CMC announces eight new research projects

Carbon Management Canada has awarded a total of $3.75 million to eight new research projects.

Among the new investments are projects to: develop greenhouse gas sensors using nanotechnology; improve ways of assessing cap rock integrity for CO2 storage; discover ways to reduce CO2 emissions in cement production; and examine and test methods to securely sequester CO2 in mine tailings through formation of carbonate minerals. Also funded is a study investigating ways carbon-pricing policies could drive innovation and the development of low carbon technologies.

With these awards, CMC has now committed $22 million to 44 research projects at Canadian universities with additional contributions and partners from more than 100 companies, stakeholder organizations and international universities in countries such as the United States, the U.K., Australia and Germany.

Projects boost carbon management research

In making the funding announcement, Dr. Steve Larter, CMC’s Scientific Director, said these projects bring great value to carbon management research.

“We are very excited about these new projects. Carbon Management Canada’s mandate is to deliver innovative deployable solutions to manage carbon emissions. These eight new projects substantially advance us toward that goal,” said Larter. “CMC is working to ensure the country has the technologies and the knowledge to help solve growing carbon management challenges.”

Working on the latest round of projects are 38 researchers from universities, government and industries in Canada and abroad. And with numerous graduate students engaged in the research, the projects will develop skilled people ready to take a role in academia and industry.

Summaries of projects are below:

Project: Pre & post-combustion CO2 capture using novel composite CaO/CuO sorbents

Lead Investigator: Arturo Macchi, University of Ottawa
Co-PIs: Edward Anthony, U of Ottawa; Poupak Mehrani, U of Ottawa; Josephine Hill, U of Calgary; Robert Legros, École Polytechnique de Montréal; Gregory Patience, École Polytechnique de Montréal
CMC Investment:
$500,000/3 years

Globally, coal-fired power plants contribute a significant amount of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Dr. Arturo Macchi and his team are working on a system to help Canadian coal-fired power plants achieve CO2 emissions equivalent to natural gas which will put coal-fired plant emissions in-line with proposed federal legislation.

The process involves the development of new composite sorbent materials that can be used in post and pre-combustion carbon capture processes. Calcium looping cycles (CaL) and chemical looping combustion (CLC) are promising technologies for the reduction of CO2 emissions from all thermal power plants, including coal. This research will integrate CaL and CLC into a new class of CO2 capture processes using composite materials. Specific objectives are to investigate various sorbent formulations and experimentally test their sustained CO2 capture capacity over multiple cycles at simulated industrial conditions. Combined with reactor modeling and process simulation, this will provide technological-economic proof-of-concept.

This technology can be applied to thermal power stations and related industries.

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

 Lead Investigator: Harry Ruda, University of Toronto
Co-PI:  David Risk, St. Francis Xavier University
Partners/Contributors: Kyoto Technologies, Forerunner Research
CMC Investment:
$350,000/3 years

Researchers are developing an affordable, energy efficient and ultra-sensitive sensor that has the potential to detect even one molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2).

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.

Project: Carbonate production by sequestration of industrial CO2: revalorization of mine and industrial waste

Lead Investigator: Guy Mercier, Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)
Co-PIs: Jean-Francois Blais, INRS; Sandra Kentish, U of Melbourne; Ian Gates, U of Calgary
Partners/Contributors: Holcim Canada & SIGMA DEVTECH
CMC Investment:
$300,000/2 years

In nature, CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere through a process called carbon mineralization whereby CO2 reacts with minerals to form carbonate rock. The goal of this project, which is being undertaken with industrial partners Holcim Canada and SIGMA DEVTECH, is to use this type of reaction and accelerate it to treat industrial CO2 emissions.

The group will be reacting various magnesium and calcium rocks available in asbestos tailings mines with the gaseous emission (containing CO2) of a Holcim cement plant with the participation of the cement plant staff in a chemical reactor (a plant in itself). Doing so, silicate of magnesium or calcium, depending on the rocks, used will be transformed to carbonate of magnesium or calcium. Researchers will focus on developing an economically attractive process as well as one that is easily integrated into industrial applications. Cost reductions are being accomplished by decreasing the number of steps, working in low temperature/pressure conditions, and by finding commercial outlets for the carbonated byproducts.

The aim is to implement the process in a variety of industries such as steel, coal power plants and cement plants in order to achieve a meaningful decrease of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.

Project: Accelerating carbon mineralization in mine wastes 

Lead Investigator: Greg Dipple, University of British Columbia (UBC)
Co-PIs: Michael Hitch, UBC; Ulrich Mayer, UBC; Gordon Southam, U of Western Ontario; Siobhan Wilson, Monash University (Australia); John Wen, U of Waterloo; Murray Thomson, U of Toronto
CMC Investment:
$600,000/3 years

The long-term goal of the carbon mineralization project is to develop methods for accelerating carbon sequestration within mine waste and, through partnership with industry, establish a demonstration project for carbon mineralization.

