International competition attracts experts to develop advanced material

(Calgary, Alberta) July 23, 2020 - Alberta Innovates' Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge is accelerating the development of pathways for large-scale production of carbon fibre and advanced manufacturing products from Alberta's bitumen. Carbon fibre's high strength, stiffness, and corrosion resistance coupled with its light weight make it better than many conventional metals and polymers used in transportation, infrastructure, construction and consumer products.

Alberta's abundant bitumen feedstock is uniquely well-suited to advanced manufacturing applications and significantly less expensive than existing sources. The potential to dramatically lower input costs for advanced materials opens the door to large scale production demands and markets around the world. As a result, the global carbon fibre market is expected to grow tenfold due to uptake from the automotive industry alone.

Commercial markets for non-combustion products from bitumen could quadruple the current value of Alberta's bitumen output. Markets for carbon fibre and other asphaltene products are valued at an estimated $84 billion annually. GHG emissions would be reduced at the point of consumption as bitumen is diverted from combustion.

Successful Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge phase one projects from Alberta, across Canada and around the world will accelerate development of this technology significantly. Top labs are now working to produce carbon fibre from Alberta's bitumen-derived asphaltenes. Samples for the competition are provided by the new Asphaltene Bank at InnoTech Alberta. Many winners will provide additional resources toward the challenge projects beyond the Alberta Innovates' $1 million investment in phase one.


"Carbon Fibre derived from Alberta's bitumen is a significant opportunity for Alberta to diversify our natural resources sector, create jobs, open new markets and grow the economy."
Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism

"Alberta has the potential to transform global advanced materials markets and produce billions in new revenue for the province from bitumen feedstock. By bringing the best ideas from around the world into Alberta, we can expedite the development of these new technologies and position Alberta as a leader in this area."
Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates

"The Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge is delivering on the promise of innovation and creating chemistry for a more sustainable and prosperous future for Canada's natural resources. As a leader in the chemistry industry, BASF is proud to support its success."
Daniel Hebert, Head of Business Development-Western Canada, BASF


Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge Phase One - Successful Applicants

Applicant Applicant Representative Project Title Requested Funding Total Project Budget
University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) Cagri Ayranci Towards Large-Scale Unconventional Micrometer Diameter Carbon Fiber Production $50,000 $68,000
Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia) Satish Kumar Manufacturing of Carbon Fibers from Alberta Asphaltene $50,000 $50,000
University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) Zhi Li Ultrafine Carbon Fibers by Melt Electrospinning Alberta Bitumen Asphaltenes $50,000 $78,000
National Research Council Canada (Ottawa, ON) Chae-Ho Yim Carbon Fibre Production Using Alberta Oilsands Asphaltenes $50,000 $100,000
McGill University (Montreal, QC) Theo van de Ven Chemically Enhanced Asphaltene Blends as Precursors for Carbon Fibers $50,000 $100,000
University of Calgary (Calgary, AB) Simon Park Energy Efficient Fabrication of Melt Spun Carbon Fibres $50,000 $92,000
University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) Mohtada Sadrzadeh Cost-Efficient Production of High-Quality Carbon Fibres by Floating Catalyst Chemical Vapor Deposition Method $50,000 $100,000
Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama) Maria Auad Asphaltene as Carbon Precursor to Fabricate Carbon Fibers. $50,000 $75,000
Carbon Nexus Deakin University (Geelong, Australia) Minoo Naebe Carbon Fibre from Alberta Oilsands Asphaltenes (AOA) $50,000 $63,582
Zetetic Associates Ltd. (Camrose, AB) Tony Hladun Value-Added Conversion of Alberta Bitumen into High Performance Carbon Fibers $49,500 $69,300
McGill University (Montreal, QC) Pascal Hubert A Canadian Sustainable Solution for the Production of Carbon Fibre $50,000 $100,000
Ryerson University (Toronto, ON) Bryan Koivisto The Use of Pre- and Post-Chemical Modification to Prepare Low-Cost Carbon Fibres from Electrospun Alberta Oilsands Asphaltenes $50,000 $70,000
University of Calgary (Calgary, AB) Joanna Wong Melt-Spinning of Single Carbon Fibre Filaments from Alberta Oilsands Asphaltenes $50,000 $62,500
University of Alberta (Calgary, AB) Kevin Hodder Development of an Asphaltene Meso-phase as a Carbon Fibre Precursor $44,240 $44,240
Chemventive LLC (Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania) John Newport Sheath-core Carbon Fiber Precursor $50,000 $80,000
University of Calgary (Calgary, AB) Jeff Van Humbeck Separation and Oxidation Strategies for a New Approach to Asphaltene-Derived Carbon Fibers $50,000 $50,000
University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC) Frank Ko Development of Alberta Oilsands Asphaltene (AOA)-based Carbon Fibres $49,890 $49,890
NORAM Engineering and Constructors Ltd. (Vancouver, BC) J Lockhart Faster, Low Temperature, Stabilization of Asphaltene Based Carbon Fibres $48,000 $60,000
University of Calgary (Calgary, AB) Md Golam Kibria Process Development for Transforming Alberta's Asphaltenes into High-value carbon Fibres. $50,000 $100,000
Natural Resources Canada - CANMET Energy Devon (Devon, AB) Antonia De Crisci Customized Carbon Fibre Production from Bitumen Derived Asphaltenes Using Electrospinning $50,000 $104,200
    Total $991,630 $1,516,712

About the Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge and Bitumen Beyond Combustion

Alberta Innovates' Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge ('CFGC') is a $15 million, three-phase competition with the objective of accelerating the development of large-scale production pathways for short and continuous carbon fibre from bitumen-derived asphaltenes and promoting their use in manufactured products.

The CFGC is part of the Bitumen Beyond Combustion (BBC) program - an initiative by Alberta Innovates to create a multi-billion-dollar, value-added industry around the development of non-combustion products and their production technologies, derived from bitumen contained in Alberta's oil sands. The latter are amongst the world's largest hydrocarbon resources, with proven reserves of approximately 170 billion barrels and current production of 3 million barrels per day. At present, most bitumen products are destined for energy generation by combustion (such as gasoline, diesel, and heating oil). BBC diverts bitumen away from combustion but creates advanced value-added products for the future. Top BBC products are Carbon Fiber, Activated Carbon, and Asphalt Binder.

The high strength and stiffness of carbon fibre, coupled with low density and high corrosion resistance, make composite materials that incorporate carbon fibre functionally superior to many conventional metals, wood products, and commercial polymers for use in electric vehicles, transportation, infrastructure, construction, and consumer products sectors.

The GHG emission reduction will be over 120 MT CO2 per year if 30% of the heavy components in three million barrels of bitumen per day are diverted away from combustion assuming 385 kg C02 emissions per barrel of bitumen used in combustion. This would be part of Alberta's contribution to global emission reduction as most of the reduction will occur at the point of consumption.

Alberta Innovates invests in research, innovation and entrepreneurship to drive provincial economic growth and diversity. We ignite the power of innovation through our work with researchers, industry and entrepreneurs to move Alberta to a lower-carbon future, promote the responsible use of land and water, and contribute to the improved health and well-being of Albertans.

Alberta Innovates provides technical expertise, entrepreneurial advice and support, opportunities for partnerships, and funding to advance the best ideas. We support a broad range of research and innovation activity - from discovery to use. Collaboration is at the heart of what we do - bringing together bright minds and great ideas.

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