Original Published on Sep 02, 2022 at 06:45
By Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
STEPHENVILLE – On Tuesday evening, Aug. 23, Stephenville was abuzz as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz landed on the tarmac. The world leaders quickly made their way to 1 Harbour Drive to sign the agreement that will see Canada exporting hydrogen to Germany.
With political and Indigenous leaders in attendance and numerous business representatives, a ceremony was held to signify the partnership, which will establish a new supply chain across the Atlantic Ocean. The Joint Declaration of Intent that was signed will see both countries investing in hydrogen development, with an anticipated start of 2025 for export.
The agreement was signed ahead of environmental approval by the province of the proposed World Energy GH2 project that will take place on the Port au Port Peninsula.
On Friday Aug. 5, Bernard Davis, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced he required an environmental impact statement before approving the project. He appointed an environmental assessment committee to provide guidelines for the preparation of this statement and to provide both technical and scientific advice. To date no final decision has been made to allow the planned 164 wind turbine project to begin production on the Port au Port Peninsula.
The project itself is stated to be a ‘green hydrogen’ project, which means the hydrogen is produced by using fresh water sources to split the hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity – wind energy. Canada contains 20 per cent of the world’s total freshwater resources.
The plan is for the hydrogen to then be converted into ammonia for export, to facilitate ease of transport, as liquid hydrogen itself is notoriously difficult and expensive to transport. In fact, according to a special report by rechargenews.com, the first shipment of pure liquid hydrogen left Australia on Jan. 28 bound for Japan, and it could very well prove to be an extremely wasteful method of transport.
The volumetric energy density of ammonia is 59 per cent higher than that of standard liquid hydrogen. This means, theoretically, it would take more than three shipments of liquid hydrogen to transport the same about of energy as two shipments of liquid ammonia.
Additionally, the cost of liquid hydrogen based on green hydrogen would be nearly 15 times higher than green ammonia, and the pure hydrogen would require a much colder storage temperature over long voyages, meaning additional costs.
Overall, the decision to transport green ammonia over green hydrogen seems to be the more economic option. However, the environmental impacts of the production, storage, and construction of the wind turbines remain significant concerns to many residents throughout the region.
Specifics and details of the project itself were not discussed at the ceremony, leaving many questions still unanswered.
Instead the focus remained on the signing of the agreement between Canada and Germany, and what potential the future could hold for the province and the even the rest of the country by moving forward with a green energy alternative such as wind power.
Premier Andrew Furey welcomed the agreement.
“This is a historic day for our province, our country, and indeed the world. The establishment of the Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance today is great news. Newfoundland and Labrador is well-positioned to produce green hydrogen due to its abundant developed and undeveloped hydro resources, surplus grid energy, strong wind resources, available Crown land and fresh water, deep marine ports, and proximity to markets in North America and Europe. Our government took the bold step of lifting the moratorium on wind to work with our regional, national and international partners on the development of this resource, which will help our province to thrive in the low-carbon economy of the future,” said Furey.
The moratorium was lifted on April 5, 2022, for commercial wind development across the province as a way to focus on meeting global energy demand as the world seeks new ways to address climate change. Since then, numerous companies have expressed interest in harnessing the province’s wind resources for production and export of hydrogen/ammonia.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the signing of this agreement shows dedication on all levels.
“It is a demonstration of the commitment of – not just one order of government – but of all orders of government and, indeed, of all Canadians in building a better future. Yes, good jobs help here in Canada, but the positive impact everywhere around the world, particularly in our friends like in Germany,” said Trudeau. “We’re here today because of a shared vision of the future we want to build where our workers have good jobs, where our economies are strong and resilient, where our kids breathe clean air and inherit a healthy planet. That’s why we’re here and that’s why the agreement we are signing here this afternoon is so important.”
Trudeau said the Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance is an historic step forward for a shared future.
“Our target is clear – working towards initial exports of Canadian hydrogen to Germany by 2025, and our outcomes are clear as well – creating middle class jobs and local growth while delivering clean energy that will help fight climate change. This is a modern alliance for a modern world where a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand.”
Trudeau noted that, at the expo to one side of the stage, there were many examples of exciting Canadian hydrogen innovation on display.
“German companies are already signing deals to buy made-in-Canada hydrogen. There is no doubt the demand is there,” said Trudeau. “When it comes to energy security, the imperative is there too. Canada will always stand by our European allies, including Germany, in the face of Russian aggression. We’ve already pulled forward planned oil/gas production to add supply to the global market, but, for tomorrow, we must look to resources like Hydrogen, which can and will be clean and renewable. We can be the reliable supplier of clean energy a net zero world needs.”
Trudeau also acknowledged the naysayers and skeptics.
