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Powering the Energy Transition

Canada is a centre of pioneering hydrogen research

Hydrogen is the only fuel that can decarbonise the whole economy and Canada’s expertise and innovation is vital to making that happen

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. And it could soon be the most useful. In theory, hydrogen could replace fossil fuels as a viable energy source for everything from transport to heavy industry. Such a transition will mean developing a variety of uses and technologies to produce, move and use hydrogen. And Canada is poised to lead this effort.

Canada can make hydrogen a successful long-term investment for global companies. A pioneer in the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology and carbon capture and storage, Canada also has an abundant supply of the renewable electricity needed to produce zero-carbon hydrogen from water.

Canada is one of the top 10 hydrogen producers in the world today and consistently ranks among the leading destinations for hydrogen-related foreign investment (more than CAD$67bn in the past five years alone). Through investments and smart policies, it is putting in place the building blocks of a dynamic, profitable hydrogen industry. 

Canada’s research capacity in hydrogen extends across the country, in publicly-funded research, in universities and in the private sector. The result is a rich and varied mix of research projects and demonstrations. 

The Manitoba-based bus manufacturer New Flyer has started making hydrogen-fuelled buses. In Ontario, Hydrogenics has become the worldwide leader in building industrial and commercial hydrogen generation, hydrogen fuel cells and large-scale energy storage solutions.

Canada is already a leader in the commercialisation of hydrogen fuel cell technology, with efforts focused in the province of British Columbia (BC). In BC’s hydrogen-equivalent of Silicon Valley, firms such as Ballard Power Systems are developing and testing hydrogen-run fuel cells that provide buses, trucks, trains and ships with non-polluting energy.

BC has created a vibrant cluster of companies and developed world-class expertise in hydrogen. As a result, the province is home to more than half of Canada’s companies active in the hydrogen and fuel cell sector, with this local expertise fuelling strong synergies between government and industry. For example, the National Research Council’s Hydrogen Laboratory in Vancouver carries out research and development on fuel cells, electrolysis and other hydrogen-related technologies.

In Saskatchewan, experts are working out another key piece of the hydrogen puzzle: how to sustainably produce enough of the gas in places where access to water is difficult. 

The Clean Energy Technologies Research Institute at the University of Saskatchewan is piloting technology that uses a special catalyst to convert any feedstock into clean-burning hydrogen. Fuels that can be used to produce hydrogen in this process include low-grade natural gas, biofuels (such as crude ethanol), biogas (such as waste gases from landfills) and the byproducts of various industrial and fermentation processes.

Most of these fuels are the unwanted – and so lowcost – waste products of existing industrial processes. Because the catalyst technology enables them to be used to produce hydrogen while capturing CO2 – all in a single plant and without disrupting existing plant operations or changing fuel sources – the system could open the door to hydrogen use in more places.

And because a portion of the CO2 produced during hydrogen production is recycled into the process, with the remainder captured and made available for storage or use in secondary processes, it can produce hydrogen in a less carbon-intensive way than many existing methods.

Research is at the heart of Canada’s work to decarbonise the economy with a number of universities across the country running their own hydrogen research programmes. Among the leading university research institutes are the Clean Energy Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, the Hydrogen Research Institute (IHR) at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) and the Clean Energy Research Lab at Ontario Tech University.  

The Canadian government is also making big investments in hydrogen technology, including funding the hydrogen pillar of the National Research Council of Canada’s Advanced Clean Energy programme and backing the building of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ new state-of-the-art Hydrogen Isotopes Technology Laboratory. 

The time is now to invest in hydrogen in Canada.

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