Energy Talks

A Public Lecture Series

Energy Talks is a speaker series featuring groundbreaking research presented by experts from the University of Alberta's Future Energy Systems research initiative and Energy Systems Signature Area. Energy Talks lectures can be delivered in numerous venues across Canada, in partnership with local host organizations.

If you are interested in hosting an Energy Talks lecture, please contact fescom@ualberta.ca indicating your organization, preferred topic(s), proposed date, and audience. Please note that due to research and teaching obligations, our research group may not be able to accommodate all requests.

Upcoming Dates

The best is yet to come? How beliefs on oil & gas’s future shape our energy transition (January 26, 2022) 

What shapes support for energy transition in Alberta, where the economy is heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry? This talk examines how Albertans feel about the shift away from fossil fuels. While research on public attitudes toward climate policy usually points to partisanship as a key factor shaping support for energy transition, in oil and gas economies, other factors become important, such as our beliefs about the future of the industry and our identification with the oil and gas industry. What are the implications of this for the way we design and communicate energy transition policies?

Lori Thorlakson is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. She holds a PhD from the London School of Economics. With Dr. Melanee Thomas, she is the co-PI of the Future Energy Systems project, Assessing Political Pathways of Energy Transition, which examines drivers of public opinion on climate policies in Canadian provinces and the relationship between elite framing of energy issues and public opinion.

Register here

Past Talks

Greener Strategies For Processing Biomass and Crude Oil (November 24, 2021) 

Video will be available shortly. 

Hydrogen is a key lynchpin in the current strategies for processing crude oil and converting biomass into fuels and useful chemicals. Unfortunately, most of the hydrogen we use is extracted from natural gas in a process that emits large amounts of carbon dioxide. This means hydrogen production emits two of the key greenhouse gases (methane and CO2) which are driving dangerous climate change. In this talk I will show that coupling low-temperature electrochemical techniques with simple copper and nickel catalysts provide an innovative work-around to the ‘’hydrogen challenge’’. In simple ‘one-pot’ processes we harvest ‘waste’ hydrogen from lignin or small organic molecules then use the ‘harvested’ hydrogen to drive reactions relevant to biomass processing and crude oil upgrading.

Meet Dr. Orain Brown: I am originally from the tropical island paradise of Jamaica. I became fascinated with chemistry because of all the vibrant colours encountered in my high school chemistry Labs. I completed a BSc in Chemistry at the University of the West Indies, in Kingston Jamaica. I taught high school chemistry and biology for 3 years after which I moved to Canada for graduate school. Completed a PhD in chemistry with a focus on catalysis relevant to crude oil upgrading. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Alberta.

Biojet Fuels: What If The Aviation Industry Were A Country? (October 27, 2021) 

The aviation sector is responsible for about 2 % of the global greenhouse gas emissions. To better understand the impact of the aviation sector on the environment, it is interesting to know that a flight from Montreal to London emits the same amount of carbon as heating a European home for an entire year. Thus, lowering the carbon emissions from the aviation industry could have a great impact on mitigating the effects of climate change. Biojet fuels can be an alternative to the currently existing fossil-based jetfuels and could help reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation industry.

Dr. Fatemeh Bakhtiari is a postdoctoral fellow in the Biorefining Conversions and Fermentation Laboratory at University of Alberta, working on the Biojet initiative. Her current line of research involves optimization and scale up of the alkene-based biojet technology developed aimed at producing bio-jet fuels.

She received her PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alberta. During her PhD she has worked on developing process strategies to enhance the productivity of microbial bioprocesses aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of various industries, for which she received the Westmoreland Coals Company Graduate Scholarship in Environmental Engineering. She obtained a master’s degree in Polymer Engineering and a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Iran.

Catalysis, Climate Change, and Solar Fuels (September 22, 2021)

Solar fuels: capturing the energy of the sun and storing it in the form of carbon dioxide. It's one of the many ways UofA researchers are advancing the field of energy, and you can learn more from Dr. Steve Bergens (Science) and his team of researchers on Wednesday, September 22, 2021.

