Fort Saskatchewan Hydrogen Blending Project
In a first-of-its-kind project for Alberta, ATCO began delivering a blend of natural gas containing five per cent hydrogen by volume into a subsection of the Fort Saskatchewan natural gas distribution system in October 2022. About 2,100 customers became the first in the province to use hydrogen-blended natural gas to safely and reliably fuel their homes and businesses. Importantly, because the combustion of hydrogen emits only water, this project will reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of the associated natural gas stream. Hydrogen blending is becoming popular in advanced economies around the world, including Australia, where ATCO’s Jandakot Operations Centre in Perth has also begun blending hydrogen into the gas distribution networks.
Located at ATCO’s Gate 5 facility, the hydrogen needed for this project is being temporarily sourced from local providers. However, due to supply chain and other issues, a consistent supply cannot be guaranteed, and customers may therefore receive anywhere from zero to five per cent blended gas during this time. Work is on track for this fall to prepare the site’s previously developed land, and by late 2023, ATCO expects that the hydrogen will be produced onsite through an electrolyzer. There will be no impact to the surrounding environment or wildlife from construction activities.
The Fort Saskatchewan Hydrogen Blending project is intended to be used as stepping-stone into the Canadian hydrogen market, allowing ATCO to demonstrate its abilities in the sector while working through regulatory, commercial, technical, and public engagement requirements, including advancing key legislation changes for Alberta's energy transition. Once complete, it will act as a critical building block for our energy future, bringing many benefits to our provincial economy, and above all, our customers.
Highlights: The Government of Alberta committed $2.8 million to the project through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA).
- Blending hydrogen into natural gas reduces the GHG intensity of the natural gas stream, thus creating a lower carbon energy for our customers.
- Leverages our natural gas resources, existing infrastructure, and energy expertise.
- Alberta can produce ultra-low emissions hydrogen at a lower cost than almost any other jurisdiction in the world.
- Affordably decarbonizes the production of heat, which is vital to achieve Canada’s long-term emissions and energy goals.
- ERA Hydrogen Blending Announcement (July 2020)
- In late 2023, some customers in the project zone will see an increase from five to 20 per cent hydrogen blended into their natural gas stream. This increase will remain safe and reliable – in fact, some ATCO employees have already used it in their homes.
- Set to open in 2023, construction is underway at our Gate 5 station to build Canada's first 100% hydrogen building! The facility will showcase innovative hydrogen and decarbonization technologies that will be trialled in collaboration with industry and post-secondary institutions.
- Along with developer, Qualico, ATCO is also studying the logistics, technology requirements and other considerations involved in safely and affordably developing 100 per cent pure hydrogen communities, with findings eventually contributing to a proposed new sub-division in Strathcona county.
Inspections and Safety Information
Planning for the Fort Saskatchewan Hydrogen Blending pilot project also included detailed assessments and rigorous testing on the impacts of 5 and 20 per cent hydrogen use in common natural gas appliances such as stoves, furnaces, hot water heaters, and more. ATCO and other industry participants have also worked with the Canadian Standards Association to provide expert technical advice and information on the use of hydrogen in appliances. In 2022, ATCO conducted inspections within the Fort Saskatchewan project zone to ensure our customers' piping and appliances were in proper working order and met all gas code requirements prior to launch. The inspections were carried out by qualified ATCO technicians with specialized training on hydrogen and the blending project. This service is still available to customers within the project footprint that have not yet completed one. Email us at H₂@atco.com to book an appointment.
There is growing evidence that hydrogen houses and buildings can be as safe, or safer than the natural gas that fuels our homes today. In fact, the use of 100% pure hydrogen eliminates all carbon monoxide which is the largest risk associated with the use of natural gas. This has already been studied, undergone regulatory review and demonstrated in the U.K. Also, many Europeans are already living in single family homes and multi-family apartments with appliances that are fully certified for 100% hydrogen use. Similar investigations have begun for the Alberta context, including ATCO's study on the viability of a 100% pure hydrogen community in central Alberta.
Is hydrogen safe?
Yes. As with natural gas, hydrogen can be produced, transported, stored and used safely. Just like natural gas, it must be treated with respect and with the proper care and handling. It is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic and non-poisonous gas that when burned, produces only heat and water vapour with no carbon emissions.
At ATCO, safety is always the first and top priority in everything we do. We care deeply about our people and our customers and would never move forward with a project that is not safe. Our experts conducted numerous inspections and testing of the target network infrastructure and customers’ domestic appliances and piping to ensure safety before we began blending the hydrogen into the natural gas stream.
Hydrogen is becoming central to the decarbonization plans in many advanced economies around the globe such as Germany, Japan, South Korea and others. The Hawaiian gas network currently contains 10 to 15 per cent hydrogen, and a two per cent blend is being trialed in Ontario. As well, ATCO's Jandakot Operations Centre in Perth, Australia, has also begun blending hydrogen into the natural gas distribution networks.
Will the Fort Saskatchewan H2 blending project affect my natural gas bill?
No. Customers in the project zone will not be billed any differently than customers outside of the project zone. There will be a minor increase in the volume of gas needed throughout the network to provide the same amount of heat to homes and businesses. But because customers pay for energy consumed, not the volume of gas, there will be no change to the energy costs.
Why would you want to blend hydrogen into natural gas?
Blending hydrogen into natural gas is not a new technology, as there are several systems already in operation in Canada, Europe and Hawaii, as well as at our own Jandakot Operations Centre in Perth, Australia. Doing so reduces the GHG intensity of the natural gas stream, thus creating a lower carbon energy for our customers. With a focus on safety and affordability, ATCO has a long-term approach to managing and minimizing our environmental impacts and we continue to grow this and many other GHG reduction initiatives, contributing to Alberta’s and Canada’s greater climate goals.
Will this impact my appliances?
Extensive research has found that hydrogen blended into natural gas systems at ratios up to 20 per cent does not impact appliances. Be sure to check out our appliance testing video that shows how the different blends of hydrogen affect the look of the flame in a stovetop, furnace, and fireplace. Additionally, there will not be any noticeable change in your gas supply at five per cent blended gas - the look, sound, and smell will remain consistent.
Has this blending technology been used before, or are we the first?
Several hydrogen blending projects are currently operating in Canada, Europe and Hawaii, as well as ATCO's Jandakot Operations Centre in Perth, Australia. This is the first project of its kind here in Alberta that uses existing local resources and infrastructure to blend hydrogen into a subsection of Fort Saskatchewan’s residential natural gas distribution system.
What do Gas Fitters need to know about this project?
Extensive testing has found that ATCO’s planned hydrogen blend rates do not impact end use appliances or existing piping material. ATCO has conducted detailed assessments and determined that the existing gas code, CSA B149.1, is appropriate for blends up to 25 per cent.
Homes and businesses within the project zone now have tags at their meter set and stickers on their appliances to identify them as receiving hydrogen blended gas.
Read the full Third-party Gas Fitters information sheet.