Energy

88-megawatt Canadian hydro-to-hydrogen plant to open in 2023

88-megawatt Canadian hydro-to-...
The Rundle hydro plant in the Canadian Rockies is one of the many hydro projects that put Canada at #4 on the list of hydrogen-producing countries
The Rundle hydro plant in the Canadian Rockies is one of the many hydro projects that put Canada at #4 on the list of hydrogen-producing countries
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The Rundle hydro plant in the Canadian Rockies is one of the many hydro projects that put Canada at #4 on the list of hydrogen-producing countries
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The Rundle hydro plant in the Canadian Rockies is one of the many hydro projects that put Canada at #4 on the list of hydrogen-producing countries

German multinational Thysenkrupp has won the contract to build and operate a huge hydro-electrolysis facility in Quebec, which will use one of the world's most powerful electrolyzers to produce some 11,100 metric tons of green hydrogen annually.

Canada's mountainous terrain offers exceptional opportunities for clean hydroelectricity generation, and the country has worked to maximize its advantages. Some 61 percent of the country's total electricity generation comes from hydro plants totaling some 82 GW of production capacity, and this country of just 37.5 million people ranks fourth in the world in total hydro production, trailing only the USA, Brazil and China.

Now, it's looking toward hydrogen. Government-owned power company Hydro-Quebec, the biggest energy producer in the country, has commissioned a CAD200 million (US$159 million) electrolysis plant in Varennes, near Montreal, which will use hydroelectricity to power a giant electrolyzer, converting water into 11,100 metric tons of green hydrogen and 88,000 metric tons of oxygen a year.

This will not initially be for export; the 88-MW plant's output will supply clean energy and oxygen to a nearby recycling plant, where it'll be used to convert non-recyclable waste into biofuels instead of sending it to landfill.

But eventually, Canada hopes plants like this can convert its enormous hydro potential into a clean energy export business, powering tomorrow's fuel cell vehicles and aircraft, feeding into more integrated hydrogen economies and industrial use cases, and selling as a feed stock from which carbon-neutral synthetic fuels can be manufactured.

Hydro-Quebec says it's also looking into green H2 as a potential bulk energy storage medium, although that'll present some challenges – we wonder if it'd be more efficient to simply plonk the water back up the hill with a pumped hydro energy storage system.

The new hydro-electrolysis plant is due to be commissioned in 2023.

Source: Thysenkrupp

12 comments
12 comments
martinwinlow
And doesn't it all sound wonderful?! Except that by the time the H2 (hydrogen) has been converted back into electricity in a fuel cell, you are left with *at best* 30% of the original electrical energy. Therefore, this is a complete and utter waste of time, effort and money. As a sensible alternative, that $200m could be used to build eg a huge battery which, on turn, could be used to store the electrical energy 'directly' and at an efficiency in excess of 90% and then used to stabilise the grid... or something, you know, actually useful.
GeoffreyR.Gunning
I wonder what they will do with all that oxygen.
TechGazer
There are plenty of uses for hydrogen as a feedstock, which would otherwise be produced from fossil fuels, so this project does sound worthwhile, especially since the pure O2 is also useful. I do think that the dream of hydrogen as the main energy carrier/storage for society has passed its time. Battery technology has improved far faster than technology for storing or handling hydrogen, so hydrogen has basically lost the race.

I think the main support for a hydrogen economy is from people who think they can form a new monopoly to exploit. Battery technology has less fixed assets (pipelines, pumps, etc) to form a strong monopoly on. Before I went offgrid, my electrical bill was mostly charges for infrastructure, administration, and so forth.
FB36
"Green Hydrogen" is explosive & so it is extremely bad idea to use it for energy storage and/or any kind of land/sea/air vehicles!
Are we seriously thinking never there will be any leaks/ruptures of hydrogen gas tanks (which could easily cause massive explosions)?

& why we need hydrogen exactly?
All kinds of (light) gasoline vehicles are already well on their way to become fully electric!
& all kinds of heavy trucks & trains & ships & agriculture/construction/mining/military diesel vehicles could easily switch to biodiesel fuel (which maybe produced from many kinds of industrial/agricultural/forestry waste & maybe even from trash & sewage)!
(& biodiesel could be easily turned to jet fuel!)

buzzclick
Quebec is lucky to have a sparsely populated north with lots of rivers and lakes which allow it to have a relatively green source of power. I believe there is already a research and development facility in Varennes, so this may be another installation to explore energy alternatives, especially since Quebecers in general don't care for nuclear power having decommissioned a nuclear plant some 10 years ago. No huge battery facility is necessary with Hydro electricity because it's much more constant than wind/solar. Oxygen is a gas used in many processes, including welding and medical.
michael_dowling
The Hydrogen Economy just will not die. H2 is difficult to handle,and you lose 40% right off the bat when you compress it. It makes metals brittle. As martinwinlow says,by the time it gets to the fuel cell powered vehicle's wheels,it is about 22% efficient. https://insideevs.com/news/332584/efficiency-compared-battery-electric-73-hydrogen-22-ice-13/
Peter Stegmeier
i wonder what Quebec will do when they're fresh water is used up. Isn't there a shortage of fresh water in a lot of the world and they want to use to power our toys. We can't live or grow anything without water. How much water can we safely waste before we have a real climate change? Yes I know there looks like there's a lot of water out there, but can we really risk wasting any of it.
Piet Strydom
95% of existing hydrogen is produced from fossils. That needs to be replaced.

Hydrogen is not only used as a power source in electric vehicles, or as a source for electricity, but can also be used for iron ore reduction, and steel manufacturer, both as reduction agent as well as energy source for the process. Giving truly green steel. It can be used to replace natural gas in heating.

In fact in ten years time, the world will need about 10 to twelve times as much hydrogen as what is currently manufactured.
DaveWesely
So Quebec has an abundance of hydroelectric energy. The best kind. It can be ramped up and down quickly to meet demand and doesn't pump CO2 into the atmosphere. So what do they do with it? Use it to melt old plastic so it can be burned - to dump more CO2 into the atmosphere!
There is nothing wrong with old plastic and wood products in landfills. It is a form of carbon sequestration. This "progress" makes me want to cry.
Aross
Although interesting, as a Canadian I am disappointing that, once again, we are turning over control and management of our natural resources to a foreign entity. I can not believe that we can not find someone here to manage this. Given the fiasco with imported PPEs and now the Covid-19 vaccines I think it is more important than ever to retain control of out own destinies.
As for the waste of water, most of this runs off to the ocean and is recycled as rain and snow which ends up back where it started. The extra oxygen could be used to supply hospitals, who in times of respiratory viruses like covid-19 need all they can get.
When hydrogen is used it combines with oxygen to produce heat and recombines as water so back to it's original state.
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