​These four tech teams just won $12 million in the ERA carbon Grand Challenge

Robert Niven is CEO of Halifax-based CarbonCure, one of four companies awarded funding by ERA in its Grand Challenge. Image: CarbonCure

For those teams awarded $12 million in the second round of the Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) Grand Challenge: Innovative Carbon Uses, carbon emissions are not so much a problem as an opportunity.

The winning projects were announced this week by ERA—formerly the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation, which is funded by Alberta’s industrial carbon levy—at the Propel Energy Tech Forum.

Four projects will each receive up to $3 million to accelerate their technologies over the next two years. In 2019 one will be eligible for up to an additional $10 million in funding to help commercialize their technology in Alberta.

Two teams—Halifax-based CarbonCure and New Jersey-based Solidia Technologies—are working to reduce CO2 emissions from the production of concrete, a major source of emissions worldwide.

A team from McGill University in Montreal is working to deploy technology that converts CO2 and wastewater to liquid fuels using sunlight, and a spinout from the University of British Columbia called Mangrove Water Technologies is developing a system that converts CO2 and oilfield wastewater to oilfield chemicals and reusable water.

The winners said their technologies would provide economic growth and present export opportunities for Canadian technology in the future.

“Our technology has the potential to reverse how industry views carbon dioxide,” said Zetian Mi, a McGill University professor co-developing the teams’ conversion technology with commercialization partner Lumenfab. “Instead of it being a cost to manage, carbon dioxide becomes a feedstock for new value-added products like hydrocarbon fuels.”

As technologies are developed to deal with carbon emissions, they represent an opportunity for investment in Alberta, which has some of the highest per capita CO2 emissions in the world, and for export to other jurisdictions as the market expands, the winners said. By some estimates, the carbon market represents a $1 trillion opportunity by 2030.

“We believe Alberta is the best location for us to launch this technology, especially the oilsands—they have embraced innovation. By commercializing [the technology], we can access the expertise in large scale manufacturing projects and engineering capacity to develop value-added systems and eventually export this solution globally,” Mi said.

“We are grateful for this [funding] but what this also means is that Canadian technologies can lead,” said CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven.

“This is an opportunity, which is an open race right now, and Canadian companies are certainly leading the charge to be able to take advantage of this new market opportunity.”

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