Canada is touting hydrogen as crucial to its climate action plan, but how green is it?


Hydrogen may be one of the smallest elements, but it has been given a big place in Canada’s plan to meet its climate targets — and with companies promising everything from hydrogen-fuelled planes to hydrogen-powered manufacturing, it’s generating a lot of buzz. But amid the hype, green energy experts caution that the government’s plan relies too heavily on hydrogen generated using fossil fuels and doesn’t provide a clear path to green hydrogen. Currently, hydrogen fuel is colour-coded. Grey hydrogen is made using fossil fuels such as natural gas; blue hydrogen is also made using fossil fuels, but the carbon emissions are captured and stored; and green hydrogen is made using renewable power such as wind, solar and hydro. Almost all grey and blue hydrogen requires a process called steam-methane reforming, which uses steam to produce hydrogen from natural gas. Green hydrogen is most often made using electrolysis, which breaks water into hydrogen and oxygen. According to Tahra Jutt, director of clean economy at the Pembina Institute, most of the hydrogen produced in Canada right now is grey, with a small percentage of blue.

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