Wheatland County held a stakeholder session on August 9 regarding the future of hydrogen and green energy in the county. There was a lot that was discussed, and here is what you need to know.

Hydrogen energy will create economic prosperity while also hitting clean energy goals

Wheatland County Economic Development Officer Jamie Kramble opened the session by speaking about how exciting the potential is for hydrogen energy. 

"Two main purposes (for the initiative): one is to increase our tax revenues and the other is to create high value employment opportunities. We've examined many different sectors and hydrogen is something we believe is going to grow and become more important."

Matthew Klippenstein with the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association explained that by 2050 he expects most of the energy sector to be using green energy, and 30 per cent of that will be hydrogen. With Wheatland County already pursuing this, he believes this will be a big win for the economy.

"Ideally, what we want to bring is the opportunity for prosperity, economic growth, while we also simultaneously achieve our environmental goals," he said.

He further explained that the clean hydrogen industry as of 2018 created more than 2000 jobs and brought in more than $200 000 000. However, by 2050 there could be up to 358 000 jobs and up to $47 000 000 000 in the industry. 

Hydrogen energy is versatile

Klippenstein also explained how versatile hydrogen is.

"We typically talk about hydrogen as a fuel, but it is a feedstock as well. You can use it as a feedstock for ammonia for fertilizers, clean hydrogen for methanol. it can be used to process iron ore into ore suitable for steel making, its used in many chemical process industries as well. It can be used for transportation and as well for heat and power, so it's very versatile. there's an idea of pitching it as a swiss army knife sort of thing."

He specifically pointed out how hydrogen could be a big player in transportation. While smaller vehicles like electric cars, trucks, and forklifts would continue to be battery powered, larger vehicles like airplanes, ships, large shipping trucks and more could use hydrogen energy.

A facility is already in place in Wheatland County, which could be the model for future projects

diesel plantThe Rocky Mountain GTL facility. Photo Courtesy Wheatland County

Doug Geeraert with Rocky Mountain GTL explained one of their newer facilities already creates 14 metric tons of surplus hydrogen a day. His facility is actually a synthetic diesel plant that creates 60 000 litres a day, but hydrogen is also created. It's also the only one near the Calgary-Strathmore region.

The strengths of this plant is it's sustainability. Geeraert explained at full capacity, this plant could be fully self sustaining while creating both synthetic diesel and hydrogen energy.

"Once it's running at full capacity it's going to be water self sufficient. Even though we use a lot of steam, we also produce water in our process. Very near power self sufficient because we do waste recovery and run steam turbines too to generate power. The only thing we really need to tap into at this point is natural gas supply, which can be renewable natural gas by the way, and generate a fully renewable diesel in that sense," he said.

He added that similar facilities in the Middle-East can take up a lot of space, but this facility only takes up 7-10 acres, allowing it to be placed strategically across Canada in ideal locations.

Clean energy will not replace the oil and gas industry. They can both lift each other up

A common misconception with green energies is often the idea that by pursuing cleaner energy, we'll be running our oil and gas industries out of business. Wheatland Business Development Specialist for Hydrogen Markus Lehmann says this is not true; in fact, the oil and gas industry's pre-existing infrastructure will play a big role in supporting green energies, and all types of energy will benefit the province as a whole.

Wheatland County has about 8000 oil and gas wells in place, and this can help in establishing green energies.

"Wheatland is very well placed to take advantage of this transformation. We're not shifting from oil and gas from one day to the next, but we're incrementing the economic base and the revenue base of the county and Canada in and of itself."

"We have great resources here, we have a natural gas resource basin at our disposal which we can produce low carbon fuels which Doug has demonstrated (with the Rocky Mountain GTL diesel plant). Those industries will prolificate here in Wheatland County. And we also have a very intense and very high capacity factor of renewable energy at our disposal here both wind and solar, as has been demonstrated with the number of facilities being constructed in Wheatland County."

Lehmann added that it's important to think of the energy industry as one big industry, rather than dividing it into an "oil and gas vs other energy" debate. Any form of industry will strengthen the overall industry, and they can work together to lift each other up.

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