Hydrogen Will Be A Game-Changer Solution — Michelle George, VP, New Energy Technologies, Enbridge Inc.

Hydrogen Will Be A Game-Changer Solution — Michelle George, SVP, New Energy Technologies, Enbridge Inc. - Carbon Herald
Michelle George, Vice President, New Energy Technologies at Enbridge. Ms. George is also a member of Enbridge’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT). Source: Enbridge

We had a chat with Enbridge Senior Vice President of New Energy Technologies, Michelle George, to discuss the future of hydrogen in the energy mix and the company’s current H2 projects. 

Tell us more about Enbridge and where it stands on the North American energy market. 

At Enbridge, our goal is to be the first-choice energy delivery company in North America and  beyond — for customers, communities, investors, regulators and policymakers, and employees. 

As a diversified energy company, we are uniquely positioned to help accelerate the global transition to a cleaner energy future, and we’re doing it in ways that are ethical, sustainable and socially responsible. We’re advancing new low-carbon energy technologies — including  hydrogen, renewable natural gas, and carbon capture and storage. We’re committed to reducing the carbon footprint of the energy we deliver, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. 

We also recognize the importance of a secure, reliable and affordable supply of energy, which we deliver every day through our four core businesses: 

The energy transition requires a practical approach. That’s why we’re committed to lowering emissions while meeting growing energy demand; supporting our customers today while anticipating their needs tomorrow; and developing new energy sources while keeping energy costs in check. 

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We move about 30% of the crude oil produced in North America, we transport nearly 20% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S., and we operate North America’s third-largest natural gas utility by consumer count. Enbridge was an early investor in renewable energy, and we have a  growing offshore wind portfolio. 

We value safety, integrity, respect, inclusion and high performance. Above all else, we aim to make a difference, economically and socially — as an industry leader, as a responsible corporate citizen, as an exceptional employer. 

Enbridge was named to the Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Energy Leaders in 2018; we’ve been selected to Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index five years running, most recently in 2023; and we have been ranked among Canada’s Top 100 Employers 20 times, most recently in 2023. 

Enbridge Inc. is headquartered in Calgary, Canada. We have a workforce of more than 12,000 people, primarily in the United States and Canada. Enbridge (ENB) is traded on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges. 

Why do you think hydrogen will be a game-changing solution to the world’s green energy challenge? 

Indeed, hydrogen (H2) will be a game-changer solution. As the world transitions towards a clean energy future, hydrogen represents a tremendous emissions reduction opportunity.  Hydrogen can allow energy to be effectively and efficiently stored, transported, and used in innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and help the world reach its climate target goals by 2050.  

Relevant: Air Products Wins Hydrogen Supply Contracts With NASA Worth $130M

We see many possibilities for low-carbon hydrogen as an energy vector that can help to  decarbonize many sectors, especially those that cannot be electrified such as aviation, shipping  and heavy-duty transportation. However, it requires key advancements in regulatory  frameworks, standards, codes, infrastructure, underground storage, transportation,  electrolyzers, and fuel cells. 

Do you think the challenge could be solved as the technology advances and are you  working on improving the efficiency cycle? 

There is motivation to improve green hydrogen production, storage, transportation, and regeneration efficiencies through fuel cells. Enbridge’s expertise has grown since its  development of the 2.5 MW electrolyzer in Markham, Ontario. We are currently developing technical engineering standards and specifications for hydrogen pipelines and facilities, which aims to deliver safe, reliable, cost-effective, and efficient new energy technologies.

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Could you please share more details about Enbridge’s hydrogen projects Ingleside Energy Center in Corpus Christi, Markham, and Gazifere? What are the stages of  development for each project, emissions abatement, and the potential for future expansion? 

Markham Power-to-Gas: 

In 2018, we launched a Power-to-Gas facility in Markham that was leveraged in 2021 to start blending hydrogen into our distribution system. Currently 3,600 homes are receiving natural gas with 2% hydrogen blend, and we continue our work in advancing this hydrogen hub.

This low carbon hydrogen-blending project is the first-of-its-kind in North America on a utility scale and is  an important step in greening the natural gas supply that millions of Ontarians depend on to heat their homes and energize industry. The successful implementation of this project will support additional and larger-scale hydrogen activities in other parts of Enbridge Gas’ distribution system. 

Gazifère: 

Gazifère, an Enbridge subsidiary, and Evolugen, the Canadian operations arm of Brookfield Renewable, are developing one of Canada’s largest green hydrogen injection projects in Quebec. The approximately $90-million project will see a 20-megawatt (MW) electrolyzer plant  built in the city of Gatineau, adjacent to Evolugen’s hydroelectric facilities.

