3 ways carbon taxes are funding clean technologies

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about the importance of finding innovative solutions to global climate change. This week, we want to tell you about a Canadian organization that is helping to find and fund those solutions.

Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) uses carbon taxes from large emitters to invest in clean technologies. The organization’s goal is to reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions and to help Alberta adapt to climate change.

“We do that through the discovery, development and deployment of technology,” explained Kirk Andries, managing director of the CCEMC.

The CCEMC, which is an independent organization and operates at arm’s length from the Government of Alberta, receives money from the province’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund in the form of a grant. It then uses that money to fund projects in areas such as carbon capture and storage, renewable energy, cleaner energy production, energy efficiency, adaptation and reducing biological emissions.

Here is just a sample of some of the projects they are working on.

1. Cleaner oil-sands extraction

Andries explained that one project the organization is funding could, if proved effective, “virtually eliminate the use of water” associated with in situ oil-sands extraction. The project is being explored by three oil sands companies in partnership with a telecommunications company out of Florida. They are looking at using electromagnetic heating combined with solvents to extract oil as an alternative to steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), a method that requires a lot of water resources.

2. Lowering the cost barrier of carbon capture

According to Andries, who also runs the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute at the University of Alberta, a barrier to carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the financial cost of capturing carbon.

“The cost of capture right now is too high to be economic. So we are investing in technologies that are designed to reduce the cost of capture, which would enable the business of CCS to occur more quickly,” Andries explained.

Andries said that the CCEMC is currently funding a Quebec-based company that has come up with a technology to potentially reduce capture costs by 40 per cent. Its solution? The human respiratory system.

“The technology they are using is based on an enzyme, and the enzyme is part of the human body,” said Andries. “What they are suggesting is that one of the most efficient ways of converting and capturing C02 is the human respiration system.”

3. Using carbon as a resource

The CCEMC launched a Grand Challenge a year ago, which may help change the way we look at CO2. The Grand Challenge is a competition aimed at finding innovative ways to capture CO2 and use it as a resource that can be converted into carbon-based products.

“The goal is to find a technology, that can be commercialized here in Alberta, that will yield a one megatonne net CO2 reduction on an annual basis,” said Andries.

After the first call for innovative ideas, they had 344 submissions from 37 different countries.

The competition will occur over five years with various stages of submissions, reviews and funding. At the end of the five years, the winner is awarded $10 million to bring their technology to market.

How about pipelines?

The CCEMC also funds innovative pipeline-related projects. For example, one project that has been funded plans to convert exhaust from natural gas turbines at a pipeline compressor station into emissions-free electricity. Read more about the Whitecourt Recovered Energy Project here.

Note: CEPA former president and CEO, Dr. Brenda Kenny, is a board member of the CCEMC.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.