Many mines produce waste capable of storing CO2 but passive fixation rates from the atmosphere are generally slow (50,000 tonnes CO2 per year or less per mine site). By increasing the level of CO2 in gas streams, the research team can accelerate mineralization in hard rock mine waste and tailings. The team projects that direct capture at remote mine sites could lead to carbon fixation rates of ~0.25 million tonnes CO2 per year at a large mine, while coupling industrial CO2 streams proximal to more accessible mine sites could lead to carbon fixation rates of ~1 million tonnes per year at a single site.

Project: Physical-chemical response to geomechanical processes during geological sequestration of scCO2

Lead Investigator: Dr. Giovanni Grasselli, University of Toronto
Co-PIs: Aimy Bazylak, U of Toronto; Patrick Selvadurai, McGill University; Subhasis Ghoshal, McGill University; Alfonso Mucci, McGill University; David Cole, Ohio State University; John Wen, U Waterloo, Carolyn Ren, U Waterloo, Janusz Kozinski, York University; Morris Flynn, U of Alberta.
CMC Investment:
$750,000/3 years

Presently, CO2 numerical simulations focus on just two processes, hydro and chemical, which often disregards the effect of mechanical stresses and geometry of the geological formations where CO2 is stored. Researchers on this project are working to provide a more complete picture of how injected CO2 interacts and influences complex geological formations.

Through this project, scientists will develop a computational system that incorporates micro-scale level thermo, hydro, mechanical and chemical (THMC) processes that occur when CO2 is injected into geologic rock formations. This system will be used to estimate large-scale processes such as the rates at which CO2 can be injected without compromising the storage integrity of the host rock formation, the nature and extent of the stable plumes that develop as injection proceeds for several decades, and their possible interaction with potable groundwater systems.

Project: A new approach to quantitative CO2 injection monitoring with geo-electrical methods

Lead Investigator: Dr. Bernard Giroux, Institut national de la recherche scientifique
Co-PIs: Klaus Spitzer, Technische Universität Bergakadmie Freiberg; Douglas Schmitt, U of Alberta; Cornelia Schmidt-Hattenberger, GRZ Centre for CO2 Storage, Potsdam; Don White, Geological Survey of Canada
Partners/Contributors: Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Petroleum Technology Resource Centre, Junex.
CMC Investment:
$450,000/3 years

Wide-scale public acceptance of CCS will not happen if the process is not viewed as secure. Researchers are working to improve methods to monitor the movement and behavior of CO2 that’s been injected into storage sites.

The aim of this project is to develop a new approach that will improve quantitative monitoring and contribute to the deployment of CCS at scales significant for climate change mitigation. Researchers are developing an effective downhole geoelectrical technique that will complement current seismic methods used to monitor injected CO2. Data gathered through this new technique will be used to study and compare the relationship between the electrical conductivity and seismic properties of CO2/brine/rock mixtures. The technology will be tested in the lab and in the field and will lead to improved interpretation of seismic data.

Project: Low carbon fuel demonstration pilot plant for the cement industry

Lead Investigator: Dr. Warren Mabee, Queen’s University
Co-PIs:  Andrew Pollard, Queen’s University
CMC Investment:
$400,000/3 years

In this collaborative effort involving academic researchers, the Cement Association of Canada and World Wildlife Federation Canada, six different low carbon biofuels will be co-fired with fossil fuels.

Manufacturing cement requires large inputs of energy in order to heat the cement kiln to temperatures of up to 1450 Deg C. Normal practice is to combust fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum cokes. Replacing some of those fuels with low carbon fuels such as construction & demolition wood and railway ties, will result in a net reduction in GHG emissions because biofuels are carbon neutral (CO2 is removed from the atmosphere in the biomass and then released during combustion). Further, the re-use of fossil-derived fractions within the mixed low carbon fuels will increase fossil resource usage efficiency.

One key aspect of the project is to increase the feed rate of low-carbon alternative fuels. The change in gas emissions from the plant, expected to be beneficial, will be monitored and well as the effect of the various fuels on the physical and chemical properties of the cement produced, through life cycle assessment.

Project: Designing carbon pricing policy to drive innovation in low carbon technologies and practices

Lead Investigators: Dr. Randal Wigle, Wilfrid Laurier University; Nicholas Rivers, U of Ottawa
Co-PIs: Stewart Elgie, U of Ottawa; Jared Carbone, U of Calgary; Yazid Dissou, U of Ottawa; Madanmohan Ghosh, Environment Canada
Partners/Contributors: Environment Canada, Sustainable Prosperity
CMC Investment:
$400,000/2 year

A barrier to the adoption of a carbon price is the perceived economic cost.

This venture work will develop a model that advances the capacity to design carbon pricing policies that maximize innovation incentives while minimizing economic and social costs. There are two key questions this research will explore: 1) what drives innovation in technology and in practices required to achieve GHG reductions; and 2) how can associated economic and social costs be minimized. This work will result in the development of a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model that could help address economic concerns regarding carbon pricing.