“There’s always those who continue to say that hydrogen is far off or even uncertain. That’s not what we’ve seen today. We’ve seen where the world is going on energy. Russian’s illegal, unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine has caused, in the short term, energy pressures that we are working very hard to try and counter and support as a supplier of energy to the world, but that invasion of the Ukraine has accelerated the path towards the future we knew was coming – a future where we’re not simply no longer reliant on Russian oil and gas, but where we reduce our reliance on oil and gas altogether and transition towards the cleaner sources of energy a net zero world requires.”
Trudeau said that the country, particularly Atlantic Canada, will get to take advantage of their renewable resources.
“We are here to celebrate, to launch, and to begin. I say begin knowing that many of these technologies that are being harnessed and developed very rapidly have been around for years, decades, but the opportunity we have to accelerate, to step up, is extraordinarily exciting.”
By moving forward and taking the lead now, Trudeau believes that Canada will continue to lead the globe on energy and a better future.
“Stepping up now is how we deliver good jobs, how we deliver a growing economy, how we deliver a cleaner future, and how we continue to make the case open, responsible, free democracies are the right solution. We cannot, as a world, continue to rely on authoritarian countries that will weaponize energy policies as Russia is, that don’t concern themselves with environmental outcomes or labour rights or even human rights.”
Equally as enthused about the agreement was German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Scholz shared that by living in Hamburg, close to the North Sea, he appreciates coastal areas with strong winds.
“Regarding renewable energy, the German coast, however, cannot keep up with the conditions you have here,” said Scholz. “Hydrogen will play a major role in our future energy supply, especially in sectors that are difficult to decarbonize otherwise, such as industry, shipping, aviation, or heavy traffic.”
Scholz explained that Germany’s hydrogen needs will surpass what that country can produce.
“According to our national hydrogen strategy published in June 2020, Germany expects a need of 90-110 terabit hours of hydrogen in 2030. We plan to build substantial electrolysis capacity in Germany. Still, we have to cover the majority of our hydrogen demands by imports, and we have to keep in mind the prognosis I just mentioned is based on figures prior to the Russian war of aggression. As a consequence, our need might be even higher under the new circumstances.”
Scholz said Atlantic Canada presents a huge opportunity for Germany, but also for Canada to contribute to green energy transition.
“Canada is a close and like-minded partner in the energy transition. We have to talk about short-term constraints in energy, but in the long run, the real potential lies in green hydrogen from the wind-rich, thinly populated Atlantic provinces.”
Scholz said the signing of this agreement will move the partnership between the two countries in the right direction.
“Since the beginning of our bilateral energy partnership, hydrogen has been the area within the constructive cooperation. I look forward to the signing of the joint declaration of intent on the Canadian-German Hydrogen Alliance, which will intensify our cooperation on this important technology and shift it to a more strategic avenue.”
Scholz agreed that the time to act is now.
“Canadian and German companies are well positioned in the hydrogen technology market but producers from other countries, especially China and the U.S., are gaining more and more market shares by scaling up their production capacities. Therefore, we need to take action in order to maintain and further extend our front runner position. To this end, all stakeholders must work together and contribute to our common success.”
Scholz said he is excited at the opportunities the signing of this agreement means.
“Here in Stephenville, we certainly do not fight against windmills. We fight for wind turbines. We fight for a clean energy supply. We fight for a substantial contribution to limit climate change. I look forward to working together with you on making this real.”
Premier Andrew Furey echoed these sentiments.
“We all know that we are in the midst of an energy revolution and Newfoundland and Labrador has what is required to be a leader. We are all familiar with stories of climate change. They are dominating the news across the globe. Our current climate emergency requires our immediate collective attention and commitment to acting on change as an action item in every decision we make as leaders.”
Furey said this is a new approach to re-imagine global supply chains based on new technologies and a shifting geopolitical landscape.
“These, my friends, are generational steps. We are beyond thrilled that those first footsteps are being taken here in Stephenville, in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is more than just sharing energy and our collective will to re-imagine the supply chain. It fortifies the importance of democracies in the face of autocratic rule. It reinforces our collective shared beliefs in democratic values; freedom, equality, justice, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law.”
Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose stated that he was overjoyed at the event because of what it signified for the town and surrounding communities, let alone the province and country.
“There’s a word called ‘levitating’. I think that’s a pretty good word to describe it,” said Rose. “It’s beyond my greatest and wildest dreams to have been a part of attracting an industry working with two G7 nations, our own and Germany, to solve a world energy crisis. Our richest resource now is wind. It was so good for drying clothes in our town, but I’ll use a statement now – when I go outside and the wind is in my face, I’m so happy.”