New power plant proposed for St. Clair could burn hydrogen as fuel

Tara Jeffrey

A Toronto company is planning to build a natural gas power plant in St. Clair Township that could also produce electricity from hydrogen.

Eastern Power has earmarked the project for a two-hectare portion of land immediately south of its existing Green Electron Power Project on Oil Springs Line, near Courtright.

The proposed plant could produce up to 600 megawatts of electricity and include a gas turbine, heat recovery boiler, steam turbine, cooling tower and electrical substation.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is accepting public feedback on the project until July 13. Funding is available to eligible residents and Indigenous groups who participate in the impact assessment process.

Eastern Power says the project, which is expected to be in operation for at least 25 years, would help meet a need for more electricity generation capacity in Southwestern Ontario, as identified by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

Many experts predict Canada’s energy future will revolve around electricity and hydrogen, which produces no pollution when burned as a fuel.

Currently, however, the process of extracting hydrogen from water is very expensive, and producing it from natural gas is pollution-heavy.

The new plant would burn natural gas with added hydrogen as it becomes available, provided by third-party energy suppliers through one of the existing nearby pipelines, the company said.

Earlier this month, St. Clair Township council provided Eastern Power with a support resolution, as part of an IESO proposal process.

The company told council the project could involve either additional gas turbines or a separate building with gas and steam turbines, up to 600MW, all located south of the existing 300MW plant.

It’s not clear where the hydrogen would come from, and calls to St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold and Eastern Power officials were not returned by deadline.

Sarnia already has several producers of hydrogen, including Imperial Oil, Nova Chemicals, Air Products, CF Industries and Praxair.

The existing Green Electron Power Project on Oil Springs Line was linked to the gas plant scandal that plagued the Ontario Liberal government during the 2011 election campaign.

As the Globe and Mail reported, construction of the Courtright plant was shut down in 2015 following safety concerns from workers and charges from the Ministry of Labour. At one point, local workers walked off the job.