Recycling, hydrogen key pillars of diversification strategy

By Catherine Griwkowsky October 7, 2020

The UCP is betting on hydrogen and recycling as it lays plans to diversify the province’s energy sector. 
The government’s new Natural Gas Vision and Strategy will encourage new business development in petrochemical manufacturing, LNG and hydrogen production,
and plastics recycling. 
Premier Jason Kenney, Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Natural Gas and Electricity Associate Minister Dale Nally were at ATCO’s heavy repair depot in Edmonton with CEO Nancy Southern, who sat on the province’s economic recovery council.
The plan is to generate jobs and wealth for the province by seeking out new development arenas within the natural gas chain. 
That includes continuing to boost the manufacturing of plastics, made from petrochemicals, while also positioning the province as a leader in plastics recycling, an increasingly in-demand sector. 
“Alberta can utilize its petrochemical and research and innovation sectors to capitalize on this opportunity,” the strategy states. 
The UCP’s goal is to position Alberta as the “Western North America centre of excellence for plastics diversion and recycling” by 2030. 
The government estimates if the industry recaptures the 95 per cent of plastic packaging that is currently thrown away, it could be worth $100 billion to $150 billion annually.
“Plastics are not a problem, waste is the problem,” Nally said.
Tactics include investing in research and pilot projects that advance plastics recycling methods and allowing Alberta to grow its plastics feedstock “watershed” to allow sufficient economies of scale to facilitate advanced chemical recycling opportunities.

However, the federal government is poised to throw a wrench in at least some of these plans. The Globe and Mail is reporting Ottawa will announce a plan today to add plastics to its toxic chemicals list, and roll out a preliminary list of banned single-use plastic items.
Hydrogen build out
The growing demand for hydrogen offers a “new strategic opportunity” for Alberta, per the government. 
By producing hydrogen that can be deployed in the transportation, home-heating and industrial fuel sectors, the province can help Canada achieve its Paris targets, the strategy states, while bolstering the province’s economy. 
The goal is to have large-scale hydrogen production happening across the province by 2030 — and a system in place to export the product to Canada, North America and globally by 2040. 
Nally said he aims to grow the sector by more than $30 billion over the next decade. 
The UCP’s first steps are to develop a roadmap of the hydrogen market, work with other western provinces to align their policies, and establish joint federal, provincial and private sector funding pathways “to stimulate initial build-out.” 
However, Premier Kenney said the strategy isn’t reliant on subsidies. “Most of what we’re talking about doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime,” he told reporters Tuesday. 
Next year, ATCO will open a plant near Fort Saskatchewan that will mix “blue hydrogen” with the natural gas supply to reduce emissions.

In August, an analysis by the Petroleum Economist said the government would be better to pursue hydrogen over petrochemical diversification as plastics face growing opposition.