Students showcase “Scenarios for Alberta’s Energy Future”

Posted on Tue, 01/12/2016 - 05:44

Energy systems are under intense pressure to change. Society wants major reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while retaining the benefits that energy systems provide to our quality of life.

Understanding the technologies and policies needed to achieve these objectives can benefit from detailed, scenario modeling of energy futures. Scie529 is the capstone course in the energy specialization at the University of Calgary that is helping to train the next generation of scientists and engineers in energy systems analysis and modeling. 

The Fall 2015 course ended with a poster session in downtown Calgary that attracted dozens of industry, government and environmental NGO representatives.  Mark Lowey from EnviroLine was there and has prepared a report on the special event.  I asked him to share that report with us in this week’s CESAR blog.

David Layzell, Director, CESAR

By Mark Lowey

Student Thanmayee Mudigonda (Chemical Engineering) talks about her team’s poster on “Renewable Energy Storage in Alberta” with Ken Hogg from Renewable Energy Solutions.

Forty-nine University of Calgary students showcased their research projects on energy systems change and ways to significantly reduce Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions at a special, by-invitation event held in downtown Calgary in December, 2015.

Organized by Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (CESAR) Initiative, the “Scenarios for Alberta’s Energy Future” event at the Calgary Marriott Downtown attracted about 140 people. It was jointly sponsored by the University of Calgary, CESAR and the Energy Futures Lab, an Alberta-based, multi-interest collaboration designed to accelerate the development of “fit for the future” energy systems. Data resources for the student projects were contributed by CanESS (Canadian Energy Systems Simulator), a new breed of energy systems model provided by whatIf? Technologies Inc., an international leader in computer-based simulation models for long-term strategic planning and scenario analysis.

The natural science and engineering students, in their final year of undergraduate studies, presented research posters under the theme, “Scenarios for Alberta’s Energy Future.” The students are enrolled in the Scie529 capstone course, part of the Energy Sciences Concentration in the Natural Sciences Program in the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary.

(L to R): Students Winnie Liu (Chemical Engineering), Andrea Neumann (Mechanical Engineering), Alejandra Hernandez (Civil Engineering), Anam Mohammed Ali (Mechanical Engineering) and Johnny Tsang (Chemical Engineering) with their poster on “Alberta Energy System: A Focus on Diet.”

Ten posters, each created by a multidisciplinary team of students, resulted from three months of research that included working with professional advisors from government, industry and non-governmental organizations. Each poster summarized the research insights the students gained on topics that encompassed more energy efficient oil sands technologies, greening the electrical grid, renewable energy storage, residential energy efficiency, transforming transportation with sustainable fuels and vehicles, and the relationship between dietary changes and greenhouse gas emissions. The common thread for all student projects is the potential to significantly reduce Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Learning to work with people from different faculties and departments in a field that we were fascinated in was refreshing and very rewarding,” says Richard Dieu, a fourth-year civil engineering student. “The experience at the Marriott was fantastic, as students were challenged to present to over a hundred industry professionals.”

(L to R): Students Jiaan Pacunana (Chemical Engineering), Samantha Visser (Mechanical Engineering), Waheed Zaman (Chemical Engineering), Pradeep Shrestha (Chemical Engineering) and Varada Khot (Chemical Engineering) with their poster on “Biomass Pyrolysis in the Oil Sands.”

David Layzell, director of CESAR and course coordinator and instructor for Scie529 (along with co-instructor and CanESS modeller Bastiaan Straatman), noted that the student’s projects covered diverse parts of the energy systems in Alberta, including oil recovery, power generation, personal and freight transport and residential heating.

“To provide the necessary expertise, each team of students not only dug into the scientific and engineering literature, but they were matched with one or more expert advisors drawn from the community,” Layzell explained. “The advisors were amazing, providing the students with invaluable insights and challenging their assumptions and interpretations. Many also came to the December poster session.”

“The experience of presenting to industry in a formal business setting was excellent for personal growth, and the projects were directly relevant and up to speed with where industry is headed,” says Samantha Visser, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student.

Chad Park, Executive Director of The Natural Step Canada, and Director of the Energy Futures Lab also attended the poster session and chatted with the students. “The CESAR Initiative and the Scie529 course are in excellent alignment with the goals and objectives of the Energy Futures Lab to accelerate the development of ‘fit for the future’ energy systems,” Park says. “It is great to have this affiliation.”

