Dal lab explores how to unlock the power of green hydrogen in Nova Scotia

Low-carbon energy alternative key to provincial climate goals

- February 27, 2024

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, right, speaks with an Engineering student, centre, and Dr. Michael Pegg, second from left, outside Dal's Hydrogen Applications Research Lab. (Danny Abriel photos)
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, right, speaks with an Engineering student, centre, and Dr. Michael Pegg, second from left, outside Dal's Hydrogen Applications Research Lab. (Danny Abriel photos)

A new lab established at Dalhousie this week has partnered with a local energy provider to explore applications of hydrogen that could assist Nova Scotia in its efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

N.S.-based Eastward Energy has contributed $200,000 through an in-kind donation to support Dalhousie researcher Dr. Michael Pegg and his team in the Department of Process Engineering and Applied Science as they investigate low-carbon solutions for its distribution system, including the distribution of hydrogen-enriched natural gas.

"We see the opportunity that is before us to become an absolute energy powerhouse in this province," said Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston at a launch event hosted by Dal on Monday. "Imagine Nova Scotia as an energy powerhouse. That is what lays before us with the opportunity that we have in green hydrogen."

Nova Scotia’s Green Hydrogen Action Plan, released in December, lays out guidelines for government and industry in the province in the development of green hydrogen — an alternative clean energy source. While traditional methods for producing hydrogen used fossil fuels and emitted greenhouse gases, green hydrogen is produced using renewable electricity and emits only water and heat when converted to electricity. 

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston.

Premier Houston explained that Nova Scotia's abundant offshore natural resources, including wind and tidal power, make it well-situated to the large-scale development of green hydrogen.  

"Collectively, we really have an opportunity here that we have to seize, and I'm seeing groups step up and want to be part of that," he said, mentioning municipalities, private-sector partners, and universities like Dal.

New energy solutions

Dalhousie’s Hydrogen Applications Research Laboratory will test the limits of blending hydrogen into Eastward Energy’s natural gas system as well as the use of hydrogen-enriched natural gas in household appliances. Hydrogen-enriched natural gas is made using green hydrogen and is being studied as a lower-carbon energy source.

John Hawkins, president of Eastward Energy, said his company's relatively young gas-delivery system is among the most hydrogen-capable distribution systems in North America and is well suited to the task of bringing hydrogen-based energy solutions to life. 

"Being 21 years old, that's just out of its teenage years, and by utility standards it's very young. It's uniquely adapted to providing up to 100 per cent hydrogen," he said.

Eastward Energy President John Hawkins.

Hawkins said the new Dal lab will enable his firm and other partners, such as mechanical services firm Iron Dog, to work on new energy solutions. 

"As we move to net-zero goals, we have some ambitious targets ahead of us and really we have to look for a diverse portfolio of solutions to those problems — we can't simply rely on a single energy source," he said.

Contributing Dal's expertise

Dal President Kim Brooks said the new lab — also supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada — showcases the power of partnership and collective vision in advancing critical initiatives for Nova Scotia. 

"At the heart of the lab lies a commitment to pioneering research in green hydrogen, a vital component of reducing carbon emissions across sectors and helping Nova Scotia achieve its goal of reaching net zero by 2050," said President Brooks at the event.

Dal President Kim Brooks.

She said Dal has an important role to play in helping Nova Scotia become an "energy powerhouse" and brings expertise in sustainable oceans, climate tech, clean energy and climate adaptation to support the energy transition away from coal and other volatile fossil fuels. 

Premier Houston, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables Tory Rushton, President Brooks, Mr. Hawkins and others toured the new lab facilities with Dr. Pegg and Dal students as part of the launch event. 

"This lab represents one of the many ways Dalhousie is able to work with industry, with community and with government to advance the prosperity of our province. As the president of Dalhousie, I will do everything I can to bring the brightest future we can imagine to Nova Scotia."

Touring the lab.

Student demonstration.

Partners pose for a portrait.


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