There are at least two companies in Nova Scotia that believe the province could become a hub for the production and distribution of green hydrogen.
Hydrogen is created by splitting the atoms in water, but it’s only considered green if a renewable energy such as wind power is used in the process.
“We think green hydrogen could be a game-changer for Nova Scotia,” said Derek Estabrook, vice-president of Heritage Gas. “It’s a terrific way for us to use the excellent wind resource that we already have here in the province.”
Heritage Gas took part in a feasibility study of hydrogen in the Maritimes that came out in October 2020. It has applied for federal funding to build a small-scale hydrogen facility, which has been endorsed by the Halifax region.
According to Estabrook, you can blend up to 20 per cent hydrogen with natural gas. The pipeline system installed in Nova Scotia by Heritage Gas may also be the only one in North America that could easily be used to distribute hydrogen.
“We have a very modern distribution system, it’s mostly made from polyethylene plastic pipes,” explained Estabrook. “Most older natural gas distribution systems were built using a lot of steel or iron pipes that are not compatible with hydrogen.”
Planet Hydrogen, a company that started in Ottawa and moved to Dartmouth, also hopes to have an electrolysis plant up and running by the end of 2022.
But it will not just produce green hydrogen. The company’s process will also split the molecules in salt at the same time, creating baking soda that will be used to trap carbon emissions and put into seawater.
“Our oceans are 30 per cent too acidic,” said CEO Mike Kelland. “So by adding the mild alkaline to sea water, we’re hoping to restore the ocean chemistry back to what it should be.”
A team of researchers at Dalhousie University plans to monitor Planet Hydrogen’s process to study the impact on different species.
“Even though the theory says this is very safe and effective, we want to prove it and we want to prove it locally to make sure that that’s the case,” said Kelland.
Both Kelland and Estabrook believe hydrogen could be used for the shipping and trucking industries as well as transit fleets.
They point to a recent agreement between Canada and Germany for the export of green hydrogen as evidence of growing interest in the fuel and say Nova Scotia is well positioned as the Atlantic Gateway to the East.
A federal strategy on hydrogen was released in December 2020.