Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “Canada”

Heat Wave British Columbia Causing Wildfires

[] – Sudden deaths recorded during B.C.’s heat wave up to 719, coroners say
[] – Unprecedented heat, hundreds dead and a town destroyed. Climate change is frying the Northern Hemisphere
[] – This Isn’t a Heatwave — It’s a Dying Planet
[] – Western Canada lightning strikes up tenfold, stoking fires
[Google Maps] – Lytton

Keystone XL Pipeline Project Cancelled


After a decade-long battle, environmentalists, as well as the Biden-presidency, finally prevailed and the Canadian developer of the pipeline TC Energy Corp withdrew from the $9B project.

This landmark decision will put the US on the path of the renewable energy transition.

[source] The yellow pipeline will not be built.

[] – Developer officially cancels Keystone XL pipeline project blocked by Biden

2 x 500MW/5GWh CAES Projects in California

[source] Hydrostor has developed this 2 MW/10 MWh demo project in 2019 in Goderich, Ontario, Canada.

The Canadian company Hydrostor has announced it will build two 500 MW/5GWh CAES projects in California. Two other companies involved are Pattern Energy (US) and Meridiam (France). Commission date 2024-2026. This will be the world’s largest non-hydro storage project to date.

[] – Hydrostor bags funds to support 500-MW energy storage project in Canada
[] – Goderich Energy Storage Facility

20 MW PEM-Electrolyzer in Canada

Air Liquide has completed the construction of the world’s largest PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) electrolyzer. Supplied with renewable energy, this unit is now producing up to 8.2 tonnes per day of low-carbon hydrogen in Bécancour, Québec. With this large-scale investment, the Group confirms its long-term commitment to the hydrogen energy markets and its ambition to be a major player in the supply of low-carbon hydrogen.

It is very difficult these days to operate in any renewable energy field and NOT break a world record. The honeur du jour goes to French multinational Air Liquide and its brand new PEM-electrolyzer of 20 MW, fed by hydroelectricity, which they in Quebec have in abundance.

[] – Air Liquide
[] – Polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis (PEM)

ThyssenKrupp 88 MW Electrolyser for Hydro-Quebec

Over the past few days we have witnessed ambitious hydrogen announcements from Linde-ITM (24 MW) and Total-Engie (40 MW). Now, ThyssenKrupp has positioned itself for the race who will build the world’s first 1 GW electrolyser. Just to wet the appetite, they will build an 88 MW electrolyser in Varennes, Quebec, Canada, to be operational in 2023. And since the required power will come from hydro-power, the resulting hydrogen can be justifiably called “green”.

[] – ThyssenKrupp to build 88-MW Electrolysis Plant in Quebec
[] – Canada to link huge green hydrogen plant to hydropower
[deepresource] – Total & Engie Plan 40 MW Electrolyzer
[deepresource] – Linde & ITM Building 24 MW Electrolyzer
[deepresource] – Germany Embraces the Hydrogen Economy

Eavor Geothermal

Eavor is a Canadian geothermal startup. Their selling point is that they can produce geothermal energy and electricity in locations without volcanic activity, like in Germany (Geretsried) and the Netherlands (Almere, Purmerend and Leiden).

The major weakness of conventional geothermal energy is that it is difficult to judge in advance if an expensive borehole can be used to exploit geothermal heat. Another problem is that deep-seated pumps can easily breakdown due to impurities in the water, causing protracted disruptions.

Eavor has developed a method that eliminates these shortcomings. Rather than working with merely two boreholes, like with conventional geothermal, Eavor additionally creates several extra horizontal corridors, totaling up to 50 km, that function as heat exchangers, guaranteeing easy flow of water, with hardly any pump losses. The upfront investment is higher (ca. 2.5 times), but is compensated by lower operational cost and hardly any risk of failure.

Eavor has a demonstration project in Alberta, Canada, called Eavor-lite, 2400 m deep and 2000 meter apart:

A lot of the technology is reused from the North-American shale revolution.

