New Brunswick

Port of Belledune wants to build hydrogen production plant

The Port of Belledune is working with a developer to bring a green hydrogen production plant to northern New Brunswick. The project would use energy from the province’s power grid to produce green ammonia fuel for export and possibly local use.

Project part of northern New Brunswick's pivot toward green energy industry

The Port of Belledune is proposing the development of a hydrogen production facility as it pivots to green energy. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The Port of Belledune is working with a developer to bring a green hydrogen production facility to northern New Brunswick.

The project would use energy from the province's power grid to produce ammonia fuel for export and possibly local use.

Denis Caron, CEO of the Port of Belledune, said growing consumer demand for zero-emission products is creating interest in clean fuel sources.

"We want to attract investment here and industries here to use cleaner fuels to produce their products," he said. "On one hand today, we're talking about the export opportunities into Germany and maybe globally, but we're also looking at domestic use of it here as well."

The hydrogen project comes as the port looks to green energy as a possible revenue replacement for when the Belledune power plant stops burning coal in 2030. It is expected to release a long-term development plan to diversify the port's business.

Belledune also lost revenue following the closure of the Brunswick Smelter in 2019.

It historically brought in most of its revenue from shipments of coal, heading to the adjacent N.B. Power plant and the smelter.

European interest in hydrogen

Cross River Infrastructure Partners, a U.S.-based company, is working with the port to develop the hydrogen plant.  Pending feasibility studies and permits, it could start operating as early as 2027.

Rishi Jain, Cross River's managing director, said the port is an ideal location for the project as it offers access to target markets in Europe and North America.

"This facility really puts New Brunswick at the forefront, it becomes globally relevant to the energy transition," he said.

The Belledune power plant, a major client for the port, will stop burning coal in 2030. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Green hydrogen is being considered as a long-term solution to replace fossil fuels. When converted into the form of ammonia, which the Belledune operation would do, the hydrogen is stable enough to be shipped long distances.

Hydrogen fuel emits only water when produced by clean sources of energy.

Germany is particularly interested in hydrogen as it seeks new energy sources due to the war in Ukraine. The Russian invasion has resulted in a spike in natural gas prices and reduced supply.

The German government is expected to sign an energy agreement next week in Newfoundland, where a Canadian company plans to build a plant that will use wind energy to produce hydrogen and ammonia for export.

It would be the first of its kind in Canada.

Creating a 'clean energy hub'

Cross River and the Port of Belledune are also working with nearby Pabineau First Nation, federal and provincial governments on the project.

Caron said the hydrogen plant is part of a larger vision to develop a "green energy hub" to allow Belledune to continue as an industrial centre.

"We're still looking at industrial development, but doing it in a greener way with green fuel," he said.

Denis Caron, the CEO of the Port of Belledune, says the proposed hydrogen plant is part of a larger vision to create a green energy hub. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

The hydrogen project would use 200 MW of energy from the existing NB Power grid, which currently consists of a mix of renewable and non-renewable sources. Over 80 per cent is non-emitting.

Jain said the hydrogen plant would offer about 60 to 70 full-time direct jobs, but will generate more through expansion and indirectly.

"What ends up happening is you have other industries start to locate because the clean fuel source is there," he said.

"What that will do is really create New Brunswick as one of the major centres for clean energy production in the world."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman

Video journalist

Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

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