The quest for net-zero: Turning hot air from pipeline operations into clean electricity

As Canada’s federal government sets its sights on net-zero emissions by 2050, the transmission pipeline industry is finding innovative ways to reduce its carbon footprint. Creative ideas, ground-breaking technologies and a movement toward a cleaner energy future are changing the way Canada produces and delivers energy.

One of these innovative projects is coming together in southern Alberta, courtesy of TC Energy and Siemens Energy.

Converting waste heat to power


TC Energy uses massive turbines like the ones found in airplane jet engines to move natural gas through its pipeline system. That system delivers more than 25 per cent of North America’s natural gas supply every day.

This new project will use the heat produced by a gas-fired turbine at one of TC Energy’s compressor stations to generate electricity. It will be the first commercial scale waste heat recovery unit of its kind in the world.

The energy it generates will power more than 10,000 homes and offset 44,000 tons of greenhouse gases every year. That is equivalent to taking more than 9,000 vehicles off the road.

What makes this facility unique?


The facility is the first of its kind, because the process uses a fluid called supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) to convert waste heat into power. This eliminates the need to use water or steam, which are used in traditional waste heat recovery systems.

Using sCO2 has several benefits, including:

  • A 25 to 40 per cent smaller footprint compared to steam-based systems;
  • A 10 per cent increase in the efficiency of the compressor system; and
  • The capability to produce clean, emissions-free electricity.

The system is also small and can be easily retrofitted with a wide variety of heat sources without disrupting plant operations.

The unique project is being recognized and partially funded by Emissions Reduction Alberta. It is one of 11 projects launched under the agency’s Industrial Efficiency Challenge. The challenge aims to deploy new technologies to reduce emissions and lower operating costs for Alberta industries.

Scaling up to reduce emissions


The southern Alberta facility is a pilot project, which is expected to be complete toward the end of 2022. With a commitment to integrating sustainable energy solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, TC Energy is already looking at opportunities to use the technology at other compression station sites.

With more than 400 TC Energy compressor stations located across North America, there is a significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while producing clean power for communities.

Making a difference


While Canada’s transmission pipelines contribute only one per cent of Canada’s total emissions, every bit of emissions reduction matters. This waste heat power generation facility is one example of how Canada’s pipeline companies are investing in leading-edge technology to make a difference. Building a better, cleaner and more responsible energy future for Canada and the world.