When harvesting energy from the sun, there’s more to the story than solar panels. Solar fuels — chemical storage of the energy in sunlight — are one of the many ways we can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. However, getting to that point requires understanding a process called catalysis, a discovery that could be argued is bigger than the wheel and that transformed the lives of everyone that lives on the planet today. Explore how catalysis works, learn about the intersection with ‘blue hydrogen’, and see how it is being prepared for use in Alberta. Finally, discover the advancements in solar fuels happening in the Bergens research group, with students Octavio Martinez Perez and Mike Donohoe giving short talks about their research in the realm of solar fuels.

What We Can Learn From Alberta’s Changing Oil And Gas Industry’s Organizing Principles (July 28, 2021) 

Over the course of the last few decades, Alberta’s oil and gas industry has been challenged to address rising concerns about environmental liabilities. This Energy Talk will share a process based understanding of this transformation, acquired through an in-depth study of the industry’s practices in Alberta between 1938 and 2019. A key analytic focus is on the industry’s organizing principles, or “institutional logics”, that provide organizations with templates for demonstrating the appropriateness of their practices.

We will explore the two sub-processes found to be key to the transformation of logics. The first, a bottom-up process, will underline how evaluations of worth by a growing array of stakeholders contributed to a change of values, and eventually to logic transformation. The second, a top-down process, will point out the role of global cultural movements (such as the environmental movement during the 1970s), as well as influential economic and geopolitical events (such as the second world war, and oil induced global downturns).

In this talk, Bandita will discuss how a more process based understanding of the oil and gas industry’s transformation can inform future organizational decisions and energy policy

Bandita Deka Kalita is a PhD student in the Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Management at Alberta School of Business. Her research is currently focused on institutional transformations, with a particular focus on how processes of evaluation might affect value configurations and organizational strategies. Her approach is based on longitudinal research designs and mixed methods. Before starting her Ph.D. studies, she served in the industry in various roles. She graduated from the Asian Institute of Technology (M.B.A) and Gauhati University (B.E).

Developing Sustainable Urban Infrastructure - From Research to Practice (June 23, 2021) 

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges confronting humanity. While mitigating climate change will require a multi-pronged approach that spurs profound economic, political, and cultural changes, computer science principles and tools can enable and accelerate these changes.

One example is urban infrastructure that is responsible for a significant share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada and is increasingly being equipped with sensors, controllers, and networked devices. This presents an unprecedented opportunity to reduce energy consumption and operational costs with an imperceptible impact on the quality of life that people are accustomed to.

In this talk, Omid Ardakanian will give examples of how recent advances in sensing, broadband communication, machine learning, and control can greatly improve the design and operation of urban infrastructure, in particular buildings, transport networks, and distributed energy resources.

Omid Ardakanian is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta and a Principal Investigator of Future Energy Systems. He received the Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo in 2015, and was an NSERC postdoctoral fellow at University of California Berkeley and University of British Columbia between 2015 and 2017. Dr. Ardakanian's research focuses on the design and implementation of intelligent networked systems using sensors, networks, optimization and control algorithms. His research aims to address systems challenges in different domains from smart grids to smart buildings and cities. He received best paper awards at flagship international conferences. He was a guest editor of a special issue of IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, and TPC co-chair of ACM e-Energy 2021. He is currently serving on the executive committee of ACM SIGENERGY and the editorial board of Energy Informatics Review.

 

Hot Rocks and Radio Waves: Exploring Canada’s Geothermal Potential (May 26, 2021)

Western Canada has significant geothermal resources, yet Canada currently has no geothermal power plants providing electricity to the grid. This Energy Talk will provide a brief introduction to Earth structure, plate tectonics, and geothermal energy. With this foundational knowledge, we will take a look at some of the pioneering geothermal projects currently underway in Western Canada.

Then it’s time to explore geophysics and an interesting geophysical method called magnetotellurics. Seismology, which you may have heard of, uses sound waves to image the ground beneath our feet. Magnetotellurics, which is less common, uses radio waves to image the subsurface. This method is useful for geothermal exploration and we will see how it has been applied to Cedar’s PhD research at the University of Alberta.

Cedar Hanneson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Physics at the University of Alberta. In 2017, he received a Bachelor of Science honours degree in geophysics from the University of Victoria, then moved to Edmonton to begin graduate studies under the supervision of geophysicist Dr. Martyn Unsworth. Cedar’s scientific research uses geophysics to study the rocks of southern BC and he applies this research to the search for geothermal resources.

