University of Saskatchewan

April 18, 2014   

U of S co-leads national project to lower carbon emissions and reduce fossil fuel energy costs

Todd Pugsley
December 15, 2010

University of Saskatchewan chemical engineer Todd Pugsley will co-lead a multi-university research project that could result in lower CO2 emissions and reduced energy costs in the fossil fuel industry by decreasing energy requirements of gasification.

Pugsley and a team of eight researchers from six universities have won a $1.6-million grant from Carbon Management Canada (CMC), a Network of Centres of Excellence, to study ways to improve fossil fuel gasification processes. U of S computer scientist Ray Spiteri is also on the team.

Gasification involves taking a liquid or solid fuel and converting it to a clean gas. A lower grade coal can be converted to synthetic gas (syngas) which can then be used to make other products such as gasoline, diesel or ethanol.

“Gasification is an alternate route to fuels like gasoline and diesel,” says Pugsley.

CMC is a national network of close to 100 investigators at 21 universities dedicated to funding research on the technologies and business and policy frameworks that will reduce carbon emissions in the resource extraction and processing side of the fossil fuel industry.

The research focus of Pugsley and co-lead Josephine Hill, from the University of Calgary, is on gasification processes involving three fossil fuels—lignite coal from Saskatchewan, sub-bituminous coal which is common in Alberta, and petcoke, a solid residue from oilsands bitumen upgrading.

New processes developed by Pugsley and his colleagues will lower the energy requirements of gasification, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint. For instance, if coal gasification processes are altered to reduce the pressure and temperatures required, energy needs drop. Lower energy requirements also mean production costs will decline.

“If you can lower gasification energy requirements, then you can lower the cost of the processes connected to the gasifier,” says Pugsley. “We want to lower those plant costs and improve plant reliability.”

While energy prices are currently low, especially when compared to the cost of oil in mid-2008, the price of crude will eventually increase.

“We need to be ready, when oil prices start to rise again, to produce fuels in a cost effective manner. This research can solve the challenges on the horizon with respect to spikes in energy prices.”

Though carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not his primary focus, Pugsley’s research may also lead to more efficient CCS processes. CCS technologies gather relatively pure streams of CO2 to bury deep underground and one of the byproducts of gasification can be a relatively pure form of CO2.

CCS researchers are working to find ways to reduce the cost of CCS so that it becomes a commercially viable way to reduce carbon emissions.

“The overarching goal of CMC is to reduce emissions in a cost effective manner,” says Pugsley. “Our CO2 will be produced at a lower cost.”

More information about the CMC is available at: http://www.carbonmanagement.ca/home.html

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