April 28, 2008

Carbon recycling system closer to converting CO2 gas into valuable products

QUEBEC CITY, April 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Centre de recherche industrielle du
Québec (CRIQ) is a key participant in a network that aims to fast-track Mother
Nature's own greenhouse gas recycling process with a system that would handle
large volumes of CO2 from industry.
Scientists at the Quebec research organization are working through
Innoventures Canada (I-CAN) with researchers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and
Manitoba. Together, they are getting closer to creating a system that would
convert carbon dioxide diverted from industrial facilities into value-added
products using Earth's oldest plant life - micro-algae.
I-CAN is a not-for-profit consortium of ten Canadian research
corporations who have joined together for key strategic projects. The
organization kicked off its annual meetings in Quebec City April 24 and 25
with an update on its CARS project - Carbon Algae Recycling System. CARS
proposes to feed flue gas (CO2, NOx, etc.) directly from industry into ponds
to feed the growth of micro-algae, which would then be harvested and processed
into value-added products such as ethanol, bio-diesel or fertilizer.
"In essence, the goal of CARS is to fast-track Mother Nature's own
process of using plants to soak up carbon from the atmosphere," says Denis
Beaulieu, current chairman for I-CAN and special consultant with CRIQ. "Algae
growth research isn't new, but our goal is. Other algae projects are aimed at
creating bio-fuels. The goal of CARS is to provide industry with a
sustainable, affordable way to deal with their greenhouse gas emissions."
The base case chosen for the preliminary CARS work is sized to consume up
to 30 per cent of the greenhouse gases produced by the average 300 megawatt
coal-fired power plant. "That's the base case, and we'll work upwards to
larger capacities from there," says Beaulieu. He predicts the sale of
byproducts like ethanol or fertilizer from harvesting the algae would help
offset the cost of operating the CARS algae systems.
Since announcing the CARS project last year, scientists from four
different provinces have made head-way in proving this concept could work in
Canada in a cost-effective way.
"Until now, it was believed Canada's climate and light conditions
wouldn't support these kinds of algae projects," says John McDougall,
vice-chairman of I-CAN from the Alberta Research Council. "We've now
discovered the less intense sunlight in Canada is actually beneficial to the
growth of algae, and we are devising concepts of how covered pond systems
could work economically in our climate."
The comprehensive research program is taking a two-pronged approach. The
biological piece of this puzzle will identify a strain of algae that thrives
on the specific chemical composition of flue gas, at a target temperature,
given the angle of sunlight in Canada. On the engineering side, the
researchers have already determined that neither the existing photobioreactor
nor the open pond algae systems would deal with large enough volumes of CO2.
I-CAN partner researchers are now developing a hybrid covered pond system that
maintains the consistent environment required by the chosen strains of algae.
National demand for such a project is mounting. Governments are targeting
industries to reduce their greenhouse gases in the coming years, leaving
industry scrambling for ways to cut their emissions in a way that's good for
the environment and their bottom line.
Participating organizations for the CARS project include Centre de
recherche industrielle du Québec (CRIQ), Alberta Research Council (ARC),
Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) and Manitoba Industrial Technology Centre
(ITC). The project is currently funded by the Government of Canada through
Natural Resources Canada, the Province of Alberta through the Alberta Energy
Research Institute, Alberta Bio-fuel Fund and the Alberta Life Sciences
Institute, as well as the Province of Quebec. Industry partners include Mosaic
Potash, Suncor Energy, EnCana, Graymont Mining, New Brunswick Power, EPCOR,
Petro-Canada and Shell Canada.

About Innoventures Canada:

I-CAN (Innoventures Canada) is a national organization linking Canada's
provincial research organizations and other specialized applied research and
development partners across the country to create a critical mass. I-CAN
improves Canada's performance in commercializing research by eliminating
duplication of resources and strengthening the linkages among R&D service
providers, government, and industry.

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