Brewing up new solutions through Avatar Innovations

November 2023 – An ice-cold glass of beer and a barrel of oil. Believe it or not, the two have something in common. Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be used in both beer and oil production, and it was this similarity that inspired Karen Ngo, Project Engineer at Cenovus Energy, and her team to come up with an innovative decarbonization technology, CO2Brew — a system that aims to capture and reuse CO2 emitted during beer production.

“CO2 is one of the main emissions vented through brewery operations,” shares Karen “And since CO2 is also essential to carbonating beverages made by these breweries, we saw an opportunity to implement a carbon capture and reuse process.”

The concept for CO2Brew was inspired in part by Cenovus’s Lloydminster Ethanol Plant. Like beer production, about 95% of the emissions that come from the plant are CO2. We harness and reuse those emissions through our carbon capture and utilization system, which traps the CO2, liquefies it and reinjects it into the reservoir to recover more oil.

A real team effort, CO2Brew was dreamt up by a multi-disciplinary group of professionals, including Karen, that were brought together through an innovation accelerator program offered by Avatar Innovations (Avatar). The program works with companies like Cenovus to bring members of different industries together to advance new decarbonization technologies by taking them on a journey through the innovation commercialization process.

“During my participation in the Avatar program, I’ve had a lot of exposure to innovators who have encouraged me to look at problem-solving in another way,” says Karen. “Hearing different perspectives and applying an entrepreneurial lens to sustainability initiatives has helped me think outside the box and come up with ideas I might not have otherwise.”

After completing the first three phases of the Avatar Innovations program, CO2Brew was one of six projects that made it to the final phase for teams to present to a panel of investors on demo day. Avatar will provide funding for commercialization to the most compelling opportunities from the demos, and teams will be able to incorporate and own the solution they worked on through the program.

“It was really exciting to make it through to this final phase because we’ll have an opportunity to put our proposal to the test,” says Karen. “We’ll be piloting the carbon capture system next summer at Cold Garden, a local brewery in Calgary.”

The team will find out in 2024 whether their project will be chosen for funding through Avatar, but in the meantime, they recently received a grant through Alberta Innovates. The organization provides funding, business advice and connections, applied research and industrial testing facilities to accelerate research and innovations that benefit Albertans.

Carbon capture technology
We produce fuel-grade ethanol at our Lloydminster Ethanol Plant, and have the capacity to capture, on average, approximately 80,000 tonnes of CO2e per year which is safely injected underground for enhanced oil recovery. Learn more about our carbon capture projects.
Accelerating energy transition solutions through the Avatar Program
Eight Cenovus employees are testing their energy transition solutions in the next phase of Avatar. Read more.
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