Opinion: U of A may help push province nearer to its carbon impartial targets

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Alberta has set an formidable goal to be a carbon-neutral — web zero — economic system by 2050. Attending COP28, I had the chance to share a number of the net-zero vitality analysis taking place on the College of Alberta and deepen our international collaborations. As a world chief in creating net-zero vitality options, UA has a key position to play in guaranteeing a sustainable and affluent future for Alberta’s vitality sector.

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Alberta emits much more greenhouse fuel emissions than every other province in Canada (nearly double that of Ontario), primarily pushed by industrial emissions, together with oil and fuel manufacturing. Attending to web zero by 2050 goes to require a concerted effort. In shut collaboration with business and authorities, and constructing on many years of management in vitality analysis, UA has launched a serious new analysis challenge — Canadian Internet Zero Vitality Options (CANZES) — to develop the applied sciences Alberta might want to obtain web zero by 2050. We’re bringing collectively a number of the prime researchers on the earth to deal with one of many biggest challenges dealing with the globe.

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Reaching web zero would require creating new applied sciences and refining current ones to deliver them to full-scale implementation. It’ll require main investments in analysis and billions of {dollars} of latest infrastructure. There isn’t a magic bullet — we’d like a multi-faceted and multidisciplinary method.

We’re specializing in 5 vital areas that can be important for Alberta to realize web zero by 2050: carbon seize, utilization and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, vital minerals, resilient and good electrical grids, and land and water reclamation. In all 5 areas, we’ll leverage our experience in synthetic intelligence and quantum science.

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With two multibillion-dollar initiatives already underway (Air Merchandise and Dow Chemical), Alberta is residence to a number of the largest CCUS initiatives on the earth. Nonetheless, extra analysis can be wanted to exhibit financial feasibility at scale and technological maturity for a lot of CCUS methods. UA analysis is advancing point-source and direct air seize, together with geological storage. It consists of CO2 utilization (utilizing CO2 as uncooked supplies for different merchandise), which can be important for creating next-generation applied sciences that scale back the price of CCUS. We’re additionally analyzing methods to construct public acceptance and belief, that are vital to the success of CCUS initiatives in Alberta and throughout Canada.

CCUS analysis can even assist Alberta capitalize on producing and utilizing clear hydrogen. When burned for vitality, hydrogen emits solely water, which implies it may be a serious supply of unpolluted vitality. UA analysis is advancing the entire spectrum of hydrogen analysis, together with manufacturing, transportation, storage and utilization. Combining CCUS with Alberta’s huge pure fuel sources, together with Alberta’s quickly rising renewables (wind and photo voltaic), Alberta is usually a main international producer of unpolluted hydrogen. With a worldwide hydrogen market estimated to be value greater than $2.5 trillion by 2050, the potential for Alberta is big.

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As extra transportation strikes to electrical automobiles, the world urgently wants extra vital minerals, together with lithium, vital for battery manufacturing. UA analysis is exploring easy methods to extract lithium from oilfield brines in Alberta, an alternative choice to conventional sources that’s present in laborious rocks all over the world, is expensive to mine and environmentally intrusive.

Electrical automobiles additionally imply enormous new calls for on {the electrical} grid. Renewable vitality techniques reminiscent of photo voltaic and wind additionally create challenges in guaranteeing these vitality techniques are appropriate with at this time’s electrical grid. UA analysis is main the way in which in creating resilient and good electrical grids for clear vitality and zero-emissions automobiles.

Land and water reclamation are key challenges in creating sustainable vitality techniques. UA analysis is on the forefront of efficient, built-in and low-energy remedy methods for municipal and industrial wastewater.

In 1944, UA researcher Dr. Karl Clark developed the know-how to separate bitumen from sand, resulting in the primary industrial growth of the oilsands in 1967. Through the years, UA analysis has continued to assist Alberta’s thriving vitality sector. That assist has by no means been extra essential at this time.

Merely imposing caps on carbon won’t create a sustainable emissions discount plan. As a substitute, we will solely realistically meet our emissions targets by creating the applied sciences that may make web zero a actuality whereas sustaining entry to inexpensive and dependable vitality. CANZES can be an essential a part of the trail ahead to the advantage of all Albertans and past.

Invoice Flanagan is president of the College of Alberta.

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