The students donned their high visibility smocks, safety glasses and gloves, and with that they were ready to tour the plant.
Cancarb had been chosen as an ideal touring site for members of the University of Calgary’s Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy Students’ Association (ISEEESA), a student club that emphasizes the need for a cleaner energy supply, a healthy environment and an efficient economy.
As they toured the facility last month, ISEEESA’s President Ba-Cuong Phan explained: “Most people seem to think that energy, environment and economy are mutually exclusive. But plants like this one are a good example of how they can work in harmony.”
Cancarb, a wholly-owned subsidiary of TransCanada, was retrofitted with a power plant and waste heat recovery system in 2000. The upgrade allows the heat generated from production of a specialty chemical to be transformed into electricity and sold to the City of Medicine Hat.
“Thanks to a $60-million retrofit, 90,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases are recovered annually and turned into electricity for the municipality of Medicine Hat,” explained Peter Donnelly, manager of energy, risk and analysis at the Cancarb plant. “We supply approximately one-quarter to one-fifth of Medicine Hat’s electricity needs.”
Cancarb produces “thermal carbon black,” which is commonly used in the auto industry to reinforce rubber materials. The high-end carbon black from Cancarb is sold around the world to 700 customers in 44 countries.
Its production requires “cracking” natural gas at an extremely high temperature (1,400 degrees Celsius) in order to activate thermal decomposition – the separation of the carbon and hydrogen gas contained in natural gas. The end result is pure carbon powder, sold as thermal carbon black, and hydrogen.
“After the carbon powder and the hydrogen separate, the hydrogen is still extremely hot,” Donnelly said. “In the late 1990s, TransCanada asked us to look into ways to reuse the heat that was produced as a by-product of the thermal carbon black making process. They realized that there was value in recycling this heat source.”
Capturing the energy produced during the manufacturing of a product and transforming it into electricity for local residents is all part of a day’s work for the zero-emissions waste heat recovery plant.
For the ISEEESA students, touring the plant was a valuable opportunity for experiential learning.
“We see these types of hands-on learning experiences as a must in student development. Students learn best when they experience something for themselves,” Phan said. “I wish more people could experience these types of facilities first-hand. If they did, people would really believe in the possibility of making energy, environment and economy work together.”
For more information, download our fact sheet about the Cancarb Waste Heat Recovery Power Plant here.
Cancarb is one of more than a dozen waste heat recovery facilities operating at TransCanada facilities across North America, including the Ravenswood Generating Station in New York City and at several compressor stations our natural gas pipelines.
TransCanada owns or has interests in more than 11,800 megawatts of power generation, enough to power approximately 12 million homes. More than one-third of this electricity comes from emission-less sources including nuclear, wind, hydro and solar power.
For more information, visit TransCanada’s Energy webpage.