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Oil sands technology competition to generate low emissions carbon fibre moves into final phase

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Bryan Helfenbaum, associate vice-president of clean energy with Alberta Innovates, holds a hockey stick made with carbon fibre derived from oil sands bitumen. Photo by Dave Chidley for the Canadian Energy Centre

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson and Deborah Jaremko

Study found carbon fibre made from oil sands bitumen has 69 per cent lower emissions than conventional sources

Having spent most of a long and distinguished academic career working with metals, Weixing Chen became fascinated by the potential of repurposing a heavy hydrocarbon from Alberta’s oil sands into a high-value product for a low-carbon economy. 

The product is carbon fibre – thin as human hair but four times stronger than steel – and research has shown producing it from oil sands bitumen generates lower greenhouse gas emissions than today’s sources.  

“This is a great opportunity for me to challenge myself moving forward to develop this technology that will benefit society,” says Chen, a chemical and material engineering professor at the University of Alberta.  

His team at Edmonton-based Thread Innovations is one of five receiving a total $15 million in funding in the final round of the Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge, announced in December. 

Great potential for carbon fibre 

With its light weight and high strength, today carbon fibre is used in products like aircraft and spacecraft parts, racing car bodies, bicycles, hockey sticks and golf clubs. 

It has great potential, but its use is limited by cost. Carbon fibre averages $10 to $12 per pound, compared to less than $1 per pound for steel.   

Part of the Alberta competition is that the carbon fibre derived from oil sands bitumen must cost 50 per cent less than current carbon fibre products.  

This would unlock new markets for carbon fibre, says Byran Helfenbaum, associate vice-president of clean energy for Alberta Innovates, which is funding the challenge along with Emissions Reduction Alberta.  

“At the end of this phase, the intention is the technology is at a point where a company could make a funding decision for if not a commercial project, then at least a commercial demonstration project,” he says. 

“It’s really to get it out of the lab and start hitting the key specifications, identifying the existing and new markets, and pumping out prototypes that can be tested.  We have already generated our first two prototypes, a truck side mirror and a hockey stick, but we need to go bigger and faster and test a wide range of market opportunities.” 

Long-term need for carbon-based products 

The future is likely to be full of carbon fibre products, Helfenbaum says. 

“This ‘low-carbon future’ is a misnomer. When we say low-carbon future, what we mean is let’s keep carbon out of the atmosphere. Carbon is still going to be around us in solid form, and probably in increasingly higher amounts,” he says.  

“We’re going to have 10 billion people on the planet by mid-century. They need energy, but they also need stuff. They need housing, infrastructure, and consumer goods. And most of that stuff is or can be made of pure carbon.” 

Lower emissions from oil sands carbon fibre 

Most carbon fibre today is generated from a chemical compound called polyacrylonitrile (PAN), which is derived from a component of natural gas. 

recent study by researchers at the University of Alberta found that life cycle emissions from carbon fibre derived from oil sands bitumen are 69 per cent lower than PAN-based product.  

It’s the high carbon content of oil sands bitumen that provides the benefit, Helfenbaum says.  

“The heaviest fraction of bitumen takes more energy to break down to be turned into fuels. But that same fraction can be used to produce carbon fibre with fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the current PAN process,” he says. 

“If we are successful in reducing its cost, then it can be deployed into new markets that will further reduce carbon emissions, such as lightening passenger vehicles and improving the longevity of concrete infrastructure.” 

Adding value while reducing emissions 

The Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge is part of Alberta Innovates’ broader Bitumen Beyond Combustion  research program. The work considers opportunities to use bitumen to create value-added products other than fuels like gasoline and diesel.   

“From an economic perspective, the Bitumen Beyond Combustion program could triple the value of a barrel of bitumen,” Helfenbaum says.  

“Carbon fibre is among the most valuable of those products, but it’s not the only one. This is potentially in the tens of billions of dollars a year of gross revenue opportunity, so this is transformational.” 

It also presents environmental benefits.  

