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Carbon-capture startup not depending on government subsidy Add to ...

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The Alberta government’s waning love affair with carbon capture does not frighten a Canadian start-up getting set to commercialize its own technology, its chief executive says.

Once seen as a panacea to the oil-producing province’s challenge of meeting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, carbon-capture ambitions have been tempered. The leading candidate for leader of the ruling Progressive Conservatives, Jim Prentice, has dismissed it as expensive and unproven.

That’s a “pretty shocking” assessment by Mr. Prentice, a former federal environment minister, said André Boulet, CEO of Vancouver-based Inventys Thermal Technologies, which is piloting its carbon-capture technology in Canada, the United States, and potentially in the U.K.

Alberta had set up a $2-billion kitty to subsidize carbon-capture projects in 2008, though the number of potential developments have already been scrapped. The technology was initially supposed to have accounted for 70 per cent of province-wide emissions reductions. It is now seen accounting for just 10 per cent of the total.

Mr. Boulet said the absence of government incentives won’t hinder Inventys, which is backed by some prominent venture capital funds, including one run by Chevron Corp.

“In fact, we’re pretty agnostic about it. We’re very supportive of policy incentives – we think it’s a smart thing to do. That’s why we started the company, to develop the technology to address [greenhouse gases] and climate change,” he said.

However, the main initial market for the carbon dioxide Inventys intends to scrub from industrial smokestacks is the energy industry, which injects the gas deep underground to boost production from mature oil reservoirs.

“It’s really policy independent. Whether there’s policy or not really doesn’t change our execution,” Mr. Boulet said.

The company’s VeloxoTherm technology separates the gas in an energy-efficient manner that it says is less than a third of the cost of post-combustion systems. Plans are to begin to install commercial-scale systems in late 2016.

Last year, Inventys made headlines when former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu joined its board.

The governments of Alberta and Canada are kicking in more than $500-million to a project being constructed by Enhance Energy, which involves a pipeline to ship the gas to oil fields in central Alberta from a fertilizer plant and a planned bitumen refinery.

The Alberta Carbon Trunkline conduit would provide potential access to a big potential market for Inventys, said Mr. Boulet.

Among the company’s other funders are Mitsui Global Investment, Roda Group, and Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, whose partner, Jean-Michel Gires, is the former head of French oil major Total SA’s Canadian branch.

Inventys has made use of government programs, having received early capital from Sustainable Development Technology Canada and Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp.

“Don’t get me wrong, we certainly love the support, but as far as a market opportunity for a small organization, we can’t be reliant on some hypothetical future policy-driven market. We have to find market opportunities that exist today,” Mr. Boulet said.

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