Report analyzes the carbon intensity of hydrogen production pathways in B.C.

Vancouver, B.C. – March 16, 2023 – The B.C. Hydrogen Office, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (the Ministry), and the B.C. Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE) have released new research on hydrogen carbon intensity (CI) thresholds that could help shape the province’s emerging clean hydrogen sector and meet legislated greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2050.

Building on the vision of the B.C. Hydrogen Strategy, the Carbon Intensity of Hydrogen Production Methods report was produced by Deloitte Canada and (S&T)2 Consultants Inc. on behalf of CICE and the Ministry. Using the GHGenius lifecycle analysis model, the report quantifies the carbon intensity – a measure of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of energy produced – of possible low carbon hydrogen production pathways that have the greatest potential for application in B.C., including:

  • Electrolytic hydrogen production (Electrolysis)
  • Hydrogen produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage of carbon dioxide (Methane Reforming)
  • Hydrogen produced from the thermal decomposition of methane at high temperatures (Methane Pyrolysis)

“Our government recognizes the importance the emerging hydrogen sector will have in reducing the impacts of climate change and contributing to British Columbia’s economy,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “The study released today is crucial to making the right decisions regarding hydrogen’s role in decarbonization, and will help policymakers make decisions to support low carbon hydrogen production and use in B.C.”

More than 50% of Canada’s hydrogen and fuel-cell companies are in B.C., and the province accounts for about 60% of research investment in hydrogen and fuel-cell development. Low carbon hydrogen provides solutions for hard-to-decarbonize sectors of the economy where direct electrification is not practical. This includes medium and heavy-duty transportation such as trucking, marine shipping, aviation and rail, and certain existing industrial processes that rely on hydrogen as a feedstock.

“The conclusions and recommendations in this ground-breaking report further define hydrogen’s role in the decarbonization of B.C.’s energy systems,” said Ged McLean, Executive Director of CICE. “A deeper understanding of carbon intensity across the various hydrogen production pathways means we can direct innovation where it will have the most impact and make strategic investments in clean energy companies with the greatest potential to scale.”

As the market transitions away from higher carbon emitting energy sources, the work undertaken in this study can be used to develop policy, identify and select technology, and invest in production pathways that yield low carbon hydrogen for use in B.C. Understanding the connection between emissions reduction goals and technology readiness will be important to keep B.C.’s hydrogen economy growing efficiently and effectively.

“We know that hydrogen will play a critical role in decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy industry and transportation – what we all need to focus on now is how and where hydrogen is produced and the carbon impacts of production,” said Nathan Steeghs, Partner in Sustainability & Climate Change for Deloitte Canada. “Otherwise, we risk investing a lot of capital into infrastructure that will have a marginal impact on achieving carbon reduction goals.”

Key findings of the Carbon Intensity of Hydrogen Production Methods report include:

  • Hydrogen produced in B.C. today can achieve cradle-to-plant-gate carbon intensities as low as 11.9 gCO₂e/MJ, with potential future reductions driven primarily by policy, technology, and market factors such as natural gas fugitive emission reductions, increased carbon capture rates, and market availability for solid carbon.
  • Within plant-gate boundaries, certain methane reforming and methane pyrolysis technologies can result in comparable carbon intensities to electrolysis. Beyond plant-gate boundaries, variable downstream parameters such as transportation have significant impacts on lifecycle CI.
  • Modelling of achievable reductions over time show that carbon intensities may decrease further to 8.2 gCO₂e/MJ for hydrogen produced from pyrolysis by 2050, below that of electrolytic hydrogen.
  • Blending hydrogen at approximately 20% by volume (21.5 million GJ of hydrogen) into the province’s natural gas network for utility heating can achieve emission reductions of 350,000 to 815,000 tonnes CO₂e/year, resulting in a 0.5% to 1.3% reduction in overall B.C. GHG emissions.

Download the report.

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