“Eighty per cent of the emissions associated with petroleum happen at combustion of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel so by diverting into these products, that becomes carbon that is sequestered forever and doesn’t get into the atmosphere,” he says.  

Pathway to commercial production 

Winners of the grand challenge will have a credible pathway to manufacturing 2,000 tonnes or more of carbon fibre per year. The challenge is scheduled to end in summer 2026.  

Thread Innovations is building a new facility to produce samples for potential buyers and demonstrate the ability to scale up production. This phase will also focus on improving characteristics of the carbon fibre produced by their technology to build commercial demand. 

“Our target is to complete the current project and then establish a commercialization plan in 2025,” says Chen.  

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Alberta

Danielle Smith warns arsonists who start wildfires in Alberta that they will be held accountable

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

The Alberta government has created an ad campaign highlighting the fact that most fires are caused by humans and not ‘climate change,’ as many left-leaning politicians claim.

In preparation for the so-called wildfire “season,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith sternly warned anyone caught starting blazes in her province, including arsonists, that they will face charges and be held fully “liable” for all costs associated with the fires.

“As we approach the wildfire season, it is important to understand that 67% of wildfires in Alberta are started by people,” Smith posted Monday on X.

“If you start a wildfire, you can be charged, fined, and held liable for all costs associated with fighting the wildfire.”

Smith made the comments after last year revealing that most of the wildfires in her province (500 of the 650) were caused by humans and not “climate change,” as has been pushed by the legacy media and opposition politicians.

“All I know is in my province we have 650 fires and 500 of them were human caused,” she said, “so we have to make sure that when people know that when it’s dry out there and we get into forest fire season that they’re being a lot more careful because anytime you end up with an ignition that happens it can have devastating consequences.”

To go along with Smith’s Monday message, the Alberta government has also created an ad campaign highlighting the fact that most fires are caused by humans and not “climate change,” as many left-leaning politicians claim.

As reported by LifeSiteNews last year, Smith ordered arson investigators to look into why some of the wildfires that raged across the vast expanse of the province had “no known cause” shortly after they spread.

During the campaign of Alberta’s 2023 election, Smith, whose United Conservative Party won a majority government, had to pause to deal with many wildfires that suddenly, out of nowhere, ravaged the province. The fires came on suddenly and uncharacteristically considering the heavy snowfall in the province in early March and rain in April.

LifeSiteNews reported that despite the arrest of multiple arsonists, Canada’s mainstream media and the federal government have been pushing a narrative attributing the recent wildfires to “climate change.”

However, statistics from Canada’s National Fire Database show that wildfires have gone down in recent years and peaked in 1989.

As for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he has repeatedly used “climate change” and forest fires as a catalyst for propping up his government’s much-maligned carbon tax, which Smith opposes. He has blamed the fires on “climate change.”

A June 2017 peer-reviewed study by two scientists and a veteran statistician confirmed that most of the recent global warming data have been “fabricated by climate scientists to make it look more frightening.”

Trudeau has been calling for increased bans on Canada’s natural resources, of which Alberta has in abundance.

Smith has vowed to fight Trudeau on his attacks against Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

The reduction and eventual elimination of so-called “fossil fuels” and a transition to unreliable “green” energy has also been pushed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the globalist group behind the socialist “Great Reset” agenda in which Trudeau and some of his cabinet are involved.

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Alberta

Coutts Three verdict: A warning to protestors who act as liaison with police

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Ray McGinnis

During the trial numbers of RCMP officers conceded that the Coutts Three were helpful in their interactions with the law. As well, there didn’t seem to be any truth to the suggestion that Van Huigenbos, Van Herk and Janzen were leaders of the protest.

Twelve jurors have found the Coutts Three guilty of mischief over $5,000 at a courthouse in Lethbridge, Alberta. Marco Van Huigenbois, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen will appear again in court on July 22 for sentencing.