In Geretsried in Germany, a failed conventional geothermal project has been revived by Eavor and if all goes well will be operational by 2022. An electricity price of 23 cent/kWh will be guaranteed by the German government for 20 years, in order for the technology to mature. Eavor hopes to bring down the cost of their geothermal electricity to 5 cent, comparable to wind and solar. But the difference is that geothermal supply is on demand, very much in contrast to wind and solar.

[] – Company site
[] – Eavor schept nieuwe kansen voor aardwarmte
[] – Hans Kol is in the Netherlands the key person for Eavor

Read more…

CAES Project in Canada

Youtube text:

And while theoretically, CAES could be a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to batteries, there are still a few things holding it back. But an updated version of this old technology, developed by the Canadian company Hydrostor, could give CAES the boost it needs to succeed.

[] – Hydrostor company site
[Google Maps] – Goderich, Ontaria

Dutch Government Unfortunately Allows Canadian Firm to Start Fracking

Frackers will soon be injecting benzene and formaldehyde into the soil under high pressure. A part of it comes back and then counts as chemical waste. Even radioactive substances are added. Plus the greenhouse gas methane. Frackers also use a lot of water. I thought we were enjoying a sustainable energy transition together?

[] – Vermilion legt tijdbom onder De Langstraat
[] – De voor en nadelen van fracking en onconventioneel aardgas
[] – EBN: grootste schaliegasactivist van Nederland
[] – Hydraulic fracturing

Greta Thunberg Speaks at Edmonton Rally

Hydraulic Air Compressor Demonstrator Project

Hydraulic air compression site in Sudbury, Canada

Modern man is used to power distribution via electricity. There is an alternative though, that was once used in fairly sophisticated places like Paris: pneumatic power distribution. Pneumatic power distribution comes with efficient storage possibilities of excess renewable electricity (CAES). It’s even possible to contemplate skipping intermediate electric conversion altogether and use your wind turbine as a compressor.

A research project in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, wants to (re)introduce pneumatic technology in a mining environment. The pressure is generated via falling water from high altitude (the hydraulic part), in a near-isothermal, energy efficient process.

[] – Hydraulic Air Compressor (HAC) Demonstrator Project (pdf, p17)
[] – History and Future of the Compressed Air Economy
[] – The Paris Compressed-Air Power Network
[] – Innovation: Hydraulic Air Compressor (HAC) launch in Sudbury
[] – Hydraulic Air Compressor (HAC) Demonstrator
[deepresource] – Europe Chases CAES GWh Energy Storage

[Source] The place of CAES in the grand storage scheme

Liquified Metal Battery

[] – Donald Sadoway
[] – Molten-salt battery

Decarbonizing the Atmosphere for less than $100/tonne

Atmospheric CO2 converted into calciumcarbonate

A company from British Columbia claims it can remove CO2 for less than $100/tonne. Significantly the company is financially backed by large companies like Chevron, Occidental and coal giant BHP.

[] – Climate change: ‘Magic bullet’ carbon solution takes big step
[] – Carbon dioxide removal

Donald Sadoway on Liquid Metal Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are short-lived, which is fine for phones but not for grid applications. Liquid metal batteries were born from the practice of electrochemical aluminium smelting (electricity in, aluminium from oxide out), but operating in reverse. Electrons come from the lighter metal on top, where the corresponding ions are travelling downwards through the electrolyte in order to recombine with the electrons at the boundary of the heavier liquid metal at the bottom. For the rest, no mixing takes places and the three layers remain separate. During discharge the top layer gets thinner and bottom layer thicker, during charging this reverses. There is no need for membranes. Degrading of the system is nearly absent. Donald Sadoway c.s. formed a company now called Ambri.

P.S. in a latest development, Sadoway seems to be using a membrane after all, see Nature link below.

