Newfoundland Hydrogen Project and the Circular Economy
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Prime Minister Trudeau has announced we will be shipping Hydrogen to German in 3 years.
Is the time frame realistic and what about circularity? Will the project incorporate circularity into decisions so there is a true accounting of all the impacts on people, the planet and profit?
What is Circularity?
“Circularity describes economic, technical, and environmental systems that aim to eliminate waste and maximize the reuse of resources. Circular systems make use of design, recycling, reuse, remanufacturing and refurbishment to create a closed loop system, based on the ideal of preserving ‘virgin’ materials, reducing waste creation and maximising waste reuse.”
“In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste being produced in the first place” by planning for circularity.
Circularity – making the Circular Economy second nature.
Circularity and its Considerations
Following are a few of the considerations that should be evident looking at this project through the lens of a circular economy.
What about the environmental impacts on planet? - incorporate the greenhouse gas emissions from the start to the finish – from mining those precious metals, to delivery of gas in Germany, to what are the plans for the used blades, all 2.6 million kgs of them and much more.
And, let’s not forget the people. How will this project be designed to protect the interests of the people?
What about local environmental impacts on water, the marine environment, air quality, animals, birds, bats, flora and fauna, loss of habitat through land conversion to a wind farm, and much more?
What about social impacts before, during, and following the project build?
What about the upstream and downstream impacts that may not be as evident, such as greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.
What about greenhouse gas emissions from conversion of energy from electrical to hydrogen, to ammonia, and back to hydrogen?
What about the stakeholders? – who has an interest in the project and to what level? Which stakeholders want to be intimately involved; which ones just want to be kept informed? Stakeholder relationships are critically important to any project.
Environmental Impact Study Time Frame
On August 5, 2022, the Minister advised the project proponent that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required. Various studies cannot commence until next year and are required to almost the end of 2023. Following, there is writing of reports, public and Committee review, and then final considerations. This is a simplistic summary of what occurs in the EIS process, but the work cannot be done adequately considering circularity within the time frame that the politicians may want.
Government will make a decision regarding Environmental Approval. This takes some time.
Final Investment Decision
The project proponent, all things considered, will make a Final Investment Decision. If positive, the project will proceed, with components ordered and construction underway. Considering other projects of “like” size, construction could possibly take 3 – 4 years.
Site clearing, road building, wind farm installation, and all the infrastructure for making the hydrogen and load out is required. This is a huge and exciting project, with lots of challenges that by working together can be overcome, but not in 2 – 3 years and there is the circularity question of what to do with the blades.
What to Do with The Blades?
The Canadian Renewable Energy Association, in their Fact Sheet, Recycling Renewables states, “Separating the fibers, epoxy, and other functional components used in the blades is not always an option, but there are several sustainable, end-of-life repurposing strategies for wind turbine blades made of composite materials.”
Does that provide much comfort to handle approximately 2.6 million Kgs of turbine blades from 164 towers? The downstream impacts and the “out-of-sight, out of mind approach to recycling hopefully will not cut it. If we are going to truly look at the impacts on people, the planet and profit, the environmental impacts through the whole of the value chain have to be front and centre to the environmental assessment of this, or any project.
So, what to do with the blades?
This project, with the goal of assisting Canada to reach “net zero” lies within the hands of the people of Newfoundland. To ensure that all potential impacts on the people, the planet and profit are considered, we encourage the use of a circular system, making use of design, recycling, reuse, remanufacturing and refurbishment to create a closed loop system, based on the ideal of preserving ‘virgin’ materials, reducing waste creation and maximizing waste reuse.”
Sustainable Circular Economy -Who Are We?
At Sustainable Circular Economy, we see discussion about how we are going to get to true sustainability as critical, or all the commitments just become questionable to languish on paper when the people who made them are long gone, and we are left holding the bag.
We are 100 percent supportive of establishing goals to reduce our global carbon footprint and helping companies and individuals to do their part. Our business is helping to do the world a world of good, by offering a pathway through the circular economy principled upon people, the planet and profit.
Together we can do this, but it will take knowing what is required, and discussion and commitment about how we are going to get there considering the people, the planet and profit – the basis for the circular economy.
Let’s have the discussions. Ask the questions of our leaders, and if you wish to know how to get there in your business, call on us at Sustainable Circular Economy. We offer a free consultation to discuss how we can help you seize an era of opportunity and innovation in the new environmental landscape.
 Circularity. What is Circularity? https://www.circularity.com.au/what-is-circularity.html (accessed August 23, 2022)  Ellen MaCarthur Foundation (2022). What is a Circular Economy? https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/ Accessed July 24, 2022