Alberta Ecotrust installs carbon-capture technology at non-profits

· The Pulse

An assisted-living facility in central Edmonton is the first of four non-profit buildings across the province to be fitted with carbon-capture technology that aims to both reduce energy costs and decrease emissions.

The Alberta Ecotrust Foundation has installed a CarbinX unit in the Excel Society's Grand Manor on 97 Street NW. The unit, developed by Calgary's CleanO2, captures carbon dioxide emissions from heating systems and converts them into non-toxic potassium carbonate, or pearl ash, which can be used to produce soap and other cleaners.

"We know, as a charity, it's really hard to ensure that all of your dollars are going to your impact, because you have to support your operations at the same time," Mike Mellross of Alberta Ecotrust said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Grand Manor on March 21. "So anything that we could do to reduce the costs of groups like the Excel Society (while reducing emissions) is a win-win-win."

Mellross noted Edmonton's commitment to reducing emissions across the board through its Community Energy Transition Strategy and the need to empower everyone to take those steps.

"The carbon-capture concept at the urban scale became really important when we saw the city's modelling of how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050," he told Taproot.

Through its carbon budget, the city is supposed to emit no more than 176 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent between 2022 and 2050, though it is behind on those targets.

Alberta EcoTrust plans to install three more CarbinX units, one at a Calgary non-profit and the other two in city facilities in Edmonton and Calgary. And it is looking at the potential to expand the Carbon Capture for Nonprofits program.

Four people cut a ribbon in front a CarbinX unit in a boiler room

Mike Mellross of Alberta Ecotrust (right) was joined by representatives from Cenovus Energy, CleanO2, and the Excel Society in the Grand Manor boiler room on March 21 as they unveiled a CarbinX unit installed as part of Alberta Ecotrust's Carbon Capture for Nonprofits program. (Colin Gallant)

"If there is any interest from non-profits or charitable organizations that own their building, or have a long-term lease, definitely get in contact with us because we have a list that we're creating of interested parties that might want a future unit," Mellross said.

The program is paid for by contributions of $150,000 each from Cenovus Energy and Alberta Ecotrust's federally funded Climate Innovation Fund, of which Mellross is the program director.

CleanO2, which produces its own products from the pearl ash, has been working with corporate clients since 2017. Representatives from CleanO2 maintain the units and collect the pearl ash.

"Right now, we're largely focused on personal care because it's engaging, and it's easy for people to understand and use, and engages them in terms of storytelling," CleanO2 founder Jaeson Cardiff said. "But (pearl ash) could be used in fertilizers, textiles, pharmaceuticals, all sorts of different products."

CarbinX also improves efficiency, saving users money on utility bills. The Excel Society is expected to reduce its natural gas emissions by six tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, and capture another five tonnes, Alberta Ecotrust said.

The CarbinX 3.4 model converts 20% to 30% of carbon dioxide and saves about the same percentage on ultility bills. Cardiff said the company aims to have a model with 50% cost-savings and carbon-conversion rates by the end of the year, and in the long term, a model with rates of 100%.

"By 'long term,' I'm talking, you know, five to seven years," he said.