Green hydrogen produced via electrolysis will be injected into Gazifère’s natural gas distribution network via a new 15-kilometre pipeline connecting the plant to the Gazifère grid. The plant is expected to produce about 425,000 gigajoules (GJ) of green hydrogen to be injected into the Gazifère network — making this the first project of its kind in Canada. It’s anticipated the project will remove about 15,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year for about 44,000 customers. Expected to be in-service around 2026. 

Ingleside: 

Our Ingleside Energy Center in Corpus Christi is a crude export terminal that is adjacent to more than 500 acres that will be the future site of a 60-megawatt solar power farm that will self-power our operations and is also suitable for the development of blue/green hydrogen, ammonia exports and carbon sequestration, aligning operations with our goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

On March 31, 2023, Yara Clean Ammonia and Enbridge announced the signing of a letter of intent to jointly develop and construct a world scale low-carbon blue ammonia production facility as equal partners. The proposed facility, which includes autothermal  reforming with carbon capture, will be located at the Enbridge Ingleside Energy Center (EIEC) near Corpus Christi, Texas. 

What do you think of the Inflation Reduction Act and its potential to prompt the Canadian government to subsidize hydrogen production and infrastructure? 

The Inflation Reduction Act is helping to accelerate hydrogen development in North America  and changing the conversation to focus on the full value chain – both costs and emission reductions. Permitting is something that is top of mind: building energy infrastructure in North America is very challenging and low-carbon is no different. Certainty is needed to help drive investment and the certainty created by the IRA will be lost if permitting challenges aren’t resolved. 

Governments must partner and provide up front incentives to help reduce capital risk. In Canada, we have seen success with government partnerships in the advancement of hydrogen in other provinces, most notably Quebec and B.C.  

Relevant: Carbon America CEO: The Inflation Reduction Act Is A Game Changer For The Industry

This week’s Canadian federal budget introduced the Clean Hydrogen Investment Tax Credit, which is a proposed incentive structure for supports ranging from 15% to 40% as well as investments made in equipment needed to convert eligible clean hydrogen into ammonia, in order to transport the hydrogen, will have access to a 15% refundable tax credit under this program. 

There is also a proposed Clean Technology Investment Tax Credit and a Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit (these new initiatives still need to pass Parliament and the Senate). These credits, in addition to the government’s promise to outline a concrete plan to improve efficiency of the impact assessment and permitting processes for major projects are directionally positive. 

What do you think about the green hydrogen efficiency challenge? According to data, using renewable energy to produce hydrogen and then burning it for electricity has a cycle efficiency of around 40%, which means for every 10kWh of renewable energy that would go for the production of hydrogen, 4kWh of electricity would be generated from burning that hydrogen.  

Stepping back and looking at the big picture for the hydrogen economy, there are three main streams for hydrogen usage: (1) Decarbonizing existing H2 industries, such as ammonia production; (2) Lowering CO2 emissions from the domestic market such as heating and  power generation through blending H2 in natural gas; (3) Using H2 as means for storing energy produced by renewable assets, such as wind and solar, especially during curtailment periods.  

Looking at the third use for H2 for energy storage, which competes with other means of energy storage is presented by the Energy and Environmental Study Institute here. While hydrogen has an efficiency of 25-40% in regenerating electrical energy using electrolyzers to produce hydrogen by breaking water using renewable electricity has an  efficiency of nearly 80%; fuel cells that use hydrogen to generate electricity back to the grid  have an efficiency of nearly 40%. However, hydrogen production and regeneration of energy  may still be in an advantageous position compared to typical gas engines from both efficiency and sustainability perspectives.

What is Enbridge’s long-term hydrogen strategy? What part of your energy mix will  hydrogen be? 

As an early investor in hydrogen at our Markham Power-to-Gas project, Enbridge’s long-term strategy includes hydrogen as part of the growing energy mix. As the energy transition  continues, hydrogen provides an opportunity to help achieve our net-zero emissions goals and  we continue to look for opportunities to expand our hydrogen development. 

Do you think hydrogen has what it takes to completely replace coal and oil in the energy sector?  

Hydrogen and other decarbonizing technologies will have a role in the energy transition and future energy mix, and we are currently working on feasibility studies to determine how to best  advance hydrogen usage. According to the IAE, however, oil and coal will continue to have a role in the global energy mix, which states steady demand for oil until the mid-2030s. Enbridge agrees that all forms of energy will be required for some time to come – and we remain committed to deliver the energy the world needs today while investing in the energy of tomorrow.

Read more: Japan Sets Out To Turn Australia’s Coal Into Hydrogen

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