Layzell says the scientifically based evidence that is needed to guide the transformation of energy systems includes:

  1. Reliable data that’s publicly available, easily accessible and internally consistent, covering all aspects of the energy systems;
  2. An understanding of how energy systems work and how they are changing, including components that work well, areas that are inefficient and the nature of the forces that are driving systems change.
  3. Scenario models of possible energy futures that are built on technology and / or policy alternatives and include calculations of the system-level greenhouse gas implications.

CESAR, established in 2013, is an initiative to encourage and communicate research and critical analysis around the transformation of Canada’s energy systems. CESAR’s primary goals are to elevate the conversation across Canada around energy systems choices, and to inform policy and investment decisions on transforming Canada’s energy systems toward sustainability. CESAR builds data resources and visualization tools, analyzes past energy systems and models energy future.

The Natural Sciences Program in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Science is a place for students to discover their interests and develop their talents through critical thinking and effective communications in a multidisciplinary setting.

Click here to view the posters created by the multidisciplinary student teams:

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells for SAGD: Transitioning Alberta’s Oil Sands and Electricity Grid for a Low Carbon Energy Future
Jordan Bright (Chemical Engineering); Alex Fritz (Chemical Engineering); Jordan Robinson (Mechanical Engineering); Peter Stegeman (Mechanical Engineering); Subash Subramanian (Chemical Engineering).

Carbon Black to the Future?: Can natural gas dissociation provide a clean fuel for SAGD and a high value by-product?
Miles Alger (Chemical Engineering); Paul Dang (Natural Sciences); Nauman Sultan (Civil Engineering); Berkley Downey (Chemical Engineering); Nathan Thompson (Chemical Engineering).

Biomass Pyrolysis in the Oil Sands: Reducing GHG Emissions of Bitumen Recovery by Integrating Alberta’s Forestry Industry
Jiaan Pacunana (Chemical Engineering); Pradeep Shrestha (Chemical Engineering); Samantha Visser (Mechanical Engineering); Varada Khot (Chemical Engineering); Waheed Zaman (Chemical Engineering).

Hydrothermal Liquefaction: A Possible Solution to Alberta’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Crisis
Jay Upadhyaya (Mechanical Engineering); Chau Le (Natural Sciences); Chijindu Ubani (Natural Sciences); Brian Kim (Natural Sciences); Manvirpal Ghotra (Chemical Engineering);

Replacing Alberta’s Transportation Fuel with Home Grown Biofuel: Can Alberta Crop Residuals Supplement Fuel Demand and Reduce GHG Emissions?
Emily Crandlemire (Geomatic Engineering); Trevor Ferguson (Mechanical Engineering); Tanner Ober (Mechanical Engineering); Rina Tugade (Natural Sciences).

What’s All the Hype on Hyperloops?: A transportation study for the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor
Haydon Armstrong (Natural Sciences); Andrei Dragos (Mechanical Engineering); Brijesh Modha (Natural Sciences); Aaron Poon (Chemical Engineering); Hala Ragheb (Natural Sciences).

The Drive for Sustainable Vehicles in Alberta’s Future
Richard Dieu (Civil Engineering); Gina Kisell (Geomatics Engineering); Apirat Witthayanukool (Natural Sciences); Ryan Vickers (Chemical Engineering); James Chau (Chemical Engineering).

Residential Space Heating & Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The impact of insulation, retrofits, size limits and high furnace efficiency
Connor Scheu (Civil Engineering); David Jones (Civil Engineering); Bilal Sher (Civil Engineering); Yawei Xiao (Mechanical Engineering); James Jenden (Natural Sciences).

Renewable Energy Storage in Alberta: Is it feasible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta through energy storage and renewable energy sources?
Thanmayee Mudigonda (Chemical Engineering); Kim Fung (Mechanical Engineering); Jordan Banh (Natural Sciences); Jaimie Sokalski (Civil Engineering); Michael Kozera (Natural Sciences).

Alberta Energy System – A Focus on Diet: The Impact of Dietary Trends of Alberta’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Alejandra Hernandez (Civil Engineering); Winnie Liu (Chemical Engineering); Anam Mohammed Ali (Mechanical Engineering); Andrea Neumann (Mechanical Engineering); Johnny Tsang (Chemical Engineering).

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