[] – Inside the race to build the battery of tomorrow
[] – A Low-Tech Approach To Energy Storage: Molten Metals
[] – Donald Sadoway
[] – Molten-salt battery
[] – A new approach to rechargeable batteries
[] – Ambri Still Chasing Its Liquid Metal Battery Dreams
[] – Company site
[] – New battery made of molten metals may offer low-cost, long-lasting storage for the grid. Liquid electrodes solve the problem of degrading solid ones.
[] – Faradaically selective membrane for liquid metal displacement batteries
[] – Solid electrolyte boosts liquid metal battery

Everything molten: lighter metal A, salt electrolyte and heavier metal B.

The green elements are heavier and will sink to the bottom.

Read more…

Donald Sadoway

[] – Donald Sadoway

He is a noted expert on batteries and has done significant research on how to improve the performance and longevity of portable power sources. In parallel, he is an expert on the extraction of metals from their ores and the inventor of molten oxide electrolysis, which has the potential to produce crude steel without the use of carbon reductant thereby totally eliminating greenhouse gas emissions… As a researcher, Sadoway has focused on environmental ways to extract metals from their ores, as well as producing more efficient batteries. His research has often been driven by the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving quality and lowering costs. He is the co-inventor of a solid polymer electrolyte. This material, used in his “sLimcell” has the capability of allowing batteries to offer twice as much power per kilogram as is possible in current lithium ion batteries…. In August 2006, a team that he led demonstrated the feasibility of extracting iron from its ore through molten oxide electrolysis. When powered exclusively by renewable electricity, this technique has the potential to eliminate the carbon dioxide emissions that are generated through traditional methods… In 2009, Sadoway disclosed the liquid metal battery comprising liquid layers of magnesium and antimony separated by a layer of molten salt[8] that could be used for stationary energy storage. Research on this concept was being funded by ARPA-E and the French energy company Total S.A. Experimental data showed a 69% DC-to-DC storage efficiency with good storage capacity and relatively low leakage current (self discharge). In 2010, with funding from Bill Gates and Total S.A., Sadoway and two others, David Bradwell and Luis Ortiz, co-founded a company called the Liquid Metal Battery Corporation (now Ambri) in order to scale up and commercialize the technology.

Read more…

Iron Powder as a Fuel

Project SOLID of the University of Eindhoven/the Netherlands. Burning iron from [0:44]

The world of science and technology is wrestling with the question how to power the engines of the future, post fossil fuel. Batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, biomass, exotic fuels like ammonia, methanol and several others. There is one overlooked possibility though: iron. Few people realize that iron can burn, a process also known as oxidation or “rusting”. If you have fine iron powder at your disposal, burning can go really fast:

Researchers at four universities around the world, Eindhoven (NL), Bochum (D), Orleans (F) and McGill (CA), are working on the possibility of metal powder-as-a-fuel, notably iron. The idea is to burn iron powder in an external combustible space and use the generated heat to drive an engine, for instance a Stirling engine or Rankine cycle-based generator, see video at the top of this post:

[] – Stirling engine

Stirling engines have a high efficiency compared to internal combustion engines, being able to reach 50% efficiency. They are also capable of quiet operation and can use almost any heat source.

[] – Rankine cycle

McGill University in Montreal is also busy researching the possibilities of metal powder as fuel:

Fuel Specific Energy MJ/kg Specific Energie kWh/L
Petrol 46.4 12.9
Iron 5.2 11.3
Zinc 5.3 10.6

[] – Energy density

[] – Technical University Eindhoven SOLID project site
[] – Iron powder: a clean, alternative fuel for industry that has to quit natural gas

[] – First System to Use Iron Powder as Fuel Has Been Built

Why is iron so suitable for this process? ‘Firstly, iron has a high energy density, and burns at a high temperature of up to 1,800 °C… Some industrial processes need temperatures of up to 800 or 900 °C, which is way beyond the scope of heating air with electricity via heat pumps’… For example, iron powder can be made with different shapes of grain, but it has not yet been determined which shape is most suitable… Another challenge the team has to deal with when scaling up is handling the emissions generated by the process. NOx is released at such high temperatures, and possibly also particulates, and both will have to be filtered… The most important obstacle is perhaps the unfamiliarity of iron as fuel. Although some four universities around the world are carrying out research into metal fuels, it’s really unknown territory for the students.

