Cablegate: Canada: High On Hydrogen

Published: Thu 24 Jul 2003 08:08 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: REF: (A) STATE 146268 (B) OTTAWA 01721
1. SUMMARY: This cable provides an overview of Canada's
public and private efforts to develop technologies for the
use of hydrogen as a fuel. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)
is drafting a detailed national plan for directing Canadian
hydrogen efforts ("Canadian Hydrogen Roadmap"), but it is at
least one year away from completion, according to GOC
officials. On April 15, Industry Canada released its
"Canadian Fuel Cell Commercialisation Roadmap," a document
that will complement the expected "Hydrogen Roadmap."
Research teams at the National Research Council (NRC) labs in
Ottawa and Vancouver are working on the next generation of
PEM (proton-exchange membrane) and solid oxide fuel cell
(SOFC) components to find ways to lower the cost, reduce the
size, and improve the efficiency of fuel cells. High-profile
Canadian corporations, some of them world leaders in their
field, are also doing their part to spur the development of
hydrogen-related technology and infrastructure in Canada (see
paras 10-11). Given its expertise in some hydrogen
technologies, Canada could contribute significantly to the
development of the hydrogen economy in North America, and we
recommend continued close collaboration between governments
and the private sectors of the US and Canada. END SUMMARY.
2. The Canadian Government (GOC) has made a multi-agency
commitment to developing the hydrogen economy. Natural
Resources Canada's (NRCan's) hydrogen-related research and
development (H2 R) is handled by the CANMET Energy
Technology Centre (CETC). Vesna Scepanovic, Hydrogen and
Fuel Cell Program Manager of the CETC, highlighted for Emboff
the GOC's strong interest in supporting private H2 R, as
well as performing some of its own. She emphasized NRCan's
leading role in 20 years of H2 R for a total expenditure of
C$183 million (US$133 million), not including the new
Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance (see para 3). She
pointed out that more recently involved GOC agencies include
Transport Canada, the National Research Council (NRC), and
Environment Canada. Scepanovic said that Industry Canada and
the Department of National Defence (DND) are becoming more
interested in the use of hydrogen, as shown by Industry
Canada's release of the Fuel Cell Commercialisation Roadmap
in April (see paras 7-9). Scepanovic mentioned that NRCan is
currently working on a Canadian Hydrogen Roadmap that will
take at least one year to develop. She commented that it
should have predated the Fuel Cell Roadmap because the new
Hydrogen Roadmap will be a more comprehensive plan,
including, but not limited to, fuel cell technology.
3. In 2000, under the Canadian Climate Change Action Plan,
CETC created the Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance
(CTFCA). The CTFCA is an organization that brings together
more than 60 universities, private companies, and government
agencies. Richard Fry, CTFCA's Fuel Cell Infrastructure
Program Manager, told Emboff that his program will receive
C$23 million (US$17 million) over five years (ending in 2005)
through NRCan to fund projects on hydrogen fueling stations
and demonstrations of hydrogen production from methanol,
natural gas, electrolysis, and recovery of waste hydrogen.
Fry acknowledged some GOC interest in hydrogen production
from nuclear power sources and observed that Geoffrey
Ballard, founder of Canadian fuel cell producer Ballard
Power, publicly supports the idea. However, Fry and other
officials indicate a preference for renewable sources of
hydrogen production, although current government funding of
wind and solar projects is weak. For now Canada continues to
produce the majority of its hydrogen from fossil fuels.
Major CTFCA partners include Ballard Power Systems, Ford
Motor Company, Hydrogenics Corporation, QuestAir
Technologies, and Stuart Energy Systems (for more details on
these Canadian companies see para 10).
4. The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) does
significant research related to PEM (proton-exchange
membrane) fuel cells and SOFCs (solid-oxide fuel cells).
Senior researchers in Ottawa are applying their expertise and
lab capacity in materials science towards specific fuel cell
applications, while a more focused fuel cell program is
growing at NRC's Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation in
Vancouver. One project involves reducing the amount of
platinum needed in fuel cell catalysts, which could
drastically lower their cost. NRC officials emphasize that
they are a "crown corporation" distinct from the GOC (which
in any case provides most of their funding). NRCan and its
CANMET labs form the epicenter of GOC hydrogen research and
5. The GOC ratified the Kyoto protocol in late 2002 and
views hydrogen as a potential tool for important reductions
in greenhouse gas emissions. Technology Early Action
Measures (TEAM), a division of the Climate Change Action Fund
(CCAF), provides investment for technology that promises to
reduce emissions while sustaining social and economic
development. TEAM, which encourages clean energy solutions
that can be marketed quickly, was initially budgeted C$60
million (US$44 million) from its inception in 1998 to 2001.
