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In fight to combat climate change, Squamish Nation joins forces to capture carbon

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For years, Chris Lewis has watched the effects of climate change from his front door. The waters of the Seymour River on the North Shore’s Capilano reserve in Squamish Nation territory keep rising. 

“Right now, the river is bank to bank, and what we’re noticing more and more is that the rivers are becoming a little bit more flashy, hence the water levels come up at all times of the year,” Lewis said from the Ch’i’ch’elxwi7kw, or the Seymour River.

Lewis, a spokesperson for the Squamish Nation, said the river’s high waters are an effect of our warming climate. And he’s concerned for the salmon that spawn there.

“And this [high water levels all year round] is a little bit worrisome because the coho and the chum were just in here spawning.

“And when the waters get this flashy it could strand all of the eggs that have already been spawned,” he added.

So when Lewis was approached by a Squamish, B.C. company to help spearhead a cutting edge carbon-capture system, he  jumped at the opportunity.

“That was something really exciting for Squamish Nation and we really jumped on that canoe and kind of said ‘how do we do it?'” Lewis said. 

“Not a silver bullet’

Policy-makers around the world are working on ways to keep global warming within the two-degree limit of the Paris agreement. The three-year-old pact is aimed at limiting the rise in temperatures to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

But some worry that carbon dioxide emissions won’t be cut fast enough, saying carbon may need to be actively removed from the atmosphere.

Carbon Engineering, a clean-energy company running a carbon-capture facility in Squamish, wants to be a part of the solution to address climate change. 

“It’s not a silver bullet or a catch all but it’s on par with wind and solar power, electric vehicles and energy efficient buildings,” said Jeff Holmes, an engineer with Carbon Engineering.

A rendering of Carbon Engineering’s ‘air contactor design.’ The company uses carbon-capture technology that captures CO₂ directly from the atmosphere, and synthesizes it into clean transportation fuels. (Carbon Engineering)

The system captures carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, which can then be stored underground or converted into carbon-neutral fuel, said Holmes.

At least seven companies around the world are working with carbon-capture technology, but only one, the Swiss-based Climeworks, has built a commercial-scale plant.

Signed MOU

Carbon Engineering’s plant pulls about one ton of carbon each day from the air, and produces about two barrels of fuel, said Holmes.

It is still testing and developing the technology, but has plans to be a fully operational commercial carbon-capture facility in the future. It doesn’t have a timeline or schedule for the plant to be fully operational. 

The Squamish Nation has signed a memorandum of understanding with the company aimed at ensuring Carbon Engineering becomes operational one day.

Jeff Holmes is an engineer with the Squamish-based carbon capture company, Carbon Engineering. He says while the technology is not a silver bullet, he has high hopes that it will help to tackle the the effects of climate change. (Angela Sterritt )

Lewis said he is excited about the prospect that the carbon-capture facility could one day make the town of Squamish the first carbon-neutral town in the world. 

“If we’re the first ones to see climate change in our territory, what are we doing to combat it?” Lewis said.

For Holmes, the Carbon Engineering’s engineer, the chance at a partnership to tackle climate change is big.

“Human beings can do amazing things when we put our mind to it.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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