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School joins FortisBC's small-scale, carbon-capture pilot

Technology can capture 30% of the carbon dioxide from gas-based heating

CleanO2's carbon capture unit at work as part of FortisBC's pilot program. (Courtesy FortisBC)

A FortisBC pilot program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions via small-scale carbon capture installations has a new participant: Southridge School in South Surrey, B.C.

The Surrey-based gas and electric utility company utilizes carbon-capture devices from Calgary-based CleanO2 Carbon Capture Technologies and installs them onto natural gas boilers and hot water tanks.

The pilot has run since 2017 and aims to bring mainstream acceptance of the technology to FortisBC clients.

“We’re always looking for ways in which to reduce the emissions from both our use and customers’ use of natural gas,” Jason Wolfe, FortisBC’s director of energy solutions, told SustainableBiz in an interview.

“It can be very difficult for commercial business or industries to reduce emissions because sometimes it’s very difficult to change equipment away from natural gas equipment. We were looking into different ways we could do this . . . We came across this option where the customer can continue to use their natural gas equipment, yet at the same time reduce emissions by capturing carbon.”

CleanO2's carbon capture devices

The carbon-capture technology, named CarbinX, connects to a natural gas boiler or hot water tank. Flue gas runs through the device before being expelled into the atmosphere, and reacts with potassium hydroxide to form potassium carbonate - pearl ash - which sequesters approximately 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide.

Each carbon capture unit can remove around six to eight tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, according to CleanO2.

The pearl ash can be used to manufacture soap, fertilizers and food products. The owner of the carbon capture equipment would form an off-take agreement with CleanO2 to distribute the pearl ash for other uses.

Heat created by the carbon capture can be used to pre-heat commercial hot water systems via a heat exchange system, which Wolfe said taps into a by-product that would otherwise be wasted.

Because B.C.’s electrical grid is largely clean, Wolfe said the carbon capture devices raises less concern over the problem of expending polluting energy to remove carbon.

Wolfe said CarbinX will help FortisBC’s clients meet greenhouse gas reduction targets while offering them a way to mitigate their role in climate change without disrupting energy needs.

Natural gas will play a large role in providing electricity toward 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets, he said, and will help FortisBC address customers’ energy affordability, reliability and resiliency. Carbon capture partially decarbonizes the gas stream without disrupting its client relationships, he added.

FortisBC’s carbon capture pilot program

FortisBC was introduced to CleanO2 through the Natural Gas Innovation Fund. FortisBC formed a direct relationship and commenced the pilot because “there’s nothing else of this kind.”

The pilot start by examining how the technology functions, its applicability and potential customers. FortisBC builds a business case for the technology and will seek customers who may be interested in trying it. If there is interest, the equipment is installed and FortisBC tracks its usage to acquire insights.

Schools, just like any other institution or business, are looking to reduce emissions and learn from the experience, Wolfe said.

If the pilot is successful, FortisBC may offer incentives to customers to purchase CarbinX and will encourage its installation. FortisBC will not be distributing the equipment, Wolfe said.

FortisBC’s energy efficiency program

In addition to the carbon-capture pilot, FortisBC recently announced a $155-million energy efficiency program to invest in dual-fuel hybrid systems, gas heat pumps and deep energy retrofits.

Wolfe also said the company was the first in North America to offer a renewable natural gas program.

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