​CleanO2 named Energy Excellence Awards champion for carbon capture technology

CleanO2's carbon capture device, CARBiNX. Image: CleanO2

The Daily Oil Bulletin’s first annual Energy Excellence Awards were held in Calgary on Thursday, May 2. Awards were handed out in 12 categories under the banners of Operational and Project Excellence, Innovation and Research Excellence, and Exporting Excellence.

Over a two-week period we are profiling the champions in each of the 12 subcategories. Today’s instalment profiles the champion in the category Innovation & Research Excellence: Cleantech.

Click here to read about all of the champions and finalists.

Big dollars are being invested today to find new uses for carbon dioxide emissions — technologies that would be particularly helpful for Alberta’s high-emissions oilsands producers looking to decrease their environmental footprint. Under the radar, a Calgary startup has already created a small-scale solution that could have big scale-up potential.

CleanO2 Carbon Capture Technologies is the champion in the cleantech category for its development of a technology that can, among other things, produce hand soap from captured CO2. Its aggregated commercial carbon capture device, CARBiNX, which is about the size of a residential air conditioner, can be fitted to natural gas-powered boilers to reduce both energy use (up to 10 per cent) and greenhouse gas emissions (10 to 20 per cent).

CARBiNX is the world’s first decentralized commercial product capable of carbon capture while reducing energy demands through heat recovery. It aims to put a dent in GHG emissions in the heating industry, which accounts for 22 per cent of Canada’s GHG output.

The technology “effectively munches carbon, which reduces GHG emissions,” the company said. Scaling was a challenge but CleanO2 showed it could be done while also generating revenue. Its units are also small enough to be shipped overseas, which the company aims to do with the assistance of the Canadian Trade Commission.

Typically placed in commercial buildings — though residential homes could also be targeted — the CARBiNX unit takes a portion of waste flue gas and runs it through a reaction chamber where it reacts with a carbon-reduction chemical. Waste heat is used to preheat the water.

Captured carbon dioxide was originally converted to sodium carbonate, also know as soda ash, a versatile mineral used to make pharmaceuticals and manufacture glass as well as detergent. According to CleanO2, the carbon capture process allows customers to reduce up to 13 tonnes of carbon emissions, while creating up to 6.7 tonnes of soda ash, per unit per year. The system has a payout period estimated at four years.

Recently, potassium carbonate (potash) has replaced sodium carbonate as its output chemical. The company intends to maintain its position as the only company in the world able to make carbon capture soaps and detergents, but the change in the output allows it to enter the commercial fertilizer industry as well.

The company estimates that for every four-litre container of its biodegradable liquid hand soap, it is able to recycle 1.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide, with a price point on par with similar soaps on the market.

CleanO2, which has received support from Innovate Calgary, Alberta Innovates and Calgary Technologies Inc., has a customers list that includes FortisBC Energy Inc., Pacific Northern Gas, ATCO Gas, Enbridge Gas, Union Gas Limited and CenterPoint Energy Inc.

FortisBC has been installing the units in British Columbia, where organizations like Cadillac Fairview Richmond Centre, LUSH Cosmetics and Baptist Housing Corporation have units installed. Other sites, (due to be put into service this year) include Simon Fraser University and the Richmond District School Board.

Jaeson Cardiff, CleanO2 chief executive officer, said there could be a large market for the technology if the pilots pan out. He is aiming to have it commercialized in at least three other countries in the next five years. "Technologies like carbon capture are the way of the future in terms of reducing emissions and saving energy," he said.

Indeed, the carbon capture, utilization and storage sector is expected to increase dramatically in future years. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimates the market for carbon dioxide-based or enhanced products alone — which already includes products ranging from concrete, plastics and jet fuel to sparkling water, clothing and toothpaste — will be between $800 billion and $1 trillion by 2030.

Click here to read about all of the champions and finalists.

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