GE using nanotechnology to green the oil sands
New CO2 capture technology could reduce emissions from the production of synthetic crude oil by up to 25 percent
In the quest to develop more cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels, GE is partnering with the University of Alberta (UA) and Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) on a $4 million CO2 capture project supported by the Climate Change and Emissions Management (CCEMC) Corporation.
This team is leveraging cutting-edge research in nanotechnology to tackle two of the most pressing environmental challenges facing the oil sands – reduction of CO2 emissions associated with the extraction and upgrading process, and treatment of produced water generated during the oil recovery. The technology is based on naturally occurring zeolites identified by the University of Alberta. These materials are rocks with molecularly sized pores, which allow small molecules to enter while excluding larger molecules. Zeolites are widely used in the chemical industry as catalysts, and this project seeks to form these materials into membranes that can be used for high-temperature gas separation. The materials also have the potential to be used as filters for contaminated water. The CCEMC is providing $2 million in support of this project, with an equal cost share from GE and its project partners.
“This project is a great example of how partnership between academic research organizations and industry can lead to meaningful innovation,” said Anthony Ku, a chemical engineer and project leader for GE Global Research on the project. “We’re excited to be working with the CCEMC and some of Alberta’s best and brightest research minds to take an interesting material identified in a university lab and figure out how to build a prototype that will be tested in the field.”
Ku noted that the successful commercialization and widespread adoption of this technology could reduce CO2 emissions from the production of synthetic crude oil from the oil sands by up to 25 percent. With fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas projected to be a large portion of our energy mix for decades to come, GE is committed to developing new, cost-effective technologies for the management of greenhouse gas emissions. This technology collaboration is supported in part through GE’s ecomagination initiative. Ecomagination represents GE’s commitment to deliver new clean products and technologies to market for its customers and society. Recently, the company pledged to double its investment in clean R&D over the next five years from $5 billion to $10 billion.