Piecing the Puzzle Together

Author: Naoko Ellis, Senior Research Director, Carbon Capture and Conversion Institute

I’m here to tell you what we do at the Carbon Capture and Conversion Institute, or CCCI. The Institute’s mission is to help reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions, as part of Canada’s response to climate change. Our most exciting project right now is the newly built Technology Commercialization & Innovation Centre, on Mitchell Island in Richmond, British Columbia.

I was riding my bike to work the other day, mulling over how to best express what we do, and the image that came to mind was a jigsaw puzzle. That may be because jigsaw puzzles are one of my favourite hobbies. And I don’t know about you, but for me, having the box in front of you so you can see the whole picture is cheating. I like examining every piece, looking to see how its shape, nuanced colours and shades all fit together to reveal a part of the image that makes up the whole. I kind of enjoy the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what the finished product is supposed to look like.

And that’s what we do at CCCI. We’re an unbiased third party, and we look at each piece of technology and each innovative idea that comes through the Institute as puzzle pieces. We carefully examine them: what are they built to do? What do they require in order to work in a system? We test each one thoroughly to clearly see what kind of shape, colour, and shade each piece may have, and how they may fit into the larger puzzle.

We know the big picture we are striving for: a low carbon future through reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions! But we don’t know exactly what that will look like, or which pieces are necessary in which places to build the whole image faster.

Our job is to reduce the uncertainties associated with a piece of new technology by making what those pieces are crystal clear. That information help industries make easier decisions, and avoid costly detours on the road to the big picture.

CCCI has another job: we connect pieces. Because we see so many technologies for carbon capture and conversion, we also see possible synergies between technologies, which may lead to solutions. For example, we are working with a company in Norway. They are working on novel carbon-capture systems which require intimate contact between gas and liquids. We also work with another company, in the US, who create innovative ways to for gases and liquids to meet. We were able to connect those two pieces and create a new partnership in industry, because we examine each piece of the puzzle very carefully.

Solving a puzzle requires patience, persistence, and curiosity – and so does meeting the challenge of climate change and how it affects our society. CCCI is in a unique position to be able to examine and connect pieces of that puzzle.

We are committed to reaching a low carbon future faster, and we need your help to support our work. In my next blog, I’ll tell you a little more about our brand new Technology Commercialization & Innovation Centre.


Naoko EllisAbout the author

Naoko Ellis is Senior Research Director for the CCCI and a Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Her expertise lies in the area of multiphase reaction engineering with emphasis on fluidized beds. Some current projects include: biomass gasification and pyrolysis; CO2 capture, including chemical looping combustion; pyrolysis product utilization including bio-oil and biochar applications; and biofuels. She feels passionate about educating and training the next generation of engineers through teaching, and serving as the Associate Head for Graduate Programs in the department.