Hydrogen is a fuel source that does not produce emissions, only electrical power, water and heat, and can be created by multiple fuel sources. Many experts argue that the net-zero GHG emission goals of countries such as Canada cannot be achieved without the use of hydrogen fuel, and it is projected that almost 30% of Canadian energy will come from hydrogen in the next 30 years. This emerging hydrogen economy dovetails with Blackstone’s goal to be the most admired and dynamic technical force in its time. Since our birth as an organization, we have been focused on the repair and maintenance of some of the world’s most complex and critical compression. Our relationship with key OEMs and engineering partners has supported that ongoing growth. For years we have invested in our domestic growth, as well as our international exposure and engineering understanding of major technical challenges associated with compression and rotating equipment. Other places around the world may not have such disciplined approaches to these challenges as Canada does, but the knowledge we have accumulated outside Canada gives us advantages regarding relevant assets, from design to end of life.
The design elements and safety considerations that go into hydrogen compression are levels above simple utility air and other industrial gases. As the smallest chemical element, hydrogen presents great process, compression, storage and distribution challenges. Most history books mention the Hindenburg disaster, and many industry professionals will recall the recent deaths at Nexen Long Lake. There are more unfortunate incidents than we would all like to be reminded of. Hydrogen is technical, but Blackstone has a longstanding legacy of evaluating new technologies and manufacturing equipment, so it is in our DNA as a company to overcome those technical barriers.
Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan introduced his government’s well-telegraphed strategy on December 16th 2020 (see source). The goal appears to be to “position Canada as a global hydrogen leader”. The intent is that from 2021 to 2025, Canada will create regional producing and consuming hubs. Alberta’s Industrial Heartland area is at the top of the list, given the availability of low-cost and plentiful gas as well as carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure. The provincial government has been very open in its support of this transition. Low-cost gas or surplus power including nuclear, hydro and other renewables will promote alternative hub options for BC, Ontario and Quebec. Arguably the technical knowledge still exists in Alberta to safely manage this new infrastructure required for hydrogen manufacturing.
It appears the federal government supports industry solutions and collaboration and is limiting its funding initiatives beyond natural carbon pricing. This is good for the spirit of the nation, yet it brings great opposition from environmental groups who seek to undermine the relevance of a “blue hydrogen” transition on the basis that it smells like a subsidy for the oil and gas industry. One can only wonder what would make any of these 27 groups happy. Infrastructure and progress have never been as simple as a wishing well. Transitioning existing fuel sources with well-understood chemistry isn’t magic. It’s thermodynamics, science and technical resolution. There are several promising Green Hydrogen technologies, but like all technology, there are important and rational adoption barriers. Regardless of the source of Hydrogen the challenges of compression and distribution are technically complex. The government seems to be making strong suggestions and facilitating good work practices to build an idea into reality, with both short- and long-term goals and a focus directing society to build it. Blackstone can get behind hard work and technical resolution.
With a projected domestic hydrogen market of C$50 billion by 2050, it is worth considering the labour, knowledge and opportunities this presents Canadian workers and communities. Major efforts such as this take collaboration between a collection of groups. In 2020 Blackstone acquired Trican’s Pipeline and Industrial Services group, which gave us great insight into the world of maintenance for the pipeline and distribution sectors and brought maturity and direction to our collaboration strategy with our Indigenous partners. Now named Blackstone Pipeline and Environmental, this acquisition has positioned Blackstone to evaluate entire sites and facilities and support their technical solutions. The primary pillar in the government’s hydrogen plan is “Strategic Partnerships”, which resonates well with us and is aligned with our ongoing growth initiatives. We are actively expanding these relationships to provide support in tackling our corporate and community-linked hydrogen goals.
With a strong technical platform and as Canada’s premier hydrogen compression experts, Blackstone intends to push the opportunities that exist in this newly forming space. Blackstone continues to invest in engineering solutions and strategic partnerships with all communities. For more information on how to partner with Blackstone, or should you require technical support, please get in touch with us. We are here to help.