Trains, buses and vehicles: How 2023 might be pivotal for hydrogen expertise in Canada

Trains, buses and vehicles: How 2023 might 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 gasoline 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 at some point 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 best way.

The following 12 months will probably be important, specialists say, in understanding whether or not that imaginative and prescient might plausibly turn out to be a actuality within the close to future or stay a part of the creativeness for many years to return.

There’s pleasure within the Canadian business about what 2023 will convey as a number of demonstration tasks are set to happen, whereas development may also start on a large 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 tip of 2023. The next step will be testing out the expertise via the Rocky Mountains.

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

“If this proves its mettle and it shakes out via the very robust validation check we’ll give it, [it will] actually be transformational for this business.”

Counting on hydrogen as a gasoline supply is not a brand new idea, however expertise is advancing to enhance efficiency, concurrently there’s an elevated concentrate on local weather change world wide.

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 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 undertaking. (Julia Wong/CBC)

This 12 months 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 undertaking.

New manufacturing plant

In the meantime, a hydrogen fuelling station is below development in Edmonton to permit the Alberta Motor Transport Affiliation to check out semi-trucks on the province’s highways. The group is trying to provide as much as 4 completely different truck fashions this 12 months for native firms to check out.

“I believe the subsequent 12 months is essentially 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 price of transporting hydrogen and setting up the fuelling station in Edmonton pose challenges. (CESAR)

“We are able to really make hydrogen cheaper than diesel gasoline at the moment,” he mentioned, though the problem is the a lot increased price of transporting hydrogen and setting up 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’s renewed enthusiasm for the sector as a solution 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 gasoline for transportation.

The quantity of air pollution related to hydrogen is dependent upon the way it’s made. As an illustration, if photo voltaic or wind services — fairly than a coal energy plant — produce the electrical energy that’s used to create hydrogen, the emissions are comparatively low.

Building has simply begun in northeast Edmonton on what is anticipated 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 provide 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 business, 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 little bit little bit of the chicken-or-the-egg problem,” mentioned Kevin Krausert, chief government 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 is not any demand for it, and who’s going to construct an entire bunch of hydrogen vehicles or trains if there is not any hydrogen to provide it? So you’ve got obtained this form of supply-demand problem.”

Building of the Air Merchandise facility, he mentioned, begins to beat that drawback.

‘Too little, too late’

There’s momentum within the hydrogen sector in Canada, however some specialists warn that essentially the most important query within the subsequent 12 months just isn’t a lot concerning the expertise itself however how keen governments are to assist the business.

“That’s relative to what is going on on to the south of us with america’ coverage helps which can be very robust and really enticing 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 guide.

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

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

In some circumstances, Whittingham mentioned, as much as 75 per cent of the associated fee to provide low-carbon hydrogen might be coated 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 severe competitor is our response to what the U.S. has carried out,” he mentioned.

“And it might 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 will probably be value a minimum of 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 supplied in america 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 business in Canada?

Ed Whittingham is a public coverage guide and the previous government director of the Pembina Institute.

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

Ottawa is at the moment accepting suggestions on its proposed hydrogen tax credit score.

The $1.6-billion Air Merchandise facility below improvement 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.