Van Huigenbois, Van Herk and Janzen were each protesting at the Coutts Blockade in 2022. A blockade of Alberta Highway 4 began on January 29, 2022, blocking traffic, on and off, on Alberta Highway 4 near the Coutts-Sweetgrass Canada-USA border crossing. The protests were in support of the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa.

Protests began due to the vaccine mandates for truckers entering Canada, and lockdowns that bankrupted 120,000 small businesses. Government edicts were purportedly for “public health” to stop the spread of the C-19 virus. Yet the CDC’s Dr. Rachel Wallensky admitted on CNN in August 2021 the vaccine did not prevent infection or stop transmission.

By February 2022, a US court forced Pfizer to release its “Cumulative Analysis of Post-Authorization Adverse Event Reports” revealing the company knew by the end of February, 2021, that 1,223 people  had a “case outcome” of “fatal” as a result of taking the companies’ vaccine.

On the day of February 14, 2022, the three men spoke to Coutts protesters after a cache of weapons had been displayed by the RCMP. These were in connection with the arrest of the Coutts Four. Van Huigenbos and others persuaded the protesters to leave Coutts, which they did by February 15, 2022.

During the trial numbers of RCMP officers conceded that the Coutts Three were helpful in their interactions with the law. As well, there didn’t seem to be any truth to the suggestion that Van Huigenbos, Van Herk and Janzen were leaders of the protest.

RCMP officer Greg Tulloch testified that there were a number of “factions” within the larger protest group. These factions had strong disagreements about how to proceed with the protest. The Crown contended the Coutts Three were the leaders of the protest.

During his testimony, Tulloch recalled how Van Huigenbos and Janzen assisted him in getting past the “vehicle blockade to enter Coutts at a time during the protest when access to Coutts from the north via the AB-4 highway was blocked.” Tulloch also testified that Janzen and Van Huigenbos helped with handling RCMP negotiations with the protesters. Tulloch gave credit to these two “being able to help move vehicles at times to open lanes on the AB-4 highway to facilitate the flow of traffic in both directions.”

During cross examination by George Janzen’s lawyer, Alan Honner, Tulloch stated that he noticed two of the defendants assisting RCMP with reopening the highway in both directions. Honner said in summary, “[Marco Van Huigenbos and George Janzen] didn’t close the road, they opened it.”

Mark Wielgosz, an RCMP officer for over twenty years, worked as a liaison between law enforcement and protesters at the Coutts blockade. Taking the stand, he concurred that there was sharp disagreement among the Coutts protesters and the path forward with their demonstration. Rebel News video clips “submitted by both the Crown and defence teams captured these disagreements as demonstrators congregated in the Smuggler’s Saloon, a location where many of the protesters met to discuss and debate their demonstration.” Wielgosz made several attempts to name the leaders of the protest in his role as a RCMP liaison with the protesters, but was unsuccessful.”

However, the Crown maintained that the protest unlawfully obstructed people’s access to property on Highway 4.

Canada’s Criminal Code defines mischief as follows in Section 430:

Every one commits mischief who willfully

(a)  destroys or damages property;

(b)  renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;

(c)   obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or

(d)  obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

Robert Kraychik reported that “RCMP Superintendent Gordon Corbett…cried (no comment on the sincerity of this emoting) while testifying about a female RCMP officer that was startled by the movement of a tractor with a large blade during the Coutts blockade/protest.” This was the climax of the trial. A tractor moving some distance away from an officer in rural Alberta, with blades. The shock of it all.

No evidence was presented in the trial that Van Huigenbos, Van Herk and Janzen destroyed or damaged property. Officers testified they couldn’t identify who the protest leaders were. They testified the defendants assisted with opening traffic lanes, and winding down the protest.

By volunteering to liaise with the RCMP, the Crown depicted the Coutts Three as the protest leaders. Who will choose to volunteer at any future peaceful, non-violent, protest to act as a liaison with the policing authorities? Knowing of the verdict handed down on April 16, 2024, in Lethbridge?

Ray McGinnis is a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. His forthcoming book is Unjustified: The Emergencies Act and the Inquiry that Got It Wrong.

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