ARKANSAS, Oct 28 (Future Headlines)- Amid the rise of hydrogen production proposals in British Columbia (BC), particularly in the Prince George region, the recent announcement of $7 billion in federal subsidies for seven regional hydrogen hubs in the United States has raised questions about the competitive landscape for Canadian hydrogen development. However, the presence of these US hydrogen hubs may bring benefits to BC companies in the hydrogen sector.
Of the seven hydrogen hubs designated by the US Department of Energy, one is located in the Pacific Northwest, covering Washington, Oregon, and Montana. Matthew Klippenstein, Executive Director of Hydrogen BC and Regional Director for Western Canada of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (CHFCA), believes that BC-based companies can potentially collaborate with or supply products to US projects, especially given their proximity and experience in the sector.
One example is Westport Fuel Systems, which specializes in hydrogen production and usage. They developed the H2 HPDI engine, designed for long-haul trucking and capable of running on hydrogen. US hydrogen hubs are expected to focus on both hydrogen production and usage, opening opportunities for collaboration.
In the Pacific Northwest hydrogen hub, Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group plans a green hydrogen project. The project aims to repurpose the Centralia coal power plant, slated for closure in 2025, into a 300-megawatt green hydrogen facility. It’s estimated to produce up to 40,150 metric tons of hydrogen annually. In comparison, Fortescue’s Prince George project in BC is larger, with a $2 billion investment and an annual production capacity of 140,000 tons of green hydrogen and 700,000 tons of green ammonia for export to Asia. Green ammonia is a more practical way to transport hydrogen.
Green hydrogen production involves splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity, with emissions dependent on the source of the electricity. Fortescue’s Prince George project will require 1,000 megawatts of power, 900 megawatts for hydrogen production, and 100 megawatts for ammonia production.
While the Fortescue project presents significant potential, some experts are skeptical of large-scale green hydrogen projects due to power requirements. The Site C dam, with a capacity of 1,100 megawatts, could only produce around 525 megawatts of firm power, as it operates at maximum capacity just 54% of the time. Generating 1,000 megawatts of firm power is a considerable challenge.
Washington state would face similar challenges in securing enough clean power for large-scale green hydrogen production. The hydrogen production process is more energy-intensive than blue hydrogen production, which is made from natural gas with carbon capture and storage. However, cost projections suggest that the price of producing green hydrogen may decrease by half by 2030, making the industry more competitive.
David Austin, a lawyer specializing in electricity, believes that BC Hydro has the capacity to meet the increasing industrial demand for power from green hydrogen and LNG electrification projects. BC’s hydro dam reservoirs provide a foundation for the integration of wind and solar power to fulfill industry needs.
BC Hydro’s updated load forecast and upcoming power call anticipate large industrial power demands from projects like Fortescue’s. Two hydrogen-related projects are already underway in BC: a 10-megawatt green hydrogen plant in Prince George by Hydra Energy and an export terminal in Prince Rupert for hydrogen and ammonia exports, supported by C$75 million in federal funding through the National Trade Corridors Fund. These developments indicate the growing interest and potential in BC’s hydrogen sector.
Writing by Sarah White