Waste pressure from natural gas pipelines may possibly fuel the next generation of clean power for Canadian cities, a bet the Canadian government is willing to take. Federal officials Thursday provided Enbridge Gas Distribution (EGD) with an additional C$785,000 Thursday to help launch a hybrid project using a fuel-cell and gas expansion turbine plant in Toronto.

The entire project is estimated to cost about C$10 million, and with the latest contribution Canada has provided about C$2 million to Enbridge. The latest funding will allow Enbridge to add a 1.2 MW fuel cell to its Pipeline to Ultra-Clean Generation Project, and it will be the first Canadian utility to demonstrate the hybrid fuel-cell technology at a facility.

Enbridge estimated it could generate up to 40 MW of electricity, enough to power 30,000 homes, by applying the hybrid technology to its Ontario operations. The technology converts waste pressure from gas pipelines to power a turbine, and the additional fuel cell working in combination with the turbine would generate additional power with near-zero polluting emissions.

Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn announced the funding for the fuel cell Thursday at an international energy conference hosted by the Canadian Gas Association (CGA).

Said Lunn, "This plant is the first of its kind in the world. Our government is proud to support companies like Enbridge that are developing cleaner energy technologies that will benefit the environment, protect the health of Canadians and build a clean-energy economy."

"The advantage is that if we can make this work, there's a lot of benefit right across the country," said CGA President Michael Cleland.

EGD's Jim Schultz, senior vice president of New Ventures, said the facility was "a prime example of how high-efficiency, near-zero-emissions technologies can play a meaningful role in meeting clean air and climate change objectives." Enbridge, he said, wants to "ensure gas utilities are part of the environmental solution for our society."

"This hybrid fuel cell will provide much needed electricity generation in the communities we serve, and this electricity will have a very low environmental impact," said EGD President Al Monaco. "We're excited about the prospect of using this new technology that operates without the combustion of fuel. Across our largely urban franchise, future installations will allow Enbridge to provide low-impact electricity to Ontario's grid as by-product of our daily pipeline operations."

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