A project to power trains with hydrogen, a new oil-extraction technology and an Indigenous-owned soil recycling facility are some of 16 emissions-reduction projects in Alberta set to receive $176-million in federal and provincial funding in a bid to increase sustainability across industries.
The timing of Monday’s announcement was no accident, as world leaders gather in Glasgow for the United Nations climate change summit COP26. The projects, worth around $2-billion to Alberta’s economy, were selected by Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA). It’s an arm’s-length agency set up in 2009 to divvy out funds from Alberta’s carbon tax on large emitters, and accelerate the development and adoption of clean technologies.
Monday’s funding announcement was the largest ever made by ERA, which will contribute $126-million to the projects. Ottawa’s Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund will chip in the remaining $50-million.
Projects had to be shovel-ready and encourage immediate economic activity in the province in order to qualify for the provincial funding. They were split among three categories: five projects from oil and gas, six representing low carbon energy, and five in bioindustry and waste-to-value add.
Steve MacDonald, the chief executive officer of ERA, told The Globe and Mail the projects underscore Alberta’s commitment to lowering emissions across its economy.
It’s all good and well to set goals and aspirations about net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, he said, but ambitions must translate into action.
“This really is an example of Alberta helping to close the gap between rhetoric and reality,” he said.
“These are real projects with real technologies, from carbon capture to hydrogen to energy efficiency. These are the solutions that the world needs.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday the projects, many of which are already under way, will inject $2-billion dollars into Alberta’s economy, eliminate almost seven million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and support about 5,600 jobs.
“We aren’t just talking about reducing emissions – we are acting to actually reduce emissions, and that’s what matters,” he said.
The projects to receive funding run the gamut across industries.
Canadian Pacific Railway , for example, will receive $15-million for its hydrogen locomotive program, which aims to build North America’s first hydrogen-powered freight trains. It will also build hydrogen production facilities and fuelling stations at its terminals in Edmonton and Calgary.
“We believe that the knowledge that we’re going to gather will be critical for not only us, but the entire North American freight rail industry, which yields the potential of converting 30,000-plus locomotives to decarbonize this industry,” said Kyle Mulligan, Canadian Pacific Railway’s chief engineer.
Alberta has looked to hydrogen developed from its vast natural gas reserves as something of an economic salve, and will release its hydrogen plan later this week.
Mr. MacDonald said the rail project will help expand Alberta’s focus from the hydrogen supply side to also creating demand for the fuel.
“Everybody understands trains. So to me, that’s really exciting because you’re looking at the whole value chain,” he said.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. will also get $15-million, for a new oil sands extraction process. The project will put a bitumen extraction plant in the middle of an oil sands mine pit, which will help stop the creation of environmentally problematic tailing ponds.
Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon said it would also reduce the amount of energy needed to pump bitumen from the oil sands mine, reduce the need for haul trucks and decrease the length of pipelines.
The announcement followed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling COP26 that Canada would cap oil and gas sector emissions, and ensure they decrease at a pace and scale needed to reach net-zero by 2050.
“That’s no small task for a major oil and gas producing country. It’s a big step that’s absolutely necessary,” Mr. Trudeau said in Glasgow.
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