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Eastern Canada Aims for Clean Energy Hub as 3 Communities Vie for Investment

Canada’s East Coast emerged this week as a hotbed of clean energy investment, with a high-profile green hydrogen announcement in Stephenville, Newfoundland by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz augmented—and possibly one-upped—by a new green ammonia project in Nova Scotia and talk of a third production plant in New Brunswick.

The immediate headlines came out of Stephenville, where Trudeau and Scholz signed a non-binding agreement to get green hydrogen production and exports under way by 2025. But then, with observers raising flags about the “extremely ambitious” timeline attached to that project, Nova Scotia’s EverWind Fuels announced a green ammonia deal with Düsseldorf-based Uniper SE, while the Port of Belledune in northern New Brunswick said it had its own plans in the works with a green hydrogen and ammonia developer.

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EverWind’s deal with Uniper calls for the German utility giant to buy 500,000 tonnes per year of green ammonia from a new production facility at Point Tupper, Nova Scotia, the Globe and Mail reports. The Globe says EverWind is touting Point Tupper as a multi-phase venture “which is in advanced stages of development and is expected to reach commercial operation in early 2025.”

EverWind spokesperson Ken Summers said the facility would produce green hydrogen from onshore wind and a mix of other certified green power sources in Nova Scotia, then convert it to ammonia. “Further phases of the facility will be powered by offshore wind, which enables the production of more than 10 million tonnes a year of green ammonia and will be serviced by EverWind’s existing marine infrastructure,” the Globe writes.

Last week, EverWind President Trent Vichie said the company had C$1 billion lined up to build the first phase of the project, relying on power from the provincial grid. A second phase, valued at more than $7 billion, would add onshore wind turbines and boost ammonia production to a million tonnes per year by 2026.

In a statement, Uniper CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach called the project a “very promising opportunity to source green ammonia based on excellent conditions and governmental relations.” He said one of his company’s goals is “the effective decarbonization of other industries as well as its own, while still being able to provide security of supply.”

In New Brunswick, the Port of Belledune is also counting on a currently coal-heavy provincial grid for renewable power to support green hydrogen production, CBC reports. The port is trying to develop a project with Stamford, Connecticut-based Cross River Infrastructure Partners.

“We want to attract investment here and industries here to use cleaner fuels to produce their products,” said port CEO Denis Caron. “On one hand today, we’re talking about the export opportunities into Germany and maybe globally, but we’re also looking at domestic use of it here, as well.”

Belledune is turning to hydrogen as a “possible revenue replacement” when the community’s coal plant shuts down in 2030, CBC says. The town also lost jobs and revenue when a local smelter closed in 2019.

Caron told CBC the hydrogen plant is part of a larger vision of a “green energy hub” to allow Belledune to continue as an industrial centre, in partnership with the nearby Pabineau First Nation. “We’re still looking at industrial development, but doing it in a greener way with green fuel,” he said.

In Newfoundland, behind the triumphant announcement by two heads of government, a consultant is pointing to an “extremely ambitious” development timeline and a lack of public input as the biggest risks facing the one-gigawatt, 164-turbine wind farm proposal from St. John’s based World Energy GH2.

Already, the provincial government is insisting on a more complete environmental assessment before it greenlights the project. St. John’s renewable energy consultant Delia Warren confirmed to CBC that local opposition to the plan has been building.

“This is actually, in my opinion, an enormous opportunity for Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “It would put us really as a first-mover in terms of developing this type of technology or putting this type of technology to work at scale,” setting the stage “for Newfoundland and Labrador to be a world leader.”

But Warren said she would still want to see a full review of the project’s economic benefits, including an assessment of the local work force available to fill the 1,800 construction and 300 operations jobs that World Energy GH2 is promising.

“I know in Newfoundland and Labrador we have a strong population of trades workers,” Warren said. “I hope the project will do more research to determine if those people have the skills required for the build-out of this project.”

Pointing to the “extremely ambitious” target for completing the project, she added that her “main concern with the timeline… would be delays caused by an inadequate consultation process.” But CBC says that reality might collide with the intense focus and fast turnarounds as countries compete for a share of a potentially lucrative industry.

“Others are looking at this, too, and it means that you actually have to be strategic and you have to move quickly,” Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said earlier this week. “As they look to accelerate the energy transition and certainly in Atlantic Canada, there are enormous resources and other resources that can be useful in the context of creating hydrogen to help our European friends.”

The Globe and Mail has a profile of the Port au Port project, including the local opposition that has emerged and the reaction from Nova Scotia-based project developer John Risley.