July 22nd, 2024

Brooks, Newell County pushing to become hydrogen hub

By Collin Gallant on June 22, 2024.

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Governments in the Brooks-Newell region are advancing a “Hydrogen Hub” in that area, it has been revealed, in a potential partnership to lobby premier and area MLA Danielle Smith alongside a private sector developer.

That comes three years after Brooks regional economic developers took part in City of Medicine Hat-led studies to develop a hydrogen hub in southeast Alberta – a main economic development strategy in the Hat.

The County of Newell agreed Thursday to jointly support the City of Brooks and private company IEPS, which previously proposed repurposing land near Bow City for once proposed as a coal mine and power plant to instead become a hydrogen plant.

Greg Baden and Brian Beitz from IEPS addressed Newell County council on Thursday stating that their proposal to build a production plant is moving forward.

“It has to be a stand-alone viable economic process,” said Baden. “That’s our vision and that’s how we’re approaching it.”

Newell County council voted to sign a memorandum of understanding to advance the partnership – studies and seeking out other government support.

“It’s good to see us moving forward and investigating this further,” said Coun. Kelly Christman. “It fits into council’s plan of being an industry leader and investigating different options”

The matter is expected to be taken up by the City of Brooks in July.

“Brooks Newell” region, the joint economic development effort, was a funding partner in the Southeast Alberta Hydrogen Hub Study completed with the City of Medicine Hat and private-sector oil patch and petrochemical companies, which produced the “Towards Hydrogen” report in summer of 2022.

Work, though, has proceeded in the background at Medicine Hat city hall. Officials there declined comment about hydrogen hub development when asked on Friday.

Next week, Newell County is scheduled to meet with Smith, and lobbying for the project is on their agenda, the county heard.

An overview provided states grants will be sought for provincial diversification supports. The first facilities would be built in the County of Newell “proximal to Highway 1 and CP Rail line” with regional distribution to be designed along “all of southern Alberta’s major transportation corridors.”

A first phase would assess market demand among regional trucking companies and ag producers, then move onto ensuring supply.

A $10-million estimate is given, with 70 to 80 per cent from “municipal and private investment” along with seeking out government grants.

Hydrogen is considered a key, non-polluting fuel that could aid in the transition to a low-carbon transportation and utility sector.

“Green Hydrogen” is produced by splitting water molecules with large amounts of renewable energy, and when burned produces no carbon dioxide, only water vapour.

“Blue Hydrogen” hives off the hydrogen molecules from methane by traditional process and the CO2 is sequestered or utilized.

CPKC Rail and the heavy trucking industry are studying hydrogens use as a fuel. Electric utilities, including the City of Medicine Hat power plant, believe some portion of hydrogen could be blended into the fuel mix at natural gas power plants to bring down CO2 emissions.

ATCO has studied blending in natural gas supply for home heating.

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