About the Hydrogen Report

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On April 16, 2003 Minister Tim Sale released the Preliminary Hydrogen Opportunities Report (PDF) as prepared by the Manitoba Hydrogen Steering Committee and Working Groups. This report summarizes the results of preliminary assessments of hydrogen-related opportunities appropriate for Manitoba.

The most obvious connection to a Manitoba clean energy future is the hydroelectric resources of the province, which when combined with water electrolysis technologies provides the ability to produce clean hydrogen. Such hydrogen may have a variety of applications including possible export. It is important to note that producing bulk hydrogen solely for the purpose of utility-scale reconversion back to electricity within Manitoba would not make sense, given significant resulting energy losses. It is clear from the results of the assessments that any opportunities for large-scale hydrogen production from water electrolysis remain very long-term in nature, and will depend on the emergence of satisfactory market conditions, and lower long-term production costs than competing processes, particularly the large-scale production of hydrogen from natural gas. If acceptable conditions can be achieved, the potential is significant. Given its current hydroelectric advantage, Manitoba could be the first jurisdiction in North America where large-scale electrolysis production of hydrogen becomes cost-efficient. The province could also become self-sufficient in transportation fuels.

The path toward a long-term hydrogen future requires identifying and pursuing early stage opportunities, to allow Manitobans to capitalize on long-term opportunities. Potentially viable opportunities in the near- to medium-term for hydrogen will involve niche applications, because of the still costly nature of hydrogen technologies. Such niche opportunities may also represent economic development opportunities in their own right. The preliminary assessments undertaken by the Working Groups identified five priority niche areas for Manitoba, including transit buses and refueling, by-product hydrogen, direct-to-DC electricity applications for fuel cells, hydrogen safety and systems design, and other possible light-duty vehicle applications.

The potential Manitoba opportunities require specific conditions to be fulfilled in order to be successful. Many of the opportunities are subject to competition from non-hydrogen technologies or are subject to significant uncertainty, particularly regarding competitive energy prices such as for natural gas. All of the opportunities will require partnerships in order to be successfully implemented, in particular accessing existing and forthcoming programs of the Federal Government. Given the preliminary nature of assessments, the opportunities will require further evaluation in order to confirm suitability.

The Working Groups and Steering Committee identified eleven specific follow-up actions:

  1. Transit bus demonstration, including refueling and on-site hydrogen production.
  2. Fuel cell demonstration using by-product hydrogen.
  3. Development of Centre of Excellence on hydrogen.
  4. Monitoring progress of proposed hydrogen system at Manitoba Hydro's Dorsey Converter Station.
  5. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Government of Iceland on hydrogen development.
  6. Direct-to-DC electricity fuel cell demonstration for backup-power.
  7. Hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE) fleet vehicles demonstration.
  8. Investigation of non-fuel applications for by-product hydrogen.
  9. Investigation of niche light-duty vehicle manufacturing opportunities.
  10. Electricity export opportunities linked to clean hydrogen production.
  11. Evaluation of potential for identified non-hydrogen alternative energy technologies.

Given important uncertainties, not all identified actions may lead to successful outcomes. The first five of these actions are given highest priority because of time sensitivity. Follow-up evaluations and development of business case or public policy justifications thus will need to be undertaken rapidly. The assessments and opportunities are described in more detail in the report.

Contact Information:

Robert Parsons, MBA, P.Eng.
Hydrogen Specialist
Manitoba Growth, Enterprise and Trade
12th Floor - 155 Carlton Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3H8

Phone: (204) 945-6077
Fax: (204) 943-0031
Email: robert.parsons@gov.mb.ca

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