[] – Direct combustion of recyclable metal fuels for zero-carbon heat and power

Metals are promising high-energy density, low-emission, recyclable energy carriers…. Metal fuels, produced using low-carbon recycling systems powered by clean primary energy, such as solar and wind, promise energy densities that are competitive to fossil fuels with low, or even negative, net carbon dioxide emissions… This paper proposes a novel concept for power generation in which metal fuels are burned with air in a combustor to provide clean, high-grade heat… The metal-fuel combustion heat can be used directly for industrial or residential heating and can also power external-combustion engines, operating on the Rankine or Stirling cycles, or thermo-electric generators over a wide range of power levels… The energy and power densities of the proposed metal-fuelled zero-carbon heat engines are predicted to be close to current fossil-fuelled internal-combustion engines, making them an attractive technology for a future low-carbon society.

[] – Iron powder clean alternative

On an industrial scale, fuel cost will be double that of fossil fuel. But if the cost of CO2-emissions are factored in, this increased cost could be bearable… The (TUE) students developed a 20 kW installation that burns iron and produces hot water and electricity via a Stirling engine. The next step will be 100 kW installation.


After combustion, of course, you’re left with a pile of rust—iron oxide. The usual way of recycling it into iron is to reduce it with coal in a blast furnace. But that, of course, results in carbon emission. But Bergthorson is hopeful. “There are novel techniques to reduce iron oxide using pure hydrogen, or the use of biomass in chemical looping combustion, using gasified biomass or gasified coal, or by electrolysis, which is not yet commercially developed.”… If you would want to back up power for solar and wind energy, you could stockpile metal fuels and burn them in a retrofitted coal-fired power plant that has the appropriate collection systems for the combustion exhaust on it. The coal power plant infrastructure is already there,” says Bergthorson.

[] – Iron powder as fuel

In the future these so-called metal fuels will provide our coal-fired power stations and cars with the energy they need… The volumetric energy density of iron powder is at least three times higher than that of hydrogen’…‘And you do not have to transport this powder under high pressure or extremely low temperatures.’… by burning it to rust powder in an external combustion engine. You can also use it to store solar energy, according to postdoc Yuriy Shoshin. ‘We can already convert solar energy into hydrogen. Then we use the hydrogen to reduce rust powder to iron powder.’… iron is cheap, easily manageable and reusable. Shoshin: ‘We still have to adjust the reduction techniques to the process, but the reactions are known.’… ‘We expect to be able to reuse the iron for about a hundred times.’… But how can you derive energy from iron powder? ‘You burn it’, says Shoshin. First you distribute the iron powder in the air by means of an electrical field. Then a small spark activates the reaction of oxygen and iron in the air. The iron oxidizes into iron oxide. That reaction warms up the environment, which causes other iron particles to oxidize. ‘This reaction is similar to what happens in coal-fired power stations’, says Shoshin…. The researcher are still looking for a way to collect the rust particles after use, otherwise it will be difficult to reuse them. The Goey is now considering filtering, because with sizes of 1 µm the particles are quite easy to catch… In order to make the combustion easier Shoshin wants to use iron particles in the shape of a sponge in the future. ‘This morphology is generated during the reduction of iron and creates a larger surface. This makes the iron more reactive… Pouring this fuel into a normal combustion engine does not seem to be an option. The powder would get caught between the cylinder and the piston and this friction would cause the engine to break… At this time we are considering an external combustion engine or some kind of steam system similar to those used in the coal-fired power stations.’… Even though the technique still needs to overcome some obstacles, metal fuels are already drawing the attention of companies. De Goey is in contact with a coal-fired power station willing to test whether iron can replace coal. The people from Eindhoven think metal fuels will become indispensable in a few years time. ‘We really have to get rid of the coal, and metals are a good alternative’

