ATCO project blends hydrogen with natural gas to reduce emissions

A first-of-its-kind project for Alberta is poised to be Canada’s largest hydrogen blending project, a big step toward decarbonizing the production of heat.

ATCO is moving forward with a project that will blend hydrogen into a subsection of its Fort Saskatchewan natural gas distribution system to lower the amount of carbon intensity. The project will deliver gas comprising five per cent hydrogen to roughly 5,000 homes and businesses in the community.

“This project is an important first step for Alberta, which has all the ingredients to be a leader in the hydrogen economy—including the ability to produce near zero-emission hydrogen at a lower cost than most jurisdictions in the world,” said George Lidgett, executive vice-president and general manager, Canadian Utilities Inc., an ATCO Company.

Emissions Reduction Alberta has committed $2.8 million toward this project worth $5.7 million through its Natural Gas Challenge. Hydrogen blending is common in other countries, like Australia, where ATCO’s Clean Energy Innovation Hub is generating hydrogen energy with the help of solar power.

In Alberta, ATCO will use hydrogen derived from natural gas, which supports the ongoing exploration and production of Alberta’s natural gas resources and demonstrates the safe and effective blending of hydrogen into the natural gas distribution system. The intent is to eventually leverage Alberta’s existing carbon capture and sequestration infrastructure to store emissions associated with the production process.

“What we’re doing is working with the community and ERA to determine how far we can go with hydrogen blending. Is it safe? What impact does it have to customers as well as what are the regulatory implications for our organization and for our customers?” says Greg Caldwell, ATCO’s director of energy systems innovation.

Caldwell explains consumers will not be able to notice an impact on appliances with a five per cent hydrogen blend. The dark blue flame colour and noiseless effect of natural gas remains.

“What we’re hoping to do by starting at a five per cent blend is work with customers to educate them on the safety and on the benefits of hydrogen—both the lower emissions, as well as the fact that it’s just as safe as natural gas.”