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Technology

Enabling and Emerging Technologies

  • New understandings at the level of fundamental science will lead to novel energy recovery processes and routes to emission reductions. Research in this theme takes place in fields not usually associated with fossil energy such as biology, genetics and nanotechnology.

    Moving the fossil energy industry toward radical cuts will require both incremental and cutting-edge changes. Research in Theme B has the potential to be breakthrough because investigators are working in fields both within and external to the energy sector and at the level of fundamental science.

    This theme focuses on incorporating knowledge from biological, chemicals and engineering science advances in order to enable novel energy recovery processes and routes to emissions reductions, and novel sensors and sampling systems for monitoring both industrial and subsurface environments. Investigators are also examining chemical and electrochemical routes to unique carbon storage vectors.

    Theme B Lead: Dr. John Shaw
    Professor and NSERC/AB Innovates Industrial Research Chair in Petroleum Thermodynamics
    University of Alberta

    Dr. John Shaw is an associate editor of the journal Energy and Fuels and sits on the Network Coordination Council for the Canadian Oil Sands Network of Research and Development (CONRAD). He is a specialist in the phase behaviour, transport and thermo physiochemical properties of mixtures from coal liquids, heavy oils and condensate rich reservoir fluids to pure compounds.

    Dr. Shaw served as professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto before joining the University of Alberta in 2001. He has held visiting scientist/professor positions at the Technical University of Delft (Delft, The Netherlands), the Institut Francais du Petrole (Rueil-Malmaison, France), the Syncrude Canada Research Centre (Edmonton, Canada), the ITESM campus of the Technical University of Monterrey (Guadalajara, Mexico) and is now visiting the TOTAL Research Centre and UPPA (Pau, France). He has a B.A.Sc. and PhD from the University of British Columbia.

  • B02 Enabling the capture of CO2 under anaerobic (subsurface) conditions

    Principal Investigators:

    Gerrit Voordouw, UCalgary

    Summary:

    CO2 storage in the subsurface is a novel and promising technology. However, if we are to use CCS successfully and safely, we need to understand the long-term fate of the stored CO2. The subsurface microbial community represents one of the largest reservoirs of living organism on our planet. The influence of microorganisms on CO2 storage is still unknown as are the potential uses of microorganisms to aid carbon storage. This research project will involve analysis of samples obtained from a subsurface location prior and during CCS to determine changes in microbial community composition. This approach will allow us to determine in detail the properties of microorganisms that thrive under CCS conditions and natural and engineered processes involved in microbially mediated fixation and or conversion of CO2. Research will improve the long-term success of CCS by filling an important gap in knowledge as well as developing new process options.

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    B04 A pore scale microlab to perform fundamental laboratory-based studies of CO2 transport and reactivity in reservoirs

    Principal Investigators:

    David Sinton, UVictoria; Aimy Bazylak, UToronto; Savvas Hatzikiriakos, UBC; Steven Larter, UCalgary; John Shaw, UAlberta; Zhenghe Xu, UAlberta

    Summary:

    The overall objective of the experimental program is to characterize CO2 transport and reactivity in the fossil fuel processes that underpin the technical and socioeconomic models for effective carbon management. The objective is to develop small scale testing systems and apply them to a specific set of measurements relating to CO2 behaviour in reservoirs. The testing systems to be developed are microfluidic chip based adaptations of the classical Pressure – Volume – Temperature cell offering improved control, range, accuracy, and capacity for pore scale study of porous media. The proposed work leverages the unique opportunity offered by the CMC network to combine a national team of engineering and reservoir geosciences researchers with complementary expertise.

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    B222 Development of novel nanostructured photocatalysts for highly efficient solar photocatalytic reduction of CO2 to fuels

    Principal Investigators:

    David P. Wilkinson, UBC; Baizeng Fang, UBC

    Summary:

    The conversion of CO2 into clean energy fuels is an attractive idea but with current techniques very energy intensive. Researchers are working on an innovative solution to efficiently convert CO2 into methane, alcohols or other hydrocarbon fuels using a catalyst, water vapor and sunlight. The goal is to manufacture new types of catalyst-containing nanostructures with high surface area for absorbing light and test their effectiveness as a component route to carbon neutral fuels.

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    B232 Bioconversion of coal by enhanced engineering pathways into fuel products

    Principal Investigators

    Sushanta Mitra, UAlberta; Karen Budwill, Alberta Innovates Technology Futures; Julia Foght, UAlberta; Jennifer McIntosh, UArizona; Steve Larter, UCalgary; Arno de Klerk, UAlberta; Subir Bhattacharjee, U of Alberta; Thomas Thundat, UAlberta; David Nobes, UAlberta; Gordon Southam, UWestern Ontario; Marc Secanell, UAlberta; John Shaw, UAlberta; Ian Gates, UCalgary; Vinay Prasad, UAlberta; Bruce Peachey, New Paradigm Engineering Ltd.

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    Industry Participant:

    Encana

    Summary:

    This team of 15 researchers is involved in an ambitious project to coax communities of microorganisms to convert coal into natural gas (methane) at production rates, right in the ground. The methane produced from bioconversion could then be collected for use as a clean-burning fuel with much lower emissions than coal for equal amounts of energy generated. The researchers will investigate bioconversion at the nano-scale through to lab and field scales, gathering evidence about the biochemical pathways involved, the microbial species at play and how nutrients and methane flow through coal.

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    B254 Frustrated lewis pairs: A new approach to CO2 capture and utilization

    Principal Investigators:

    Douglas Stephan, UToronto; Eugenia Kumacheva, UToronto

    Summary:

    This work will lay the foundation for a method to convert waste CO2, including potentially air captured CO2, economically into water and methanol, a low emission liquid fuel. The team will build on their breakthrough discovery of a new catalytic process to increase reaction rates for CO2 reduction with hydrogen in order to develop an efficient and cost-effective method for methanol production and potentially kickstart a methanol economy. The ultimate goal is an energy-generation system that would be carbon neutral, with every CO2 molecule released from fuel consumption being converted back into methanol fuel.

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    B312 Development of single-molecule level multi-species nanowire-based sensors for carbon emissions

    Principal Investigators:

    Harry Ruda, University of Toronto;  David Risk, St. Francis Xavier University

    Industry Participants:

    Kyoto Technologies, Forerunner Research

    Summary:

    Researchers are developing an affordable, energy efficient and ultra-sensitive sensor that has the potential to detect even one molecule of carbon dioxide. Current sensors used to detect CO2 at surface sites are either very expensive or they use a lot of energy. And they’re not as accurate as they could be. Dr. Harry Ruda of the Centre for Nanotechnology at the University of Toronto and Dr. David Risk, Earth Sciences Department at St. Francis Xavier University, are working on single nanowire transistors that should have unprecedented sensitivity for detecting CO2 emissions. The sensors could provide complete topographic and temporal mapping of carbon emissions, which would help in the design of new protocols for carbon storage and recovery systems as well provide the means for enforcing regulations—all of which will enable markedly reduced emissions. Dr. Risk’s role will be in testing and translational work that will help embed the sensors in these real-world application environments.

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