Heritage Gas of Nova Scotia is in the midst of a campaign to promote hydrogen as a promising element of a green-energy future.

Derek Estabrook, vice-president of business development at Heritage Gas, says a key next step in promoting hydrogen is the establishment of a road map to provide a clear direction for the development and deployment of hydrogen in Atlantic Canada.

Heritage views the development of hydrogen as an important part of the strategy to reach net-zero by 2050.

“Work is starting with other stakeholders around Atlantic Canada to build on the Maritimes Hydrogen Feasibility Study released last fall and take it to the next step,” Estabrook said in an interview.

“We are proposing a forum and an Atlantic Hydrogen Working Group to support and enable the development of pilot-scale and commercial-scale hydrogen projects in the region. That work will start with the completion of a road map for the development and deployment of hydrogen in Atlantic Canada . . . The road map would outline how to make it happen.”

Estabrook said a broad group of stakeholders and governments will play a key role in developing the way forward for hydrogen – work he hopes will be underway by mid-2021.

“The Maritime Hydrogen Feasibility Study concluded that by 2050 over 20 per cent of the Maritimes’ total energy needs could be met by hydrogen,” he said.

Estabrook sees hydrogen gas playing several important roles. He said the simplest and most immediate pathway for the use of hydrogen is to blend it with natural gas in the grid that already exists and use it to decarbonize building heat. Hydrogen can be blended with natural gas up to about 20 per cent without affecting end-use equipment such as furnaces and boilers.

“That is a really easy way for end users of natural gas today to reduce their carbon footprint without having to make any large capital investment in the replacement of equipment.”

Estabrook also sees hydrogen becoming key in heavy transportation such as trucking fleets, urban transit-buses, trains, ships, and airplanes. He said battery electricity and hydrogen play complementary roles in decarbonizing the transportation sector.

Another important use for hydrogen will be in industrial processes that require high temperatures such as steel production, he said.

Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways. One method includes using electrolysis, with an electric current splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen.

If the electricity used in the process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar, it’s termed “green” or “renewable” hydrogen. Estabrook said it is produced most commonly now with natural gas, but that likely will change with the rise in renewable energy sources.

“Hydrogen is part of the solution for a net-zero world,” he said.

“Globally there is much more ambition and urgency to get to net-zero by 2050 . . . We are going to need another form of energy that can be clean, produced in large scale, stored and transported and used in the way fossil fuels are today,” he said.

“The belief around the world is, of all the potential fuels that could play that role, hydrogen is the most promising.”