Testing facilities help advance carbon positive technologies

An interview with SPARK panelist, Harold Krenkel

Interest in carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies (CCUS) is growing around the world, and Alberta is positioning itself as a leader in this space. The Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC), currently housing the finalists from the NRG COSIA Carbon XPPRIZE competition, is one example. The test facility is helping speed up the development of CCUS technologies and push them towards commercialization.

The centre, located adjacent to the Shepard Energy Centre (SEC) in Calgary. The SEC is jointly owned by ENMAX Corporation and Capital Power Corporation and provides innovators with the ability to test and refine technologies using flue gas emissions from the natural gas-fired power plant. InnoTech Alberta, an applied research subsidiary of Alberta Innovates, is owner and operator of the ACCTC. We spoke with Harold Krenkel, Innotech’s manager of Processing Technologies and panelist in SPARK 2019’s Come Play in Our Sandboxes: Carbon Positive Infrastructure and Test Facilities session, to learn more about the importance of this world-leading carbon positive test-centre.

Tell us about the ACCTC?
The goal with the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre is to develop technologies that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are released into the atmosphere by converting CO2 into commercially viable, value-added products. For its first two years of operations, it will house the Carbon XPRIZE finalists in its five bays as they work towards commercializing their products. For the next eight years it will be open for other technologies. It is the start of a hub for technology developers and anyone active in this space. Having real world opportunities through the ACCTC to test CCUS technologies enables faster technology uptake.

What makes it unique?
The uniqueness of it is that it provides flu gas at real-life conditions that developers can test with. The other part that makes it unique is that the facility construction was funded by the federal government through Natural Resources Canada and by the Alberta Government in addition to having COSIA’s support and the collaboration with the Shepard Energy Centre. It shows there are a lot of collaborators willing to work together. There’s a lot of innovation that has happened in Alberta. We’ve got a good base of technically skilled people. There is a real can do attitude to tackle problems. That’s a great advantage for us.

What is the benefit of testing facilities like this?
A big enabler for innovation is facilities; a place for developers to test and evaluate their technologies. De-risking technology is something all innovators will need to do at some point but don’t have resources to do themselves. If you are an entrepreneur—a start-up, an academic—you have a space to eventually test your technology. There are some smaller scale facilities out there, but If you are successful, you will want to be able to test on something of this scale. This is where a facility like the ACCTC and working with industry, can facilitate something like that.

What other advice do you have for technology developers?
One of the things we see, and it’s not unique to CCUS, is innovators tend to focus on advancing the Technology Readiness Level of their technology. They get very focused on that. But, part of developing a viable technology is having a company behind it. Many of these organizations come from a university lab or start-up and they need to go from that to a real operating company to get onto an industrial site and deploy their technology. Strategic partners are important. If you can find someone to support your organization with the tactical work you need to do to survive as a start-up as well as direct you strategically, that’s a huge benefit. Don’t just focus TRL, focus on becoming the next stage of your life as a company. .

Harold Krenkal is a panelist in the Come Play in Our Sandboxes: Carbon Positive Infrastructure and Test Facilities session at SPARK 2019. He will be joined by Candice Paton, Executive Director, Alberta Innovates; Chris Olson, CEO/Director, Innovative Reduction Strategies Inc.; and Tom Ogaranko, Principal, Octoco Inc.