Oil sands companies are investigating using algae (microscopic plants) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while producing valuable products. Essentially, the project involves creating biorefineries. Large cultivation tanks are built and seeded with algae, then filled with a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2), waste heat, and treated waste water from oil sands facilities. The tanks are lit with LED lights to encourage the algae to grow and consume the CO2. Once harvested, the algae are pressed to release bio-oil that can be used to produce jet plane fuel or blended into heavy oil or synthetic crude oil. The leftover biomass can then be used for livestock feed, fertilizer and other products.
Each tonne of these tiny green plants can reduce CO2 emissions by 1.8 tonnes while yielding biofuel, useful products and oxygen. The project is well on its way to demonstrating the process in an industrial setting. Overall,the potential reduction at an oil sands facility would be over 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, which is like taking 300,000 vehicles off the road.
Is one kind of algae better than another?
There are many different species/strains of algae across Canada. We have selected strains that are native to Alberta and are highly efficient at removing carbon dioxide from industrial emissions.