Our Innovation Focus

Going beyond power generation, we are focused on solving one of the most important issues facing society – how to reduce our carbon footprint and create sustainable energy for tomorrow.

We recognize innovation as the key to creating a sustainable energy future for generations to come. We are advancing lower-carbon energy through investments in innovative technology and new, cleaner energy sources with the integration of natural gas and renewables.

Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS)

Capital Power is committed to doing our part in the transition to a lower carbon energy future. That’s why we’re proud to support and advance the deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology.

We recognize CCUS as being an integral part of the long-term solution for achieving climate policy objectives in North America and globally – we are engaged on several fronts to advance its development and demonstration. The commercial application of CCUS technologies could enable zero or near-zero emission natural gas generation to help us integrate more renewables into our reliable and affordable power systems, and reduce emissions from the many industrial processes that will continue to rely on natural gas. By converting carbon into a range of useful and valuable products, CCUS will also create new jobs and employment opportunities in multiple sectors.

Transforming Carbon Emissions into Leading-Edge Products with C2CNT

We have acquired an equity interest in C2CNT, a company that has developed and is now applying at scale an innovative technology that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial process streams and transforms it into a useful and high value product called carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are conductive, stronger than steel, lighter than aluminum, and have multiple applications across industries to enhance various materials. Carbon nanotubes have been used in bullet-proof and taser-proof suits, carbon composites in jet airliners, and as a lighter-weight alternative to metals for use in industrial structural materials.

 Capital Power C2CNT process diagram

C2CNT process diagram for creating carbon nanotubes.
(Click the image above for a larger view)

This technology has the potential to be a game-changer in the treatment and management of CO2 from energy and industrial operations. Furthermore, it can be a transformative technology in the materials sector, which together has the potential to move the needle on climate change worldwide.

“Our investment in C2CNT supports our pursuit of innovative and leading-edge technology and approaches that have the potential to reduce greenhouse gases. Being able to take CO2 and convert it into a valuable carbon-fiber product could dramatically change our industry and other industries as well,” said Brian Vaasjo, Capital Power President and CEO. “Innovation is critical and finding ways to capture and productively use carbon can potentially be the key to meeting climate change targets.”

The C2CNT technology was developed by a team of scientists, led by Professor Stuart Licht, at George Washington University. The technology uses electrolysis, with a current generated by electrodes to separate the carbon from the oxygen, repurposes the carbon into a strong, useable carbon fiber (nanotube), and oxygen that is available for other uses.

“C2CNT is focused on a revolutionary solution to climate change — one that is ground-breaking, innovative and potentially disruptive,” said Dr. Stuart Licht, head of the C2CNT team and professor of chemistry at George Washington University. “We’ve found a way to transform carbon dioxide into a valuable product, worth on the order of a quarter-million dollars per ton, at low cost while reducing CO2 in our atmosphere. That’s earth changing.”

As one of five finalists in the natural-gas track of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition, C2CNT is building a demonstration plant at the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC). The ACCTC, funded with support from the governments of Canada and Alberta, is hosted at the Shepard Energy Centre (co-owned by Capital Power and ENMAX). Capital Power is supporting C2CNT in this process, and – subject to successful scaling of the technology - intends to help C2CNT build the first commercial scale plant in Alberta.

Capital Power shepard

Dr. Licht and the C2CNT team at the Shepard Energy Centre in Calgary, Alberta

“It is truly inspiring to speak with Dr. Licht about C2CNT and the work they will be doing at the Alberta Carbon Capture Technology Centre, where he and his team will be testing their technology, and to witness what we anticipate could be a real game changer, not only for Capital Power but our entire industry worldwide. As an engineer, many only dream of being part of developing a disruptive technology that's so cutting edge. We now have that opportunity at our fingertips.” — Lori Nickifor, Capital Power, VP Engineering, who assisted with background research on C2CNT’s technology.

Reducing Emissions and Improving Thermal Generation Efficiency

 Capital Power C2CNT process diagram

Genesee Generating Station.

At our Genesee Generating Station in Alberta we are working to reduce and eventually eliminate coal as part of our fuel mix. In 2019, we will complete the third year of our innovative five-year Genesee Performance Standard (GPS), a $50 million efficiency improvement program aimed at reducing fuel consumption and our carbon footprint by 10% by 2021, and by a further 40% after conversion to natural gas.

While we assess the timing to fully convert the units to natural gas, we are able to take advantage of low natural gas prices and co-fire opportunistically with coal. We tested co-firing solid biofuels with coal, which could replace up to 15% of the coal used by a single unit and further reduce our emissions and reliance on coal pre-2030.

Our Genesee 3 unit is Canada's first power generation facility to use supercritical combustion technology for greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Our Keephills 3 facility also uses an advanced air-quality-control system and supercritical boiler technology. Environmental performance is enhanced by supercritical combustion and clean air technologies, which achieves greater efficiency and lower CO2, NOx and SO2 emissions per megawatt compared to older technologies. CO2 emissions from these units are approximately 24% lower than emissions from recently retired coal-fired generation in Alberta. Clean-air technologies at these facilities include:

  • Fabric filters that stop 99.8% of particulate matter from reaching the atmosphere
  • A flue gas desulphurization unit that brings sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions well below the provincial emission standard, and less than half the emissions produced by vintage facilities
  • Low nitrous oxide (NOx) burners that reduce NOx emissions by 70%

Turning Waste into Clean Energy for a Sustainable Future

We have tested using biofuel at our Genesee Generating Station to advance lower-carbon energy. Co-firing coal with biomass (sawdust, bark) and municipal solid waste could reduce up to 600,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent (greenhouse gas) emissions per year at our facility.

Renewable bioenergy also creates 600+ person-years of new rural employment in biomass handling and transportation, including 45 new fulltime jobs and provides a productive end use for by-products from forestry and municipal waste industries.

 Capital Power C2CNT process diagram

Roxboro and Southport Power Plants

Additionally, a significant investment in equipment to allow our Roxboro and Southport Power Plants to burn alternate fuels, including wood residuals and tire-derived fuel, has reduced coal usage by 90%. Tire-derived fuel is the product of chipping waste tires for fuel. Wood waste is an abundant by-product fuel produced by North Carolina’s extensive forestry-related industries.