[] – Metal particles as the clean fuel of the future?
[] – Metal as fuel? Canadian scientists busy to make it happen
[] – HYBRIT: Pilot Plant for creating Fossil-free steel
[] – Electrolysis may one day provide ‘green iron’ (2006)
[] – Powdered metal: The fuel of the future (2005)
[] – IJzerpoeder: schone brandstof voor industrie die van het gas af moet
[] – Iron powder as fuel
[] – Electrolysis of iron in a molten oxide electrolyte
[] – Donald Sadoway

Site comment: the advantages are obvious: iron powder is very easy to store, handle, trade and transport. One can achieve high temperatures during burning and heavy batteries are not necessary (but iron powder as fuel in a vehicle is rather heavy as well). However, the links above provide only material about the burning of iron oxide. What they don’t do is give information about the required reduction of iron-oxide to iron to make the complete cycle work. The efficiency of that process is crucial to the success of an iron-based fuel cycle. Don’t open that champagne bottle yet though:

[] – Donald R. Sadoway
Sadoway’s molten oxide electrolysis makes liquid iron at 2.5 to 3.5 kWh/kg. Plus tonnage oxygen by-product!

Burning iron powder yields 5.2 MJ/kg or 1.44 kwh/kg, see table above. In other words, electrolysis round-trip efficiency is not that great: 41-57%. Note that this applies to efficiency of transforming molten oxide in molten iron. Additionally you must heat your oxide powder and next somehow convert molten iron into iron powder, which inevitably will come at additional energy cost.

Read more…

EROI Canadian Tar Sands Rapidly Increasing

What a difference technology makes! Where some, mostly in the doomer corner, claim that it costs more energy to extract tar sands and convert it into fuel than you get in return, here a study that paints a different picture. While tar sands do indeed have a very low EROI, perhaps in another 7 years they could surpass a value of 10 and as such could contribute to complete the energy transition.

[] – Energy Return on Investment of Canadian Oil Sands Extraction from 2009 to 2015

2 GW Offshore Windpower Planned for British Columbia

DONG of Denmark did it again. After acquiring the 1.4GW Hornsea-UK project in the North Sea, they now will build an even bigger 2GW project off the West coast of Canada. For DONG this means an expansion beyond European borders and the Danish wind energy giant could ascend to become one of the global players in wind power that in a few decades will have replaced the mainly Anglo oil majors (“Seven Sisters”). European Seven Brothers, anyone?

[] – DONG Partners With NaiKun Wind Energy Group To Develop 2GW BC Offshore Wind Site
[] – Naikun Haida Energy Field Offshore Wind Farm
[] – Events on Naikun – Haida Energy Field
[deepresource] – DONG to Build World’s Largest Offshore Wind Park Hornsea-UK
[] – Seven Sisters (oil companies)
[deepresource] – The Seven Brothers – Europe Taking Lead in US Offshore

Fort McPherson, Canada, Permafrost & Climate Change

A team of the Dutch national news NOS traveled to the northern tip of Canada (68 degrees Northern latitude), that is Fort McPherson, to report about the visible effects of climate change. Note that both men are dressed in shirts (18-20 degrees Celsius), the environment is surprisingly green and there is no snow or ice and instead lots of mosquitoes. In the old days winter temperatures of minus 30-40C were normal, nowadays minus 20C is the new normal.

[] – Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories

Fort McPherson, Northern Territories, Canada

Read more…

Vaclav Smil – Energy and Civilization

New energy big picture book by Vaclav Smil: “Energy and Civilization”.

[] – Energy and Civilization: A History
[] – Energy And Civilization: a review
[deepresource] – Vaclav Smil on Energy Transitions
[] – This Is the Man Bill Gates Thinks You Absolutely Should Be Reading

Canada’s New Shipping Shortcut

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