University of Calgary

Capturing funding

UToday HomeJanuary 7, 2013

Carbon management research at the University of Calgary has received a boost with the announcement that $173,000 will be awarded to two researchers who are part of project teams receiving grants from Carbon Management Canada (CMC), a federal Network of Centres of Excellence.

Professors Josephine Hill and Ian Gates, both with the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in the Schulich School of Engineering, are working on multi-university projects funded by CMC, a national network funding research to reduce carbon emissions in the fossil energy industry and in other large-scale emitters. CMC, which is hosted by the University of Calgary, recently announced eight new research projects totaling $3.75 million. The network has now invested $22 million in 44 research projects.

“The University of Calgary is proud of the work being done by CMC,” says Ed McCauley, vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary. “Carbon management is an important area of research and innovation at our institution, and the university is pleased to help support industry and academic partnerships. Extracting resources with minimal environmental impact is a major component of our strategic research theme ‘energy innovations for today and tomorrow’ and the work being carried out by Hill and Gates, along with others in the CMC network, directly address this important concern."

Hill, who is working with researchers at two universities and CanmetEnergy, will receive $167,000 to help develop a system to help coal-fired power plants achieve CO2 emissions equivalent to natural gas. The work involves the development of new composite sorbent pellets that are added to the coal combustion process where they adsorb CO2 from flue gas. A pure stream of CO2 is then removed from the pellets for storage and the pellets are looped through the process again.

The pellets are unique because they combine two materials — calcium oxide and copper oxide. Researchers have been using calcium oxide pellets to adsorb CO2 from gases released during the combustion of coal. But extracting the CO2 from the resulting limestone requires large amounts of energy. To reach that energy requirement, Hill is adding copper oxide to the mix. The copper oxide reacts with a hydrocarbon (eg. methane) generating the large amount of heat required to extract a pure stream of CO2. No additional energy should be required.

Hill is focused on ensuring the calcium/copper oxide composite remains stable in the combustion process and can also be recycled multiple times.

“You don’t want it [the sorbent material] to fall apart or significantly deactivate and you want to be able to reuse it. The whole idea is the use something more than once so you are looping it,’” says Hill.

Gates, who received $6,000 to supervise graduate students, is part of an international team working on a process that would see steel, coal and cement plants as well as oil and gas facilities remove most of the carbon dioxide from their emissions through chemical reactions with various types of crushed rocks in the stacks. Participating in this project are researchers from the Institut national de la recherché scientifique in Quebec, and the University of Melbourne, along with contributions from Holcim Canada and Sigma Devtech.