An additional C$35 million (US$25 million) will see it
through to 2004. In one example of hydrogen technology
investment, TEAM provided C$1.1 million (US$822,000) for an
Ontario Power Technologies project in 2000 to build a
prototype heat and power plant to run on fuel cells.
6. Hydrogen has also attracted attention and funding from
Technology Partnerships Canada (TPC), a loan program that
supports private sector R For example, TPC invested
C$4.34 million (US$3.24 million) in Stuart Energy Systems in
1999 for the design of a cost-effective refueling system for
hydrogen-powered buses.
--------------------------------------------- -
7. Industry Minister Allan Rock released the "Canadian Fuel
Cell Commercialisation Roadmap" on April 15 of this year
(information available at In it,
the GOC identifies the economic and environmental goals of H2
fuel cell development, such as cleaner air and lower
climate-changing emissions levels (towards Kyoto
requirements). It views hydrogen as an important energy
resource for transportation, heating, and power generation.
The GOC believes it holds a world leadership position in this
sector and endorses the roadmap as a way to maintain a
Canadian edge in a global hydrogen economy. The Roadmap
profiles no fewer than 96 Canadian players, 42 of which are
GOC agencies (Environment Canada, TPC, NRCan's TEAM, Industry
Canada, Transport Canada) or NGOs (CHA, Fuel Cells Canada).
The other 54 profiles are broken into three categories: Fuel
Cell Producers (Hydrogenics, Ballard Power), Parts and
Systems Suppliers (QuestAir, Vandenborre), and Fueling
Infrastructure (Stuart Energy). (For details on these
participants see para 10).
8. Most economic data in the Roadmap is from 2001. The GOC
estimates 1,800 Canadian jobs are directly connected and
dedicated to the fuel cell industry, 76% of which are located
in Western Canada (concentrated in British Columbia). This
number is thought to have remained stable over the last two
years and represents mostly university and community college
graduates. According to the GOC, 2001 fuel cell industry
revenues were estimated at C$96.9 million (US$70.1 million),
with 70% coming from Western Canada. The GOC predicts 70%
revenue growth between 2001 and 2003, resulting in an
estimated C$165.2 million (US$119.5 million) in Canadian fuel
cell industry revenue this year. For purposes of comparison,
the US fuel cell market is estimated to be worth about US$1.4
billion this year (according to a report from the Business
Communications Company, Inc., website
Using those numbers, the Canadian fuel cell market is roughly
5% the value of the US fuel cell market, which may seem
insignificant until one realizes that 2002 nominal Canadian
GDP was about 7% of US GDP. Thus one can see that the fuel
cell market is playing an equally important role in the
Canadian economy proportionate to the US fuel cell market and
9. The "Roadmap" recommends strategies to stimulate early
market demand by showcasing technology and educating the
public. To improve product quality while reducing cost, the
Roadmap promotes information sharing and the adoption of
common performance and technical standards between
researchers and developers, the private sector, and academic
institutions. To help in the financing of H2 fuel cell R,
the Roadmap proposes tax incentives and matching funds for
related investments. The GOC intends to "take a lead role in
setting codes and standards for fuel, fuel cells, and fueling
systems." The Roadmap concludes with the goal of "developing
a national fuel cell strategy within the next year" and
incorporating Roadmap working groups into Fuel Cells Canada,
an industry association that actually began as part of
Industry Canada (see para 14).
--------------------------------------------- -----
10. The bulk of Canadian private sector H2 R efforts (87%
of all Canadian fuel cell R) is clustered around Vancouver,
British Columbia (B.C.), only 150 miles north of Seattle.
Another center of private hydrogen activity is in the Toronto
area. Following is a summary of some major private sector
players with their location, their focus, and their GOC
COMPANY: Ballard Power Systems
LOCATION: Burnaby, B.C. (Vancouver area)
FOCUS/PRODUCT: World leader of PEM (proton exchange
membrane) fuel cell manufacturing.
GOC FUNDING: CETC funds in early 90s for fuel cells in
city buses; C$8m (US$5.8m) from NRCan,
Industry Canada, Environment Canada,and
Transport Canada for fuel cells in Ford
COMPANY: QuestAir Technologies
LOCATION: Burnaby, B.C. (Vancouver area)
FOCUS/PRODUCT: Hydrogen and methane harvesting through
gas purification and separation.
GOC FUNDING: C$9.6m (US$7m) from TPC for H2
purification technology R Government
of British Columbia has also funded
QuestAir R
COMPANY: Stuart Energy, owns Vandenborre Hydrogen
Technologies (formerly Belgian)
LOCATION: Mississauga, Ontario (Toronto area)
FOCUS/PRODUCT: Hydrogen refueling and power back-up
systems. Active in European and Asian
GOC FUNDING: C$5.8m (US$4.2m) from TPC and CCAF for
cost-effective and reliable method of
refueling hydrogen fuel cell buses.