 

From Resistance to Acceptance of Wind Farms in Alberta (April 23, 2021)

Alberta is an energy powerhouse, but support for renewable energy is weak, especially in rural areas where most energy production is located. Energy development is also (till now) large scale, with limited attention to smaller-scale and community-based projects. Given this context, our recent work in Alberta asks two key questions: Why are Albertans resistant to renewable energy projects and how can we (re)design such projects to enhance energy transition? Drawing on insights from in-depth interviews with rural landowners and a survey (n = 401) of large-scale landowners, we seek to answer these questions. Analysis is informed by concepts in procedural and distributive justice, with attention to the role of local ownership, inclusion and influence as factors leading to more support for wind farms among Alberta landowners. 

John Parkins is a professor of sociology in the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. His current research and teaching examines the social context of resource development, renewable and community energy, public deliberation and environmental politics, and sustainable agriculture in Alberta. Recent publications examine case studies of community energy in western Canada, barriers and opportunities for wind power development in Alberta, the social context of public engagement in the Canadian forest sector.

 

Small But Mite-y: The Role of Soil Invertebrates To Measure Ecosystem Recovery (March 24, 2021)

Our planet as we know it, is changing every single day. Natural resource exploration. Agricultural practices. The growing human footprint. Even natural disasters like forest fires and hurricanes are just a few examples of our environment is being damaged and degraded. We are losing critical habitat types and decreasing global biodiversity. There are two options when dealing with disturbed areas: we can leave it or try and fix it. The only way to fix it is through reclamation. Reclamation is the process of returning the affected area to something similar to what was there before.

Stephanie Ibsen likes to refer to themselves as the scientist that Edmonton built. Stephanie completed their undergraduate at MacEwan University before continuing on to the University of Alberta for graduate school. Stephanie is currently working on their PhD in Land Reclamation and Remediation and loves random fun facts. Like did you know that more than 90 percent of all living animal species are invertebrates? Yet people know so little about them! In addition to soil invertebrates, this talk will teach you all about soil, plants, and the science behind land reclamation. Our planet is being damaged, and this earth doctor is prescribing some creepy crawlers.

 

The Big Picture: Modelling the Global Energy System and Everything Else with GCAM (February 24, 2021)

Lots of people want to predict the future, but how can we do it? Computer models can help us predict the future. We use models in almost every area of government, society, business, the economy and research now. Integrated assessment models (IAM) simulate physical and economic aspects of energy, land, agricultural, climatic and water systems, and their interactions, at regional to global scales over the near to long term. These detailed computer models are intended to support sustainable provincial/national resource development and infrastructure planning, and to illustrate the potential trade-offs and comprehensive, “big picture” effects of alternative policy and technology options.

Dr. Evan Davies is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada, and specializes in water resources planning and management. His research focuses on numerical simulation of the impacts of alternative management policies on water resources at scales from local to global. Recent projects have included long-term municipal water demand projections for Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, development of a systems model for analysis of long-term irrigation expansion in southern Alberta, irrigation reservoir optimization for operational use by Alberta’s irrigation districts, municipal drainage simulation for Edmonton, Alberta, and flood risk management for Calgary, Alberta. He also works in integrated assessment and its application to the water-energy-food nexus, and is helping to calibrate the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM) for climate change policy assessment in Canada. Dr. Davies received a PhD from the University of Western Ontario (2007), and a Masters degree from the University of Waterloo (2003).

New Year, New Tech (January 27, 2021)

Explore a series of new energy technologies with the University of Alberta Future Energy Systems program. Researchers will present technologies in 5 minutes or less -- using understandable language -- then answer your energy questions!

Make lithium ion batteries better – a new anode technology

The world is electrifying. Global demand for electric vehicles and consumer electronics continues to grow. Better, longer-lasting, and more economical batteries are critical to the advancement of renewable energy and electric vehicles, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide.

Dr. Bing Cao holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Alberta. She has almost 10 years of experience in the research and development of developing new renewable energy materials and devices such as organic solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. She is the CEO and co-founder of Nanode Battery Technologies which is developing new lithium-ion battery components.

