The Business of Clean Hydrogen Energy - A Focus on Norway and Canada
On 23 August 2022, the Research group for Natural Resource Law, Environmental Law and Development Law at the University of Bergen held an international seminar on “The Business of Clean Hydrogen Energy - A Focus on Norway and Canada” together with speakers from the University of Tilburg and Florence School of Regulation, the University of Bergen, the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Toronto, and Yara Clean Ammonia, Norway.
The event took place within the critical context of the European Union's 'REPower EU Plan' and during a time of increased focus on diversifying Europe's energy supplies through Atlantic and North Sea 'green energy corridors'. It asked what role hydrogen exports from Norway and Canada could play in the future, what communalities there are in clean energy development so far between Norway and Caanda, and how academia, government and industry in both jurisdictions can better collaborate to drive an Atlantic clean energy economy.
Ass Professor Herrera Anchustegui, University of Bergen, Faculty of Law, who moderated the event, introduced the recent success in funding of the HyValue project at the University of Bergen. HyValue is a Centre for Environment-friendly Energy Research (FME) on hydrogen financed by the Research Council of Norway that will conduct research on hydrogen for the course of 8 years. HyValue assembles a broad cross-disciplinary consortium of national and international research partners with cutting-edge expertise in hydrogen related technical, economic, legal and societal fields of research. The centre user-partners represent leading national and international industrial companies as well as key public partners. HyValue will undertake long-term research to support and to enable the hydrogen energy transition the world is facing. A set of user-cases will serve as catalysts to connect the centre’s academic and user-partners. The Faculty of Law of the University of Bergen has a central role in the project, leading in collaboration with the Norwegian School of Economics one of the 6 work packages focusing on Integrating Hydrogen Value Chains.
Prof Leigh Hancher of the University of Tilburg and Florence School of Regulation, European University Institute discussed the critical topic of definitions in the hydrogen economy (e.g., hydrogen from low-carbon versus renewable energy pathways). She illustrated the complexities from the perspective of the European Union's legal framework on hydrogen by providing an overview of the latest 'Hydrogen Accelerator Package'. One of the challenges of the EU's focus on hydrogen, as Leigh noted, is that the union will have to import large amounts of hydrogen from third countries (including Norway and Canada). Further, the Hydrogen Accelerator package, for example, is heavily focused on the concept of "additionality". This will require a producer of hydrogen to, effectively, add to renewable electricity deployment at the point of production. As Leigh also noted, there is real legal uncertainty as to what it may mean for hydrogen to be produced "fully" from renewable electricity, adding to the existing legal uncertainties in the global hydrogen value chain.
Director of Energy Research at UiB Dr. Kristin Guldbrandsen Frøysa then discussed the role that hydrogen will play in Norway's transition to a net-zero 2050 economy,
particularly in the context of the oil and gas industry on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. In the context of the offshore sector, Kristin presented on a number of ground-breaking industry and research projects that are currently underway, including the EU-funded SHIPFC project which is exploring green ammonia as a marine fuel in the challenging offshore oil and gas supply sector. Closer to the shore, Kristin's presentation provided great insights into local hydrogen hub developments in Norway, including at the Municipality of Stord near Bergen, where Hydrogen Solutions is developing a green hydrogen value chain pilot project called Stord Hydrogen. At the UiB itself, Kristin shared that research to drastically improve the energy efficiency process of ammonia production is ongoing.
An important industry perspective was provided by Emile Herben of Yara Clean Ammonia, which focused on investment opportunities and ongoing roadblocks to accelerate large-scale investment in clean hydrogen and ammonia. Emile noted that industry is looking for a clear alignment of the regulatory, market, technology and infrastructure pieces to the ammonia equation. On the regulatory aspect, Emile stressed that industry is looking for "true" carbon pricing or alternatively forceful regulation of the market, to sufficiently incentivise a transition to clean energy. Connecting the thoughts back to Leigh Hancher's presentation on certification, Emile emphasised that there may be a risk of hydrogen certification going the way of globally mis-aligned carbon pricing or perhaps the same route of presently unclear global ESG-taxonomies. Emile also included a discussion of certification schemes, where progress on certification for clean energy may have to include a multi-step approach so as to drive the early stages of the clean ammonia value chain.
The seminar then turned to a discussion on Canada and Canada's emerging clean hydrogen economy by Ass. Professor Rudiger Tscherning, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary. Rudiger discussed the role of energy infrastructure development and its "project approval challenges" which may affect Canada's clean energy export potential, at least in the short term, potentially resulting in delays for exports across the Atlantic to the European market. The presentation looked at past experiences with export-oriented LNG project development as an opportunity to "look back to look forward" so as to capitalise on the different and geographically diverse hydrogen production pathways that Canada can offer. The presentation also included some thoughts on how, realistically, hydrogen and ammonia could be deployed in different end-use scenarios in Canada, with a view to achieving Canada's net-zero 2050 targets. Here Canada's mining sector, in particular for critical and strategic minerals, may be a strategic opportunity.
Last, but certainly not least, was a presentation by Jonathan Cocker, Partner, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Toronto, which discussed the ever-important question of securing and maintaining the social licence to operate hydrogen and clean energy projects. Jonathan drew parallels with Canada's complex experience to ask if the understanding of "social licence" will change based on the type of hydrogen production pathway and ultimate end-use of hydrogen and ammonia. He introduce the novel concept of "social licence variability" to the event's discussions. Jonathan concluded his presentation by providing an overview of Denmark's Power to X strategy as an example to how both
Canada and Norway could approach the hydrogen opportunity, by combining climate and renewable energy objectives with economic development incentives, including focusing on the future export of products and technologies to support a global hydrogen economy.