CleanO2’s Carbon Capture Units For Natural Gas Appliances Convert Emissions Into Soap
Fuelling Canada, a new natural gas information hub, was launched in November 2021 with the goal of helping Canadians better understand the foundational role of this energy source across the country. In 2021, natural gas met 38% of our energy needs, nearly double that of electricity.
“Natural gas is an essential part of our everyday lives,” says Paul Cheliak, Vice President, Strategy and Delivery, for the Canadian Gas Association (CGA). “We are dedicated to providing Canadians with not only affordable and reliable natural gas, but with the information they need to make informed energy decisions.”
Most Canadians associate natural gas with their stove top or BBQ, but the industry has deep roots across the country. What is lesser known is the leading role the natural gas industry is playing in the cleantech space. Enter CleanO2.
CleanO2 is a Calgary-based company that sells both the CarbinX, a carbon capture device that can be installed alongside a natural-gas boiler, as well as a line of carbon capture soap and other cleaning products. “The whole reason behind our company is to help reduce our carbon footprint,” says Jaeson Cardiff, CEO of CleanO2 Carbon Capture Technologies. “Natural gas is going to be a mainstay of the energy mix for decades to come, but the concern over carbon emissions needs to be dealt with quickly.”
The CarbinX unit, about the size of two household fridges, has a simple, yet elegant design. A portion of flue gas from the natural gas boiler is diverted to a stainless steel drum containing solid potassium hydroxide; the chemical combines with CO2 to form potassium carbonate powder (also known as pearl ash). Every two weeks, a technician swaps out the drum for a new, fresh container. In all, the unit captures up to 4,000 kg of CO2 per year.
CarbinX also contains a heat exchanger, which takes the waste heat of the flue gas and uses it to heat the cold circulating water prior to re-entering the boiler, saving an estimated 20% on fuel consumption. Altogether, the reduced energy consumption and permanently-removed CO2 amounts to 10 short tons per year of CO2 reductions per unit, equivalent to 300 trees.
And, you get some really neat soap. CleanO2 markets eight different bars ranging from Coffee & Honey to Juicy Rosé. “The soap line came about as an accident,” laughs Cardiff. “The volume of pearl ash was so big that there were few buyers. We knew that it was used in the manufacture of soap, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we make our own soap?’”
After hiring experts to devise a line, they built a factory in Calgary. Their personal care products are now for sale in dozens of Canadian Tire and Safeway stores across Alberta, with plans to expand into Ontario, B.C. and the U.S., as well as build online sales.
CarbinX sales are booming. Since the first commercial unit was installed in 2017, CleanO2 now has 19 units operational, 23 sold and waiting installation, and another 160 in the sales pipeline. The company has a factory that is currently capable of building 100 units per year, but is in discussions with manufacturers to expand output to 1,000 units per year, including a new model with twice the CO2 capturing capacity.
Part of their success is due to the compelling economics. A CarbinX unit sells for C$30,000, and the energy savings and revenue from the pearl ash gives the owner a payback within four years. But it also helps to have some big names as validators for your technology. “Gas companies like Fortis and Enbridge have been incredible champions, and the CGA has been great in helping us tell our story,” says Cardiff.
As for CleanO2’s long-term prospects, the potential market is virtually unlimited. “There are millions of commercial natural gas heating systems in North America alone,” says Cardiff. “We’ve had interest from all over the world: Australia, Japan, the U.S. and U.K.”
Canadians are invited to learn and share their experiences by visiting the Fuelling Canada website and engaging with the content on social media.