COMPANY: Hydrogenics Corporation
LOCATION: Mississauga, Ontario (Toronto area)
FOCUS/PRODUCT: Constructs power generation systems
based on PEM fuel cells. Named Canada's
fastest growing company during last 5
years by PROFIT magazine.
GOC FUNDING: C$500,000 (US$364,000) from NRCan for
10-kilowatt fuel cell power module for use
in forklifts, utility and mining vehicles.
--------------------------------------------- -----------
11. The above list details only four of a large group of
Canadian companies making significant steps forward in the
development of hydrogen technology. The following Canadian
firms are considered to be among the world's leaders in their
Ballard Power
PEM (proton-exchange membrane) technology
Compressed hydrogen storage
Greenlight Division of Hydrogenics
Fuel cell systems testing
HERA Hydrogen Storage Systems
Hydrogen storage in light-weight hydride materials
and R on carbon-based materials for H2 storage.
12. The Canadian private sector foresees strong consumer
demand for hydrogen-powered products in the near future and
many products are already on the market. Stuart Energy has
mobile and permanent hydrogen refueling stations running;
Hydrogenics offers portable and stationary hydrogen-run power
generators; Ballard fuel cells are in both Coleman Powermate
generators and Daimler/Chrysler buses and cars. According to
Stuart Energy, modifying a current internal combustion engine
to run on hydrogen (cutting emissions dramatically) costs
only about US$700, meaning that large numbers of Canadians
(and Americans) could be driving hydrogen-powered vehicles
today. Companies such as Stuart Energy that are not
primarily involved with fuel cell technology (whose practical
applications are still 15-20 years away) see the 'hydrogen
economy' as a more immediate subset of the larger economy.
Instead of replacing contemporary energy sources, hydrogen
can complement them and help optimize their use through its
ability to store energy during off-peak hours for emergency
use during times of heavy demand.
13. Private sector players in the US and Canada are showing
a healthy degree of teamwork with regard to hydrogen
technology and applications. Companies on both sides of the
border belong to the same H2 industry organizations (Ballard
Power, for example, is a member of the Canadian Fuel Cell
Partnership, and Ford Motor Company is a partner of the
Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance). Some companies
are conducting joint projects; for instance, US General
Motors is working with Canadian firms Hydrogenics and General
Hydrogen, and Ford is working with Stuart Energy and Ballard
Power. Canadian and American businesses would both benefit
from a compatible, balanced and strong hydrogen
infrastructure on both sides of the border, so they have an
incentive to cooperate in working towards that goal. GOC
officials confirmed that any multinational with an office
based in Canada qualifies for hydrogen-related government
funds, which might make American private investment in
hydrogen projects in Canada even more attractive.
14. A host of organizations have sprung up in efforts to
coordinate the hydrogen-related activities of industries,
universities, research institutions, the GOC and provincial
governments. Two examples are Fuel Cells Canada (based in
the NRC's Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation in Vancouver)
and the Canadian Hydrogen Association (CHA, offices in
Toronto and Montreal). Fuel Cells Canada, a non-profit
industry association that began with support from the
National Research Council (NRC), provides support and
services for continuing demonstration, development, and
deployment of hydrogen fuel cell technology. The CHA, also
non-profit, sponsors and organizes meetings and conferences
for its members and promotes educational activities in
schools. CHA members include Ballard Power, Dynetek, General
Hydrogen, Hydrogenics, and Stuart Energy. These two
associations form the industry framework for plans like the
Fuel Cell Commercialisation Roadmap that call for a wide
variety of players dealing in different sectors of the
hydrogen economy.
--------------------------------------------- -
15. Although NRCan already collaborates with DOE on hydrogen
safety standards and educational outreach projects, their
hydrogen managers at the working level are eager for further
bilateral coordination. Fortunately NRCan officials say that
they do not feel they are duplicating US H2 R efforts.
While both countries' scientists are researching many of the
same issues, they are "developing very specific
technologies." In the recent bilateral energy consultations
held in Ottawa, the GOC committed to participation in the
International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE, REF
A), despite concerns of potential overlapping with the
International Energy Agency's (IEA's) Hydrogen Control Group
(HCG) (REF B).
16. COMMENT: While the GOC has a long track record of fuel
cell funding and research, its attention to the significant
matters of hydrogen production, storage, and transport is
relatively new. These areas would benefit greatly from
USG-GOC coordination. It is still unclear to some GOC
officials how best to engage in successful North American H2
R collaboration with the US, which they all agree is very
desirable. Post believes that US and Canadian bilateral and
multilateral cooperation on hydrogen technologies will help
cement both countries' leading positions in the coming global
hydrogen economy. END COMMENT.
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