The Shepard Energy Centre in southeast Calgary is Alberta’s largest natural gas-fuelled power generating facility. Three years ago, InnoTech Alberta, a subsidiary of Alberta Innovates, opened the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC) right next door. This one-of-a-kind facility allows for testing and demonstration of CO₂ conversion, capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology on an intermediate or pilot scale. Pipes carry a portion of the Shepard Centre’s flue gas that would normally be burnt off and feeds it into the ACCTC. This allows for 25 tonnes of CO₂ per day to be used as supply for the businesses working on carbon-capture devices at the ACCTC.
In many labs around the world, experts are working with small CO₂ cannisters to test CCUS theories and devices, but before these technologies can be implemented at energy facilities, they need to be tested with higher and more consistent rates of CO₂.
The ACCTC receives the majority of its operational funding from industry partners as well as the provincial government through Alberta Innovates. The facility stands alone as a distinctive leader, the only space of its kind in Canada.
John Van Ham, the executive director of sector alignment and programs with InnoTech, says the ACCTC makes Calgary and Alberta exceptional because of the opportunities this technology offers in reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. And it also makes the city a hotbed for collaboration and attraction of new businesses. “Whether the businesses working on-site are collaborating with researchers at the university or getting supplies from local companies or working directly with energy facilities in the area, [the ACCTC] makes Calgary and Alberta a very attractive place to be doing this work, and the city benefits,” Van Ham says.
Currently, each of the businesses using one of the five, 25,000-square-foot testing bays at the ACCTC, is competing for the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, which calls on innovators and businesses to find CCUS solutions that convert CO₂ into usable products.
Starting in September, 2015, a handful of innovators were chosen to compete for the prize, and the finalists began moving their tech into testing at the ACCTC in 2019. The overall winner of the $20 million purse will be announced later this year.
Once the winner is announced the ACCTC will welcome new innovators to use the site.
“In the future, this site will be opened up to anyone who wants to come in and do this work, such as companies throughout Canada or internationally who have been contacting us to use the Centre,” Van Ham says. Some of the XPRIZE candidates who are currently on site have been negotiating to stay as well.