Alberta facility drives new carbon products and markets

Carbon utilization in oil sands

A purpose built carbon capture facility on the outskirts of Calgary will help make Canada a world leader in carbon capture and utilization technologies that reduce industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. “We need this technology if we are going to get anywhere near our targets for reducing emissions,” says John Van Ham, executive director of sector alignment and programs for InnoTech Alberta, which owns and operates the facility.

The Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC) achieved prominence as one of two testing centres for teams participating in the international NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition. After the XPRIZE lease expires at year end, the ACCTC will open its test bays to other innovators who want to work on commercially viable carbon capture and utilization technologies.

“We’re actively marketing to companies in Canada and internationally who are working in carbon capture and utilization or conversion to bring them to Alberta,” Van Ham says. The goal is to build up a nucleus of activity to develop new carbon based products and  markets for them. InnoTech has a dual mandate to help industry solve its challenges and to grow Alberta’s innovation economy; the ACCTC and Carbon XPRIZE competition support both. It’s early days, but “we’ve had a fair bit of interest from people so far,” Van Ham says.

The ACCTC is  located next to the Shepherd Energy Centre, a natural gas fired power plant that provides 25 tonnes of CO2 a day in flue gas as a byproduct to the centre. What’s attractive to innovators is a specially designed carbon capture unit that condenses CO2 to the high concentrations required for testing, in addition to sophisticated instrumentation that provides detailed measurements.

Developing technologies to reduce CO2 emissions is an important part of addressing climate change and a key priority for COSIA and Canada’s oil sands industry, which is why, through COSIA, numerous oil sands producers were instrumental in establishing the ACCTC. A wide variety of carbon mitigation solutions are being pursuing around the world and carbon capture is the common thread through all of them. 

“Managing greenhouse gas emissions is a challenge for all heavy industry sectors,” Van Ham notes. “The ACCTC can help reduce  industrial CO2 emissions by validating ways to capture and convert the carbon into a valuable asset.”

New carbon based products are in their infancy and innovation is still emerging. “You find carbon-based alloys in high end bicycles, but aerospace, automobiles and light rail still use traditional products,” Van Ham says. “There’s a lot of market opportunity in these and other applications.” With this promising outlook, more and more companies are putting funding behind carbon capture and conversion. 

If there is one thing that Van Ham would like potential tenants to know it is that the ACCTC is open for business and ready to work with anyone looking to do research and development. “We’re located 20 minutes from downtown Calgary and 20 minutes from the airport in an industrial services area. It’s worth coming and having a look,” he says.

Interested in other stories like these? See
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•    Why do we want to preserve peatlands? 

Innovators, do you want to play a game changing role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the oil sands? COSIA is investigating new ways to reduce energy use and associated GHG emissions for below ground in situ operations and surface mining operations, and we’re looking for new ideas or technology on natural gas decarbonization

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