Construction underway on $1.6 billion Alberta net zero hydrogen complex

Air Products facility expected to supply Canada's largest renewable diesel project

By Diane L.M. Cook
Photo courtesy Air Products

The early stages of construction are now underway on a new $1.6 billion net zero hydrogen complex near Edmonton, Alberta. 

One of its first customers is expected to be Imperial Oil, using the hydrogen to supply a proposed renewable diesel facility that could reduce Canadian transportation emissions by the equivalent of taking 650,000 cars off the road per year.  

“We are on the threshold of a material reduction of western Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions while sparking new economic development in the Edmonton region,” says Rachel Smith, general manager of Air Products Canada, owner of the hydrogen facility. 

“Hydrogen has been produced in Alberta for decades. But net zero clean hydrogen is a game-changer.” 

Net zero technology 

The complex will use advances in technology to achieve net zero emissions.   

To produce hydrogen, it will employ a system known as auto-thermal reforming (ATR) rather than the more traditionally used steam methane reforming (SMR) technology.  

An SMR facility equipped with carbon capture technology is recognized to enable cost-effective capture of up to 60 per cent of carbon emissions.  

Air Products says that ATR, which uses a different reaction for the chemical synthesis of hydrogen, is expected to enable 95 per cent capture of the carbon that would otherwise be emitted. 

The captured and compressed CO2 will be sent by pipeline to a permanent underground storage site approximately 40 kilometres away. 

To avoid the indirect emissions associated with using electrical power from the provincial grid, the complex will use a hydrogen-fueled electrical power cogeneration unit. It will be large enough to power the facility and enable excess power to be exported to the grid.  

The avoided emissions from the exported power are expected to offset the remaining five per cent of emissions from the ATR hydrogen facility, allowing the project to achieve net-zero. 

The complex has received a combined $475 million in funding from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund, the Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program, and Emissions Reduction Alberta.  

It is expected to be in service in 2024.  

Renewable diesel 

Also expected to be up and running in 2024 is Imperial’s proposed renewable diesel complex at its Strathcona Refinery. The deal with Air Products, announced in September 2022, is “an important milestone,” says spokeswoman Keri Scobie. 

The facility is expected to produce more than one billion litres per year of renewable diesel 

This could reduce emissions from Canada’s transportation sector by about three million tonnes per year (from a total of 159 million tonnes per year in 2020).  

About half of the low-carbon hydrogen produced by the Air Products facility will supply the Strathcona complex.  

Smith says the facility will also produce zero-emission liquid hydrogen fuel for the transportation market, all derived from Alberta’s natural gas resource. 

Hydrogen complex construction began in fall 2022. Imperial expects to reach a final investment decision for its renewable diesel complex in the coming months.  

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