Low-carbon future is on the horizon in Alberta

The ACCTC’s location in Calgary signifies the province’s dedication to the global challenge of greenhouse gases.

The Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre.

InnoTech hopes the ACCTC will promote innovation and help their tenants’ carbon conversion technologies move through applied research and development to commercial readiness. — Photo courtesy InnoTech Alberta

InnoTech Alberta is an applied research subsidiary of Alberta Innovates. In May, they announced the opening of the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC).

InnoTech hopes the ACCTC will promote innovation and help their tenants’ carbon conversion technologies move through applied research and development to commercial readiness. The goal of these technologies is to assist in lowering greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and converting carbon dioxide into commercially viable products.

ACCTC supports research through to commercial deployment

The centre opened for its first tenants on June 1, 2018, next to the Shepard Energy Centre in Calgary. This location offers a unique opportunity for using the flue gas emissions from the neighbouring natural gas-fired power plant. While other facilities might test similar technologies, the scale and type of flue gas used by ACCTC makes it the first of its kind. “With 25 tonnes of CO2 a day coming off that facility for testing—that is what makes it unique,” said Michelle Hiltz, business relations manager, program group for InnoTech Alberta.

The centre opened for its first tenants on June 1, 2018, next to the Shephard Energy Centre in Calgary.

The centre opened for its first tenants on June 1, 2018, next to the Shephard Energy Centre in Calgary. — Photo courtesy InnoTech Alberta

Overcoming the challenges of innovation

As a collaborative project, there were a few challenges to overcome along the way to opening. “We had to work with both the federal and provincial governments for funding to support the creation of this facility,” Hiltz said. Along with the organizational challenge of a project this size with multiple collaborators, the ACCTC is a long time coming and a welcomed addition to Alberta’s innovation.

“The Shepard Energy Centre is a very new large-scale facility,” Hiltz said. “It produces power for half the city of Calgary, so you can imagine that putting a testing facility right next to that is a major challenge. They don’t want it to interfere with their day-to-day operations producing power.”

The research and development nature of the centre was a big step for joint owners of the Shepard Energy Centre: ENMAX Corporation and Capital Power Corporation. However, they saw the need for these technologies in the province.

When developing new technologies, there is always the challenge of moving it from the lab to a large scale. “Having a facility at this large scale—but not yet implemented in the field—is helpful in making these technologies ready for commercial deployment,” said Hiltz.

ACCTC’s first tenants

Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is another collaborator in the project. They are eager to bring some of their technologies to commercial use and are the first tenants of the centre. COSIA’s five finalist teams from the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition will be in the facility for the first two years. COSIA’s competition asked teams to develop technologies to convert CO2 emissions into valuable products. By converting fossil fuel byproducts into commercially viable products, Alberta’s oil sands will produce fewer greenhouse gases.

In 2020, InnoTech hopes to open the facility to anybody that has technologies that capture or convert CO2 or do both.

Significance of ACCTC’s location in Alberta

The ACCTC’s location in Calgary signifies the province’s dedication to the global challenge of greenhouse gases. It’s a necessary step to lower emissions but also a business opportunity to create valuable product from naturally harmful byproducts.

“I think we are lucky in Alberta that the Alberta government is extremely supportive of working on greenhouse gas emissions,” said Hiltz. As a hub for oil and gas activity, Alberta is a prime location to test and refine solutions to this worldwide challenge. The ACCTC will further solidify Alberta’s position within innovation. “And absolutely it helps that organizations like COSIA are around to support this and have a system to handle more collaborative research,” she said.

The reaction since the ACCTC opened has been only positive. “People are so excited that there are these kinds of facilities,” Hiltz said. “I think it’s creating awareness and excitement for this kind of work. There are technologies out there that can do this conversion of CO2 into something valuable.”

The AACTC opened to the COSIA finalists on June 1 and the tenants are slowly moving into the facilities. Moving forward, InnoTech hopes to see its innovative tenants successfully bring their processes and technologies to the commercial market. “That will be success for us,” Hiltz said. “We are excited to get going and anxiously waiting for the finalists to get set up and start testing.”

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