ATCO at the forefront of hydrogen development

In June, we took readers back to high school chemistry class with our blog post about ongoing work to make hydrogen a part of Canada’s low-carbon future.

With its investments in hydrogen, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) member, ATCO, has moved well beyond classroom chemistry. They’re advancing hydrogen projects in Canada, and in Western Australia – where hydrogen development is advancing quickly.

In today’s blog post, we’ll provide a quick overview of ATCO’s growing role in developing and using low-carbon hydrogen fuel in both countries.


ATCO’s hydrogen blending project


In July 2020, Canadian Utilities, an ATCO subsiduary, announced a $2.8 million award to advance a hydrogen blending project in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.

Canadian Utilities will blend five per cent hydrogen by volume into a section of its Fort Saskatchewan residential natural gas distribution network. Once complete, this will be Canada’s largest hydrogen blending project, and a first for Alberta. Because burning hydrogen emits only water, blending hydrogen into natural gas will lower the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of the natural gas stream for those customers.

“This project will not only create jobs, but a roadmap for hydrogen in Alberta, using low-cost, responsibly produced natural gas while leveraging the province’s existing investment in carbon capture technology,” said George Lidgett, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Utilities, Canadian Utilities. “Our vision is to enable Western Canada’s world-class natural gas industry to grow in tandem with Alberta’s hydrogen economy, including supplying eventual exports to global markets where demand is steadily growing.”

The company aims to begin commercial and community activities for the Fort Saskatchewan Blending Project in September. Construction is slated to begin during the first quarter of 2021.

Image courtesy of ATCO.

ATCO in Australia: Clean Energy Innovation Hub


Blending hydrogen with natural gas is common in many countries, including Australia. That’s where ATCO’s Clean Energy Innovation Hub (CEIH) is already generating hydrogen energy and delivering it through the existing gas network.

CEIH is a testing bed for hybrid energy solutions in Australia. It integrates natural gas, solar photovoltaic, battery storage and hydrogen. And it’s providing insights into how the existing gas distribution infrastructure can continue to benefit customers as part of the future energy mix.

Image courtesy of ATCO.


Building on the CEIH research, ATCO is now looking into the feasibility of a commercial-scale hydrogen production plant. If the results are positive, next steps will be to build and begin operating a commercial hydrogen production plant by March 2022. And information from that study will feed into the company’s decisions on other hydrogen investment options.

ATCO has also teamed up with Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group to build and operate hydrogen refueling facilities for vehicles in Western Australia.

Global interest in hydrogen includes use for powering vehicles, heating buildings, and generating electricity. Canada currently has work underway to set the stage for provincial and national hydrogen strategies. CEPA members and other pipeline companies are actively engaged in developing hydrogen and other low-carbon fuel alternatives. And pipelines will play a big part in hydrogen delivery.