By Alex Binkley

Canada is well positioned to ride the shift to hydrogen as a major power source for the future, says Mark Kirby, President and CEO, of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (CHFCA).

Speaking to the Association of Canadian Port Authorities virtual annual conference, he said hydrogen offers a number of pathways to achieving the global goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 needed to mitigate climate change.

Hydrogen is ideally suited for powering ships, trains and trucks, he said. “Canada is in a strong position to become an international hydrogen fuel supplier. It’s a very sustainable fuel source and governments should support the development of projects that the  industry puts forward. Canada will need 200 million tonnes of clean hydrogen fuel annually for domestic use alone. “There are lots of issues to be worked out and government leadership is necessary to build up a national hydrogen infrastructure including a lot of progress on project development and usage support.”

The federal Clean Fuel Standard is helping propel the growth of hydrogen fuels by rewarding low carbon fuels and penalizing high carbon sources, he said. There are hydrogen fuel projects across the country with Ontario and Alberta having the leading number of them, followed by Quebec and British Columbia.

Hydrogen goes through a fuel cell to generate electricity without producing any greenhouse gas emissions and can be used in transportation as well as in industrial, processing, heating, and energy generation operations. Its widespread adoption in Canada would help stimulate investment in many other industries.

Jesse Fahnestock, Project Director, Global Maritime Forum (GMF) said an international coalition called Getting to Zero is aiming to achieve zero emission ships in service by 2030 along with the refueling infrastructure they need in ports. The coalition has the support of 150 companies and various international bodies. The Coalition intends to release by the end of the year its strategy to produce zero-emission shipping, which will include a description of how widespread use of zero or low-emission fuels can be achieved and how they will be delivered to users.

Various fuel sources will likely be adopted in the coming years to meet decarbonization goals, he said. “We expect to see a gradual movement toward zero-carbon goal. Achieving zero emissions will require concerted action by the entire industry. Existing actions won’t achieve the 2030 target.”

The International Maritime Organization will have a role to play in the transition but national, multinational and industry action will also be required. Significant retrofitting of the global fleet and the introduction of ships using zero carbon emission fuels is needed. “There will be fuels that play a short term role but they won’t get us to the 2050 goal.” Ports will have to ensure the presence of refueling equipment for those fuels.

One positive development has been the development of “green affordable hydrogen fuels. We are not flying blind. We should be on track by 2030. What the sector needs is clear national and international support for transitioning to the zero emissions targets and incentives to reach those goals,” he said.

It is expected that zero emission fuels will be available by 2026 and targeted to represent 50 per cent of maritime transportation fuel by 2030, with completion of the transition by 2050.