firms to develop new clear hydrogen tasks. The tax credit score might be value no less than 40 per cent for tasks that meet sure labour and low-emission necessities.

In its 2022 fall financial assertion, the federal authorities warned that the subsidies provided in the US had been extra beneficiant and improve the problem to draw funding north of the border.

WATCH | Competitors between Canada and the U.S. to draw funding:

What’s holding again the hydrogen trade in Canada?

Ed Whittingham is a public coverage advisor and the previous govt director of the Pembina Institute.

“Canada might want to do much more to safe our aggressive benefit and proceed creating alternatives for Canadian employees,” the report mentioned. “With out new measures to maintain tempo with the IRA, Canada dangers being left behind.”

Ottawa is presently accepting suggestions on its proposed hydrogen tax credit score.

The $1.6-billion Air Merchandise facility beneath growth in Edmonton is receiving $300 million from the federal authorities towards development and a further $161.5 million from the Alberta authorities as soon as the plant is operational.