Hydrogen is “da bomb” for green energy in Manitoba

photo courtesy of H2MB

Finding viable green energy sources has become an accelerating global pursuit, as nations seek to curb GHG emissions and reach their climate change targets. Hydrogen is emerging as a key player. If you’re still on the sidelines regarding hydrogen, witness Canada’s recent agreement with Germany. Earlier this year, our nation committed to provide clean Canadian hydrogen to the Germans. 

Hydrogen is prized as an emerging energy source because, unlike coal and oil, it emits only water vapour and leaves virtually no residue in the air. Traditionally, hydrogen has most commonly been used in petroleum refining and fertilizer production. Transportation and utilities are among the emerging markets for this lightest of elements. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity, or power and heat.

The province of Manitoba has been stoking discussion on hydrogen for at least a couple of decades. Its 2003 report details the government’s summary of the opportunity and its vision for developing the sector. That vision is now being realized as new investments in green hydrogen are arising in the province.

Formed in 2020, H2MB is one of the new ventures looking to capitalize on the Manitoba opportunity. “Our founding team at H2MB noticed an opportunity, given Manitoba’s regional strengths, to build a green hydrogen production facility to serve the local, national and global export market,” says founder and CEO, Joshua Zaporzan. 

Manitoba has Canada’s only deep-water port at Hudson Bay. H2MB’s production facilities will be located in CentrePort, North America’s largest trimodal inland port. In addition, the province’s abundance of hydroelectric power has produced the lowest electricity prices in North America. This is great news for the production of green hydrogen.

“H2MB’s bread and butter is the utilization of Manitoba’s vast low-cost, renewable hydropower,” says Zaporzan. “We use this to generate hydrogen using a process called electrolysis, whereby our also-abundant resource of water is subjected to an electric voltage that splits water molecules into their parent hydrogen and oxygen molecules; the former of which is captured.”

Currently, the vast majority of hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels like natural gas and coal. These are known as gray and black hydrogen, respectively. With blue hydrogen, the carbon pollution is captured and sequestered during production. Blue hydrogen is considered clean energy, but green hydrogen produced through electrolysis, is the cleanest.

“At H2MB, our vision involves establishing a green fuel hub that couples production with key end users in the same vicinity, and with close proximity to other immediate and future users as well,” states Zaporzan. 

The company plans for phased and modular growth, and expects to reach production capability in 2024. With its central location in Winnipeg’s CentrePort, H2MB can access multiple highway transportation corridors as well as three Class 1 rail lines. 

H2MB hopes to not only meet demand, but ultimately also drive demand by offering a green fuel option at an affordable price that’s available locally, enabling the adoption of hydrogen-fuelled technologies that either already exist or are on the precipice. For example, there are already numerous commercially available fuel cell-electric vehicles available, but they stand no chance for utilization without a source of hydrogen available nearby,
Zaporzan says. 

Another hydrogen venture that is new to the province is Charbone Hydrogen. In mid-2022, Charbone announced a partnership with the city of Selkirk for a three-year land lease to launch the initial phase of a green hydrogen facility. That lease was executed in November. 

Charbone is a Canadian green hydrogen company established in North America. Charbone is also the initiator and one of the founders of the Manitoba Green Hydrogen Roundtable that now welcomes over twenty local stakeholders interested in the decarbonisation of the Manitoba economy on diverse sectors such as industrial applications and processes, light, medium and heavy transportation as well as the future aviation sector.

Based on the coast of British Columbia, Renewable Hydrogen Canada (RH2C) produces clean fuels from abundant natural resources in that province. The company is currently expanding into Manitoba. It will produce renewable methanol in northern Manitoba from renewable hydrogen and “forest-derived biogenic CO2.” RH2M will also use electrolysis to produce its green hydrogen. 

The hydrogen sector will bring new opportunities to the communities where it operates. It is welcomed not only at the base level of job creation and local prosperity, but also more broadly, to help facilitate a transition to a green energy economy that can trigger local, national and international prosperity. A recent National Post report said that the global hydrogen market is expected to reach more than $2.5 trillion by 2050. Many believe Canada could become a leading supplier.

The need for clean energy solutions is more urgent since Russia made war on Ukraine. As Russia continues to weaponize energy, Canada has put the word out that it is accelerating efforts to deploy renewable energy and clean hydrogen and it is working with other European partners to strengthen energy security. 

As with any new industry, a solid foundation needs to be built for the hydrogen sector. H2MB will work to build the industry and supply chain, first locally and then beyond. Those kinds of efforts will need to be duplicated around the world. “We will be a green fuel producer both at home and eventually, abroad. We will become an important node in the eventual establishment of a fully interconnected, inter-continental hydrogen supply grid,” says Zaporzan.


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