In Port Moody, British Columbia, three partner companies along with CleanBC Industry Fund are working on a pilot project that will produce clean-burning hydrogen from natural gas.
FortisBC, Suncor Energy and Hazer Group will use an innovative methane pyrolysis technology at Suncor’s Burrard Terminal site to produce zero-carbon hydrogen. The process will also store the carbon byproduct as a solid synthetic graphite that can be sold on the open market for manufacturing or industrial use.
If the pilot continues as a full commercial build out, the project would be expected to produce up to 2,500 tonnes of hydrogen per year. This equates to roughly 300,000 gigajoules of clean-burning gas energy that can replace the equivalent annual natural gas usage of approximately 3,300 B.C. households.
Roger Dall’Antonia, president and CEO of FortisBC said FortisBC is transforming BC’s energy future. “While we are in the early stages of an exciting energy transformation with this hydrogen project, innovative partnerships like this will help accelerate that change,” added Dall’Antonia.
“Renewable and low carbon gases, like hydrogen, are instrumental in reducing greenhouse gas emissions effectively and affordably while ensuring we have a resilient and diversified energy system for British Columbians.”
Hydrogen is a unique gas energy as it produces no carbon dioxide when burned. It can be produced in a number of ways, including through electrolysis, or separating hydrogen from water using electricity, and through separating it from natural gas. Hydrogen generated from natural gas with the carbon byproduct being captured as solid carbon is referred to as “turquoise” hydrogen and has far lower and more easily managed lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with it.
“Innovative technologies such as the Hazer Process offer enormous potential to create new economic opportunities while supporting the de-carbonization objectives of FortisBC and the province,” said Geoff Ward, CEO and managing director of Hazer.
The project is being funded directly from the partner companies and by the provincial government’s CleanBC Industry Fund. The Fund supports projects that can advance innovative solutions for industry greenhouse gas emissions, like renewable and low carbon gases. The provincial government has placed clear emphasis on the importance of hydrogen in the province, releasing the provincial hydrogen strategy in 2021 and establishing the B.C. Hydrogen Office to assist the rapid advancement of hydrogen projects.
“Hydrogen is critical to our transition to a cleaner, low-carbon energy system. We are supporting innovation like the Hazer Process with B.C. Hydrogen Strategy and CleanBC,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “The Hazer Process is helping us achieve our climate goals while supporting good-paying jobs for British Columbians”.
The addition of hydrogen to FortisBC’s renewable and low carbon gas supply is critical to the company’s ongoing efforts to decarbonize the gas system. Ongoing research is being conducted, both through this project and in conjunction with the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, on how to blend hydrogen into the existing gas infrastructure.
A recent study commissioned by the provincial government, FortisBC and the BC Bioenergy Network found that the potential for hydrogen production in the province could exceed 200 petajoules by 2050, which is roughly enough gas to completely replace current natural gas volumes.
“Hydrogen has the potential be a significant part of the future energy mix and is a key part of Suncor’s strategy to be a net zero GHG emissions company by 2050,” said Kris Smith, executive vice president Downstream, Suncor. “We look forward to continuing to work together on this project that, if sanctioned, will bring low carbon intensity hydrogen supply to the Greater Vancouver Area.”
The first phase of the project is now underway including front-end engineering, design studies and permitting applications. By the end of 2023, a prototype version of the Hazer hydrogen reactor is expected to be constructed onsite at the Burrard location for testing.