The Canadian province of British Columbia is establishing an office to expand hydrogen deployment rapidly and to streamline projects from proposal to construction. The BC Hydrogen Office will work with federal and local governments to help attract investments and simplify the multi-jurisdictional review and permitting processes.
There are already 40 hydrogen projects proposed or under construction in BC with more on the way. These projects represent $4.8 billion in proposed investment in the province. Many are small or medium-sized projects to provide local hydrogen supply or solutions, but some are major investments, including some of the largest proposed green hydrogen-production projects in the world.
Like all major energy projects, hydrogen projects are complex and require engagement and co-ordination across multiple levels of government, agencies, regulators, First Nations and stakeholders. Hydrogen projects also do not fit into existing federal or provincial regulatory frameworks. Developing a domestic market and retail delivery infrastructure will encourage hydrogen deployment in BC, the government said.
A 2019 provincial hydrogen study showed that by 2050, BC could expect hydrogen to provide a positive, $2.5-billion impact to the province’s annual gross domestic product, including economic activity from the domestic use and export of hydrogen and 3,750 new jobs in the province. Given B.C.’s proximity to export markets, it could capture a significant portion of the global hydrogen market, estimated to be worth more than $305 billion by 2050.
In 2021, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to release a comprehensive hydrogen strategy. Part of CleanBC, the BC Hydrogen Strategy includes 63 actions for government, industry and innovators to take over the short term (2020-25), medium term (2025-30) and long term (2030 and beyond). These include:
incentivizing the production of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen;
developing regional hydrogen hubs where production and demand are co-located;
financial supports for deploying fuel cell electric vehicles and infrastructure;
expanding the use of hydrogen across different industrial sectors and applications;
promoting the adoption of hydrogen in areas where it is most cost-effective in terms of emission reductions;
creating the B.C. Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy to drive the commercialization of new hydrogen technology; and
establishing ambitious carbon-intensity targets and a regulatory framework for carbon capture and storage.
BC has the resources to produce both green and blue hydrogen with low carbon intensity. More than 98% of BC’s electricity is renewable, allowing the production of green hydrogen via electrolysis. BC also has low-cost natural gas reserves, significant geological storage capacity and expertise in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, providing the potential to produce blue hydrogen from natural gas with adequate and permanent CCS.
Immediate priorities are to:
scale-up green hydrogen production using the abundant supply of clean, renewable electricity; and
establish a regulatory framework for CCS to enable blue hydrogen production while ensuring it has similar or lower emissions.
More than 50% of Canada’s hydrogen and fuel-cell companies are in BC; the province accounts for about 60% of Canada’s research investment in hydrogen and fuel-cell development.