Algae farms in Edmonton?

This can’t happen soon enough. Every once in a while you encounter something you never expected to see. This is one of those times.

OTTAWA — As Canadian energy companies face growing constraints on their greenhouse gas emissions, researchers believe they have found an answer in pond scum.

Backed by oil companies and utilities, Canadian researchers are plowing ahead with plans to develop algae farms that will convert carbon dioxide from oil sands projects and coal-fired power plants into biofuels, chemicals and fertilizers.

Algae ponds that use photosynthesis to feed on CO{-2} are common in warmer climes, but until recently, few thought they would be productive in Canada’s harsh conditions. Now a consortium led by the Alberta Research Council has completed research that suggests the algae would thrive under northern light and temperatures, with an appropriate covering for winter months.

"What we are doing is transferring [the algae systems] into more temperate climes, which is a big step and something that no one ever believed would be viable; but we have demonstrated that that’s not true," John McDougall, chairman of the Alberta Research Council, said in a telephone interview after presenting results of the first phase of the project to research partners.

"We think this can take a major bite out of the CO{-2} problem, particularly for large industrial point sources. Our work has shown to date that, for the large industrial emitters, this kind of a system would potentially take up about 30 per cent of their emissions." Source.

This is what happens when someone starts thinking "outside of the box".

So much research is going into algae technology it is only a matter of time before this is seen as an effective solution to the perceived problem of CO2.

The $20-million algae project is being funded by major Canadian energy companies, including Petro-Canada, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, EnCana Corp. and Epcor Power LP, a coal-dependent Alberta-based utility.

The researchers will spend the next two years improving productivity of the algae system, including efforts to generate growth deeper under the surface of the pond to reduce the area required.

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