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.
The hydrogen needed for the Fort Saskatchewan project will ultimately be produced onsite at our Gate 5 facility using a piece of equipment known as an electrolyzer. While delivery of the electrolyzer has been delayed, ATCO continues to source a temporary supply of hydrogen from the vicinity. 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. In preparation for the electrolyzer delivery, work continues on the previously developed land and there will be no impact to the surrounding environment or wildlife. This work is on track for completion in mid-2023.
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)
Home and Business Inspections
In the spring/summer 2022, ATCO conducted inspections within the project zone to ensure our customers' piping and appliances were in proper working order and met today's gas code requirements prior to launch. The inspections were completed by qualified ATCO technicians who have completed training on hydrogen and the blending project. This service is still available to customers within the project footprint that have not yet completed one. Details on appointment bookings have been mailed to customers.
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 Australia, Germany, Japan, and South Korea. In fact, the Hawaiian gas network currently contains 10 to 15 per cent hydrogen and the Hong Kong gas network contains approximately 50 per cent hydrogen. 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.