The world is moving to a lower carbon footprint and Canadians can expect to see significant changes to the energy industry and development of natural resources over the next 10 to 30 years.
Speaking to a packed room at Silvertip Golf Course on Sept. 13, Guy Turcotte, chairman, president and CEO of Stone Creek Resorts, highlighted this point and outlined for members of BOWDA and other guests the future of hydrogen as an energy source and its relevance to individuals and municipalities.
Turcotte, who previously founded oil companies Chauvco Resources Ltd. and Western Oil Sands Inc., the latter of which was sold to Marathon Oil Corporation in 2007 for an estimated $6.6 billion, is now chairman of Western Hydrogen, a Calgary-based company dedicated to the development and commercialization of hydrogen manufacturing technology.
With his experience in the energy industry, which also includes a position on the board of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, BOWDA's guest speaker provided some facts and alternatives on what is sometimes referred to as a reliance on fossil fuel-powered products.
In his presentation, Turcotte pointed out that the emergence of hybrid vehicles and eventually cars, buses and trucks that run on fuel cells, which create zero emissions, will greatly reduce the footprint caused by vehicles run on internal combustion engines.
"They now have all the technical specs met, they just need volume," Turcotte said regarding the change in technology that's set to take place. "There's not a lot of hydrogen stations around here… but in countries like Japan, (South) Korea and Germany, those guys are planning multi-service stations.
"Starting in 2015, you're going to be reading about a fuel cell vehicle in Japan or California with more mileage and efficiency."
Some car companies, such as Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota, have already started to embrace Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) as a technology that is available now, not years down the road.
In late 2009, 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses started operating in Whistler in what was the largest bus fleet in North America running on this alternative form of technology.
Although it is still uncertain of how much better the lifecycle of these buses is compared to those using internal combustion engine technology, reports indicate 2,200 tonnes of GHG emissions have been eliminated since service began.
Turcotte also pointed to retailers adopting this emerging technology such as Walmart, where, in Nov. 2010, it opened a perishable distribution centre in Balzac that uses 71 fuel cell-powered materials handling vehicles in both the refrigerated and freezer areas of the warehouse.
"The price of fuel cells are going to come down," the chairman said. "This is going to be the same as electronics. High volume is going to drive down the price. This could become mainstream."
Using this form of technology, as Turcotte notes, is pricey for some individuals and smaller municipalities like Canmore, however, the impact this "disruptive technology" will have for companies in industries like oil and gas will come quickly as the public learns of its environmental advantages.
"I would say there will still be an industry, but it will be changing in the latter half of that period and it will change quickly," he said. "I just don't think this is common knowledge. I will be showing this presentation more and more. This is the first time I've shown this."
The lack of press coverage on major projects involving this alternative energy, such as Japan's Ene-Farm that powers around 20,000 homes with fuel cells, is often overlooked, Turcotte added.
Having this information brought to local community leaders and business owners was one of the main reasons for inviting the guest speaker for this event said Ron Remple, executive director at BOWDA.
"It's pretty good for us to get that kind of a view and not be so tied to fossil fuel and oil," he said. "Realize there are some alternatives, they're tangible, they're happening now and are going to be in the future.
"For us to have that kind of insight, I think it was very kind and generous of him to do that for us," he added.
Remple also said the reaction from the audience after Turcotte's presentation was very positive, noting the speaker's ability to translate technical material in a easy to understand and exciting way is helpful.
Regardless of the more environmentally conscious technology that's emerging in the near future, Turcotte pointed out that the country is at the forefront of maintaining the development of its resources in a responsible way.
"Companies in Alberta are very conscious of developing the resource in a responsible way," he said. "I would say Canada leads the world in that regard, but it still gets a lot of attention.
"When you start reading negative media you don't know what to believe," he added. "I come from that side of it. The thing for these projects that's always on the top of the agenda is human safety and the environment. Those two are paramount to any development that's going on in the province."