The Canadian subsidiary of Tree Energy Solutions (TES) has announced its plans to build a giant green hydrogen complex in the province of Quebec.
The plant, dubbed Projet Mauricie and expected to require C$4bn ($2.9bn) of investment, would draw on 1GW of newbuild wind and solar, as well as 150MW of hydropower supplied via the grid, to power the production of 70,000 tonnes a year of H2 from start-up in 2028.
However, while TES is most well-known for its plans to produce “e-NG”, or synthetic natural gas, from green hydrogen and captured CO2 in the US — leveraging generous tax credits for both gases — for export to Germany, volumes of H2 from Projet Mauricie are “exclusively dedicated to Québec end users”, the company noted in a press release.
Around two-thirds of the hydrogen will be used to produce synthetic methane, while the remaining third will be used directly as H2 by the long-haul transportation sector, which TES Canada estimates will allow Quebec to avoid around 800,000 tonnes of CO2 by 2030 — or 3% of the province's emissions reduction target.
The project already seems to have the support of the Canadian government, with Steven Guilbeault, the country’s minister of the environment and climate change, gushing: “This major commitment to the local community is the cornerstone of long-term economic well-being for the region.
“By combining the reduction of CO2 emissions, the creation of quality jobs along with regional economic dynamism, this project illustrates the immense potential of green energy for our collective future.”
Similar words of support have come from regional and local politicians, as well as the largest natural-gas distributor in Quebec, Énergir.
But according to independent analyst and investor Michael Liebreich, TES’s highly expensive e-methane only becomes economically possible if harvesting multiple subsidies, raising questions about whether the company is banking on financial support from Canadian authorities in order to move the project forward.
And if no volumes from the project will be directed to Europe — which has strict requirements for green hydrogen to be produced from newbuild renewables projects — why commit to building an extra 1GW of new wind and solar?
Earlier this year, the Quebec government announced that publicly-owned utility Hydro-Québec had received 23GW of private power-supply requests — but could only grant 10GW based on expected generation from its portfolio of hydropower plants.
This meant 9GW of electrolysis capacity was rejected out of hand, sending a clear message to developers that they would have to build dedicated clean electricity supply rather than depending solely on Quebec’s hydro-dominated grid.
Green hydrogen developers seeking to purchase vast quantities of clean electricity off the grid face similar difficulties in other Canadian provinces.
World Energy GH2 in September was granted land for its Project Nujio’qonik hub in Newfoundland and Labrador.
But the developer is still negotiating a provision of 10MW baseload power and an extra 145MW available on a 24-hour basis during the summer, which would total around 600-650GWh a year, from provincial utility NL Hydro in order to cover expected intermittency in generation from its purpose-built 1GW onshore wind farm.