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    Canadian province of BC releases hydrogen strategy


Strategy will support blue and green hydrogen and initially target transport sector

by: Dale Lunan

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Canadian province of BC releases hydrogen strategy

The Canadian province of British Columbia released a hydrogen strategy July 6 which it said would support the development of blue and green hydrogen and help it reach its net-zero by 2050 aspirations.

“With our clean electricity, abundant natural resources and innovative companies, BC can be a world leader in the growing hydrogen economy – creating new clean-tech jobs and opportunities for people across the province,” Bruce Ralston, BC’s minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation, said in releasing the strategy. “This strategy lays out the actions we will take together to realize this vision on the path to net-zero emissions by 2050.”

The strategy estimates BC’s hydrogen production capability at more than 2.2mn metric tons (mt)/year and suggests its use could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.2mn mt/yr by 2050 – equivalent to about 11% of the province’s 2018 emissions.

Part of the province’s over-arching CleanBC strategy for addressing climate change, the hydrogen strategy includes 63 actions for government, industry and innovators to take during the short term (2020-2025), medium term (2025-2030) and long term (2030 and beyond). 

Immediate strategies include scaling up production of renewable hydrogen, establishing regional hydrogen hubs, deploying fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) in the medium- and heavy-duty transport sectors and establishing a regulatory framework for carbon capture and storage (CCS) that will enable the production of blue hydrogen with emissions that are similar to or lower than green hydrogen.

Grey hydrogen, already widely used in the province’s refining and chemical sectors, will not be supported under the strategy.

The provincial government earmarked C$10mn over three years in its 2021 budget to develop policy on reducing the carbon intensity of fuel and advancing they hydrogen economy. And BC Hydro, the provincially-owned electric utility, recently introduced a discounted electricity rate for renewable hydrogen production.

Powertech Labs, a subsidiary of BC Hydro, will support the strategy by building and operating a light-duty hydrogen fuelling station that will also produce hydrogen on-site through electrolysis. The station will support a BC Hydro fuel-cell pilot and will be available for public use.

Ahead of releasing the hydrogen strategy, the government last week tweaked its Greenhouse Gas Reduction Regulation (GGRR) to allow utilities to make time-limited investments to stimulate domestic markets for hydrogen and renewable natural gas.

A key change raises the amount of RNG and other clean gases  including hydrogen – utilities can acquire, to 15% of system supply from 5% of system supply, a limitation that FortisBC, the province’s largest gas utility, was already bumping up against.

“Changes to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Regulation are important to accelerate the growth of BC’s renewable gas supply,” FortisBC CEO Roger Dall’Antonia said. “By increasing the renewable gas cap and expanding the regulation to include other renewable gases, such as hydrogen, we’re entering an exciting new phase of renewable energy development that will accelerate the transformation of our natural gas infrastructure into a delivery system for carbon-neutral energy.”

Other changes to the GGRR broaden the methods by which utilities can acquire renewable gases, including RNG, green and waste hydrogen, synthesis gas and lignin, both of which can be produced from biomass and used to replace fossil natural gas in industrial heat applications, and link to inflation the existing C$30/gj price cap utilities can pay to acquire these renewable gases.