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Atura picks Cummins electrolyser for 20 MW Niagara hydrogen plant

IMAGE: A rendering of the future Niagara Hydrogen Centre
A rendering of the future Niagara Hydrogen Centre. (Courtesy Atura Power)

Atura Power has selected Cummins Inc. to build the electrolyser for its Niagara Hydrogen Centre – the first 20 MW hydrogen facility to be built in Ontario.

The Niagara Falls facility is scheduled to be online in the first half of 2024, providing green hydrogen to industrial customers. It will also be transported and blended into the fuel stream at Atura Power's Halton Hills Generating Station.

“Twenty megawatts is the reasonable building block from a commercial demonstration perspective,” said Christopher Penny, Atura Power’s hydrogen projects manager. “So that was just that right sizing of that opportunity. With the generating station that was adjacent within that same complex, (that) was just really what kind of made that opportunity unique.”

Atura Power, a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation (OPG), has facilities in Windsor, Halton Hills, Toronto and Napanee.

OPG owns and operates 66 hydroelectric generating facilities, as well as two nuclear, two thermal, one solar, and four gas-fired generating stations. It also owns and operates 85 hydroelectric stations in the U.S., for a total generating capacity of 18,876 MW.

Cummins, headquartered in Columbus, Ind., designs, manufactures and distributes engines, filtration and power generation products. It earned approximately $2.1 billion on sales of $24 billion in 2021.

Niagara Hydrogen Centre

Atura Power first began looking at green hydrogen opportunities in 2021. Niagara was identified thanks to the possibilities of a meter powering strategy with the nearby Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric generating station on the Niagara River.

“We conducted a feasibility and technical assessment in that first half of 2021. From that study, advanced it to where we are today,” Penny said. “So we were able to get some certainty on the project profile in that early economic and technical assessment stage.”

The selection of Niagara was announced in April. Information at that time indicated Atura Power could be both a producer and an anchor consumer of hydrogen by using green hydrogen in its gas turbines, reducing emissions from these facilities.

The servicing of industrial customers would include the broader heavy-emitting industries including chemical companies, steel mills, refineries and midstream oil and gas companies.

Atura Power released memorandums of understanding with Plains Midstream Canada and Imperial Oil Ltd. over the summer.

Clean hydrogen, both as a pure fuel source and blended into other fuels, is a part of OPG’s Climate Change Plan released in November 2020. That document states OPG plans to produce net-zero carbon by 2040 and have a 100 MW clean hydrogen facility by 2050.

Atura Power and Cummins

Cummins’ proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis system will be manufactured at its Mississauga facility. The Niagara Hydrogen Centre will mark Cummins’ second 20 MW electrolyser installation in Canada.

Atura Power began a competitive procurement process earlier this year.

“We evaluated everything between the maturity of (Cummins') technology, some of the technical details specifically on how their equipment operates, how dynamic it is, how it's able to ramp up and down,” Penny explained. “As well, other key components that you would expect relates to their manufacturing capabilities, the price point, all of that (was) integrated into evaluation criteria.”

A release notes Cummins has continued to expand its hydrogen portfolio, including PEM and alkaline electrolyzer solutions.

In September 2019, it acquired the Mississauga-based fuel cell and hydrogen production technologies provider Hydrogenics Corp. for an enterprise value of approximately $290 million. Air Liquide owns around 19 per cent of the company, while Cummins owns the remaining 81 per cent.

Ontario’s hydrogen future

The Niagara Hydrogen Centre is its first action under Ontario’s low-carbon hydrogen strategy, released in April.

The strategy states that with the addition of the 20 MW electrolyser, Ontario’s low-carbon hydrogen production capacity would expand eight-fold. Currently, Enbridge's Markham Power-to-Gas facility has a capacity of 2.5 MW of hydrogen production. The new facility will increase Ontario’s installed electrolyser capacity to 22.5 MW.

It lists future potential hydrogen production locations in Halton Hills, Lambton, Brighton Beach and Nanticoke.

“We are looking to make strategic project decisions where scaling-up in a certain location, supporting a specific hydrogen sector use case, is all part of the fundamental business and project definition,” Penny said. “I think we definitely want to work towards projects that we can build out over time to support how the hydrogen economy grows in Ontario.”

There is also thriving green hydrogen production outside the province. In Bécancour, Que., Air Liquide's 20 MW plant produces 300,000 kilograms of green hydrogen per year. Its PEM electrolyser is also supplied by Cummins.

When it opened in January 2021, it was the largest green hydrogen plant in the world, beating the previous 5 MW record in Fukushima. 

Suncor Energy and ATCO Ltd. are jointly pursuing a $4 billion plant near Edmonton that would produce 300,000 tonnes of low-carbon hydrogen annually in its first phase, with a planned expansion to 900,000 tonnes per year — and a planned start date of 2027.

Globally, several sizeable green hydrogen plants are under development, including a 100 MW plant in Egypt.

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