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Hydrogen Power

Massive blue hydrogen investment planned in North America

Projects in Alberta and North Dakota aim to create low-carbon hydrogen from natural gas

by Alexander H. Tullo
June 11, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 22


A photo of the Dakota Gasification plant.
Credit: Basin Electric Power Cooperative
Mitsubishi Power may redevelop the Dakota Gasification plant in Beulah, North Dakota.

Blue hydrogen is taking a big step forward in North America as Air Products and Chemicals and Mitsubishi Power unveil ambitious projects in Canada and the US, respectively.

Air Products plans to spend $1.1 billion to build a complex in Edmonton, Alberta, that makes blue hydrogen, so-called because by-product carbon dioxide is captured and stored.

Officials say the facility, which will open in 2024, will be the first of its kind in Canada. The technology is based on a reformer that makes hydrogen from natural gas. Some 95% of the CO2 will be captured and sent to the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line. This network already gathers CO2 from emitters such as the fertilizer maker Nutrien and sends it to oil fields, where it assists in oil recovery and is stored underground.

Air Products will construct a hydrogen liquefaction facility to supply industrial customers and operators of hydrogen-powered trucks and buses. The firm will also build a hydrogen-based power plant.

At a press conference with local officials, Air Products CEO Seifi Ghasemi said this is only the “first phase” of the company’s plans for Edmonton, and that Air Products intends more hydrogen projects there and elsewhere in Canada. More broadly, Air Products has been trying to cultivate a business in low-carbon hydrogen for fuel. It is already involved in a $5 billion alternative energy complex in Saudi Arabia that will make green hydrogen for ammonia by splitting water using renewable energy.

“We are the leading producer of hydrogen worldwide,” Ghasemi said. “And we intend to be the leading producer in blue hydrogen and also in green hydrogen.”

The US may get a blue hydrogen hub as well. Mitsubishi Power and the oil and gas firm Bakken Energy are contemplating buying and redeveloping the Dakota Gasification plant near Beulah, North Dakota, to make hydrogen.

Run by the Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Dakota Gasification is a unique operation that gasifies coal and converts it into natural gas, nitrogen fertilizers, and petrochemical feedstocks. The facility has struggled because of low commodity prices in recent years, and operators have been considering eliminating coal gasification. The plant already captures 2 million metric tons of CO2 per year, which is sent via pipeline to Saskatchewan for oil recovery. Project details remain confidential while due diligence is conducted, Mitsubishi says.



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