Alberta runs the risk of being left behind

With the lack of support currently presented, the future of the petroleum industry in Alberta is facing some very intensive challenges. Our fellow Canadian citizens seem to be intent on keeping Alberta’s number one resource landlocked. While it is inevitable that one day the world will become free from the very hydrocarbon that was behind the rise of modern civilization, it is still some time off. The revenue from this resource, a resource that collectively is responsible for an estimated 63% of Canada’s GDP, would go far in developing some of the alternate technologies and sources of energy our current civilization requires.

Scientists, technologists and labs around the world are striving to develop new sources of environmentally friendly energy. This new rush for energy independence is forming a threat to the petroleum economy that mostly goes unnoticed. Around the world labs in Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia, have developed A2F, (air to fuel), processes that can provide “blue” hydrocarbon fuels from the very air we breathe. While this technology still results in the burning of a hydrocarbon, it uses a carbon recycle method which does not add to atmospheric GHG levels.

Hydrogen technologies are being actively pursued in research facilities around the world. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has developed a new “Nano- powder” that when mixed with urine, -yes you read that right-, instantly produces hydrogen. ARL researchers calculate one kilogram of this aluminum powder can produce 220 kilowatts in three minutes. This will offer the ability to carry a mobile source of hydrogen for powering fuel cells in their fields of operations.

George Washington University’s department of chemistry has come up with a proposal for making the recovery of CO2 not only viable, but extremely profitable. Carbon nanotube wool (CNT), given the current market for carbon fibre, has a market value of $100,000 – 400,000 per ton. CNTs can be woven into textiles to make replacements for concrete, metals and other materials.

This new process identified as C2CNT (CO2 TO CNTs), uses solar thermal energy to produce large volumes of carbon nanotube wool in millimeter lengths. Not only does the new process have massive viability economically, but with an estimated area “equivalent to 4% of the Sahara desert” used for solar thermal plants dedicated to this process, they calculate they could reduce atmospheric GHG levels to “pre-industrial levels in ten years.”

These are a small sample of energy technologies being investigated by the world’s researchers. Alberta has a huge energy infrastructure, and a very innovative business community, transitioning the infrastructure which has reached the end of its productive life, into alternate energy facilities would be a commercially achievable goal. If the government was to capitalize on the strength of small, medium and large business by providing tax breaks and incentives, our economic future could gain a measure of security.

The world is going to move forward with or without us, if we do not recognize the force of this “technological current” we will be left behind. Are you in?

Lorne Oja can be reached at lorne@solartechnical.ca

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