With Canada’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, Alberta will play a critical role in creating innovative solutions, solving technical problems and finding new processes to decrease the environmental impact of the energy sector.
The province is uniquely positioned to leverage its energy industry infrastructure, knowledge and workforce to attract capital investment. A recent study, Alberta Energy Transition, conducted for Edmonton Global and Calgary Economic Development states, “pursuing net zero in Alberta could create nearly 170,000 new clean technology jobs and contribute $61 billion in GDP to the province’s economy by 2050.”
The global market for hydrogen is forecast to reach a possible $11 trillion in the next three decades and Alberta is already focused on building a vibrant hydrogen economy. Recently, Dow announced the selection of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, located just 25 kilometres northeast of Edmonton as the potential site for an expected $10-billion retro-fit project to build the world’s first net-zero carbon emissions petrochemical plant.
With the bulk of oil export capacity being serviced by four major pipelines, investment in pipeline expansion remains. In 2020, Alberta attracted more capital to upstream energy investment: mining, quarrying, conventional oil and gas, and oil sands, than the rest of Canada combined.
Total value of Alberta’s exports of crude oil and natural gas in 2020
67 PER CENT
of Canada’s production of natural gas is in Alberta
Oil Reserves in the world are in Alberta
amount of investment Alberta is making from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction fund and other public funding to support the advancement of technology and innovation in the energy sector
Source: Government of Alberta
The Future of Hydrogen
The Canadian government predicts that, by 2050, the global market for hydrogen as a fuel could be worth over $11 trillion.
That’s why Alberta communities need to be at the forefront of hydrogen production. The Edmonton Hydrogen Hub was the first collaborative movement to emerge in the province, and it currently boasts 25 different plans for the production, transport and uses for hydrogen.
In summer 2021, a group of communities in southeast Alberta launched the Southeast Alberta Hydrogen Task Force. It’s made up of Prairies Economic Development Canada, the City of Medicine Hat, the City of Brooks, Palliser Economic Partnership, CF Industries, Methanex Corporation, APEX Regional Innovation Network, RockPoint Gas Storage, Campus Energy, Envoy Energy and The Transition Accelerator.
“Clean energy is the future, and we believe hydrogen will be essential to meeting the world’s clean energy needs,” said Wayne Steinke, the general manager of CF Industries’ Medicine Hat Nitrogen Complex.
“Working together, we can harness Alberta’s unparalleled strengths to become a leader in the coming hydrogen economy.”
Sowing Solar Farms
The future is green in Red Deer County, with major infrastructure projects seeking renewable solutions to the region’s energy needs.
Just 10 kilometres south of the City of Red Deer, Junction 42 is a major focus of an alternative and renewable energy economic development strategy. Potential solutions include electric vehicle and hydrogen infrastructure that could become the foundation for future development.
Junction 42 adds a new dimension to the County’s broader economic development, as does the Springbrook Solar Power Plant Project. Adjacent to Red Deer Regional Airport, the proposed project comprises a solar photovoltaic (converting light into electricity) power plant that, in addition to enhancing the county’s energy infrastructure, will also contribute to the airport’s growth plan.
Combined with the recently constructed Innisfail Solar project, a utility-scale solar farm that opened in 2020, these alternative energy initiatives in Red Deer County are sowing the seeds for future growth in Alberta’s renewable energy resources.
Ahead of the Pack
As one of the first facilities in Canada that will address the domestic need for low- carbon intensity diesel fuel, the Slave Lake Biomass/Gas to Liquids plant is bringing the country closer to net-zero carbon emissions.
The $35 million plant is a joint project between Expander Energy Inc., an energy technology company based in Calgary, and Vanderwell Contractors (1971) Ltd., a wood manufacturing company in Slave Lake, located 255 kilometres north of Edmonton, Alberta’s Capital City.
To Liquids (BGTL) technology and wood waste from Vanderwell’s operations, the plant will produce a synthetic diesel fuel (SynDiesel) that will meet Canada’s new Clean Fuel Standard. In addition to over 6.5 million litres of SynDiesel per year, the plant will concurrently produce hydrogen, which will further assist in reducing fossil fuel use.
Ken Vanderwell, president of Vanderwell Contractors, observes, “[This project] can help both the environment and create a new industry in Alberta and Canada.”
RENEWABLE ENERGY WINS
The Southern Alberta Alternative Energy Partnership (SAAEP) is moving Alberta towards more sustainable energy solutions by mobilizing the region’s economic development organizations to support local initiatives and new technologies that harness renewable wind and solar resources.
As the independent owner and operator of its electrical infrastructure, the Town of Cardston, located 25 kilometres north of the American-Canadian border, is leading the way in reshaping electricity generation, delivery and consumption in southern Alberta. The town’s extensive solar farm has had an immense impact on greening its electricity consumption.
By offsetting 100% of electricity costs for all Town-owned facilities, the initiative has achieved an impressive return on investment. And with a projected 25 years of renewable electric energy production, these are long term benefits for both the environment and the bottom line.