Jobs minister heads to Japan as Mitsubishi, Marubeni partner on Alberta-based projects

‘My message is, we can be your source of democratic and reliable energy and food,’ said Alberta Jobs Minister Matt Jones.

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Alberta’s minister of jobs will be in Japan this weekend looking to make progress on deals that could, among a set of other projects, see the province help the East Asian country reduce its high coal emissions.

Those deals include agreements between Alberta companies and Mitsubishi and a major Asian commodities trader — the latter of which could result in the province exporting ammonia to help Japan cut its emissions.

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Minister of Jobs, Trade and Economy Matt Jones will also be pitching the province’s agriculture and beef sectors to Costco’s Japanese arm to explore whether the province could export food to Japan.

“My message is, we can be your source of democratic and reliable energy and food,” Jones said.

Project with Pembina Pipeline could help Japan reduce major coal emissions

Marubeni Corp., a major Asian commodity trader, announced last May an agreement with Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corp. to develop a low-carbon ammonia supply chain from Western Canada to Japan.

The two companies are planning to jointly develop a production facility on Pembina-owned land to produce low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia near Fort Saskatchewan, north of Edmonton.

The deal is part of Japan’s plan to wean off coal-powered generation, which accounts for almost one-third of its electricity. The energy resource-poor country pledged in December to end construction of new coal-fired plants that don’t feature emissions-reduction technology.

The country has been searching for ways to reduce emissions since an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 caused a triple meltdown at a nuclear plant in Fukushima, leading the country to end its use of nuclear power, which at the time made up 30 per cent of its energy supply.

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Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
An aerial view of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Aug. 24, 2023. Photo by STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images

Japan has sought out ammonia to blend it with coal, which can reduce emissions.

That project is still in its early stages, with engineering design, government co-operation and final investment decisions needed to bring it over the finish line. The companies expect operations to begin in 2028.

Updates to Canada’s rail system and export terminals would be needed to get the project running, Jones said, along with implementing new federal policies and regulations. Alberta is in conversation with the federal government on all these fronts, the minister added.

“We need to have the infrastructure, whether it be rail or export terminals in place to move ammonia at scale and ship it to places like Japan,” Jones said.

Scott MacDougall, director of the electricity program at the Pembina Institute, a Canadian clean-energy think tank, said ammonia isn’t currently transported on a large scale in Canada, and the province would need guaranteed agreements with international governments to ensure demand.

“If (Alberta) can get some level of commitment on the demand side for hydrogen, that’ll go a long way for them to be able to finance this and figure out how to support it,” MacDougall said.

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“There’s no downside to studying this stuff and seeing where it goes . . . I’m really curious to see what they land on.”

Heidelberg Materials
The Heidelberg Materials cement manufacturing plant in northwest Edmonton. Heidelberg Materials photo

Mitsubishi partnering with Edmonton cement company

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. in August 2023 delivered and installed a compact carbon pilot capture system to Heidelberg Materials’ cement plant in Edmonton, which will eventually become the first full-scale carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) unit for the global cement industry.

Expected to be running by 2026, it’s expected to capture over one million tonnes of CO2 annually — a significant amount when considering Alberta’s projected sequestration capacity could hit 55 million tonnes by 2030, according to the Canada Energy Regulator.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is the well-known auto company’s engineering, electrical equipment and electronics corporation.

The current project features a small-scale CCUS system that will help Heidelberg determine its feasibility, said Sean McCoy, assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering. Should a plant-wide project go ahead, it will need to set up the proper incentives for Heidelberg that will ease the blow of a $1 billion-plus bill required for it to complete.

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Heidelberg already has an agreement in place with Enbridge for a carbon storage project in Edmonton, created specifically for the cement industry.

Jones said Mitsubishi and Heidelberg are currently in negotiations with the federal government discussing CCUS incentives and Alberta is also seeking to provide similar incentives for the project.

He added that he’ll be meeting with Japan’s Costco team to explore whether it would be interested in agreements with Alberta to send exports like canola, cereal, beef and other meat products overseas.

“(The trip) will include a visit to the Costco there, which I understand has quite an offering of international products,” he said.

[email protected]
X: @mattscace67

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