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Alberta’s Hydrogen Centre of Excellence holds funding competition

The Hydrogen Centre of Excellence in Alberta has launched Advancing Hydrogen — Competition 1, a $...

IMAGE: Hydrogen Centre of Excellence webinar screenshot

(Screenshot courtesy Hydrogen Centre of Excellence webinar)

The Hydrogen Centre of Excellence in Alberta has launched Advancing Hydrogen — Competition 1, a $20-million program over the next 24 months intended to support the province’s emerging hydrogen economy.

The program is open to technology developers, industry, industrial associations, small- and medium-sized enterprises, R&D organizations, post-secondary institutions, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations and government research labs.

Specific hydrogen sectors under consideration are production, storage, transmission, end-use, increased competitiveness and economic diversification.

Funding requests can be up to $2 million, or a maximum of 50 per cent of the project.

The deadline for intake proposal submissions is September 6 at 5 p.m. MST, with full proposal submissions closing by November 18 at the same time. Successful applicants will be notified of funding by January 13, 2023, and funded projects must be complete by March 31, 2025. All dates are subject to change at the discretion of Alberta Innovates.

Last year, Alberta established a 2030 goal for clean hydrogen to be integrated at scale.

“The Hydrogen Centre of Excellence is an important part of the roadmap, but it is not everything to everyone,” said Bryan Helfenbaum, the executive director of advanced hydrocarbons at the Hydrogen Centre, during a webinar presentation about the funding. “There are a lot of other important and valuable opportunities happening outside the centre.”

The Hydrogen Centre of Excellence is a funding program, testing and service facility, and forum for facilitating partnerships to de-risk hydrogen technology development led by provincial corporation Alberta Innovates. It was announced on April 26, receiving $50 million in funding from the province as part of Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap and Alberta’s Recovery Plan.

Alberta Innovates employs 219 people.

Hydrogen Centre applications

Projects applying for funding should be able to quantify direct or indirect benefits in at least one of the following areas: hydrogen production; transmission/storage/transportation/dispensing; storage (mobile, surface and subsurface); end use (residential, commercial and industrial); and exports.

The Centre of Excellence is interested in everything from reducing costs and emissions in hydrogen production, novel hydrogen infrastructures, optimizing technologies for surface and subsurface storage, as well as hydrogen uses in heating, power and transportation.

“We see hydrogen as sometimes being referred to as the Swiss Army Knife in terms of having so many possible end uses,” Helfenbaum said.

The program is designed for technologies and solutions that are currently within a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range of three to six — beyond the conceptual stage but not advanced enough to be fully commercialized. Front-end engineering and design studies for projects with a TRL of seven or more will be considered.

TRLs range from one, where the basic principles are observed and reported, to nine, where the technology is proven successful through deployment.

Among considerations Helfembaum said the centre wants to understand:

– “What is the problem you’re solving? We want to make sure we don’t have a solution without a problem.”

– “What is the market opportunity for your invention and the value proposition for it?”

– “Can you do what you say you want to do?”

It also encourages partnerships — as long as there is no conflict of interest — particularly with end users of the technology being produced. While this also applies to projects outside of Alberta, the Centre of Excellence will primarily consider its benefit to the province.

There is no stacking limit, however, “we do consider commitment status . . . The other part is we do look at ‘skin in the game’ to ensure good application of the project,” Helfenbaum explained.

Future of the Hydrogen Centre

The Centre of Excellence has secured the $50 million in funding over the next four years, leveraged with $150 million from other sources.

“The raison d’être for the Centre of Excellence is to close those innovation and technology gaps where currently we don’t have federal or provincial funding,” Helfenbaum said. “We don’t really have a healthy funnel of projects being developed in that mid-TRL range.”

Later this summer, the Centre of Excellence will also undergo a call for proposals focused on analyzing opportunities, public awareness and partnerships in the hydrogen sector.

“We are going to have subsequent funding competitions and we are in discussions with another agency so that competition two is likely to include TRL three through nine,” Helfenbaum said. “So potentially graduates from competition one will be able to apply to competition two. At this point that is not quite locked down.”

Alberta is the largest hydrogen producer in Canada. A release accompanying the competition announcement states the worldwide market is estimated to be worth over $2.5 trillion per year by 2050.

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