Evolution of the electric grid

From the of the Current War between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, to the present-day alternating current (AC) grid, and the future direct current (DC) smart grid, this talk introduces the fascinating stories and technologies behind the evolution of the grid and how we can make our grid system more efficient and stable.

Zhongyi Quan received the PhD degree in Energy Systems in 2019 from University of Alberta. After a year of postdoc research, he founded Electronic Grid Systems, a spinoff startup of UofA, and he is now trying to commercialize the microgrid technologies to make our grid systems greener.

From waste grease to your next flight trip

Can kitchen grease and waste cooking oil be something other than a nuisance in need of disposal? An exciting project at the University of Alberta is focusing on converting waste greases into high-quality jet fuel using a patented Alberta-developed technology. After processing in high temperature and pressurized vessels, kitchen grease, crop oil, and tallow could all help fuel your next flight!

Yeling Zhu is a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Alberta. Dedicated to providing solutions for agricultural and industrial operators, he has expertise in developing technologies that create values from Alberta-sourced sawdust, waste materials in the cattle rendering industry, and waste grease. He believes that the derived smart materials and low-carbon fuels help support Alberta's sustainable development.

Yes! Energy Transition In My Backyard (November 25, 2020)

Community-led grassroot organizations play a significant role in the socio-technical energy transition of our society. Community Leagues in Edmonton are a case in point. Community Leagues are a unique form of grassroots community-centered and volunteer-driven organization that has existed in Edmonton since 1917. Following an interest from their respective communities, Community Leagues have worked towards a number of initiatives of adopting and diffusing the energy transition idea. Solar panel installations and energy audits of the community halls are to name a few. These initiatives are undertaken to make energy transition ideas tangible in the neighborhoods, as well as encourage homes and local institutions to do the same.

With Professor Sandeep Agrawal, Director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning and Associate Chair in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Dr. Neelakshi Joshi, postdoctoral fellow in the Urban Environment Observatory.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about the work.

Energy and Sustainability In Our Communities (October 28, 2020)

Renewable energy technologies are giving us new ways to incorporate sustainability into our lives. How will these changes play out in our communities, and what could they mean for our society’s relationship with energy? In this session graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from the University of Alberta’s Future Energy Systems program will share research that explores the interface of new energy technologies and our everyday lives, and how different approaches to energy in our communities can promote sustainability throughout our society. This panel was presented at the University of Alberta's Sustainability Awareness Week on Oct. 28, 2020

Speakers:

Dr. Neelakshi Joshi, Postdoctoral Fellow, Urban Environment Observatory, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

Muhammad Saad Arshad, MSc Student, Department of Mechanical Engineering and 2019 Sustainability Scholar.

Andrea Miller, MSc Student, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology.

Solutions For Oil Wells: Solvents, An Enabling Technology for Cleaner Heavy Oil Production (October 28, 2020)

With the tightening of environmental regulation, reduced oil prices, and higher capital costs for new projects, the future of oil sands-related activities will likely rely on developing and applying new technology to improve recoveries and efficiencies of ongoing production operations. Solvent technologies offer promising potential for reducing water and energy consumption in heavy oil production processes. In this talk, we will explore some basic concepts about solvent-based heavy oil recovery. We will also discuss different challenges or barriers associated with this technology, as well as various research directions that may help us overcome those challenges.

With Associate Professor Juliana Leung, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Juliana's work.

Best of Both Worlds: How Bacteria Can Reduce GHGs And Lead To More Sustainable Energy (September 30, 2020)

The world is facing a broad range of challenges that redefine our lives and activities. On one side are environmental problems, many of which come down to the staggering amounts of greenhouse gas released by modern society. For instance, methane gas, which is much more potent than carbon dioxide, is emitted as waste by many industrial processes and is a large contributor to climate change. On the other hand, we are at a crossroad when it comes to energy: our needs keep increasing while we try to find more sustainable ways to produce it. Luckily, there may be an answer for both: bacteria. How can minuscule microbes help solve two of the biggest challenges facing our world?

With Professor Dominic Sauvageau, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Dominic's work.

Carbon Dioxide Capture: Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions (August 19, 2020)

Power generation and manufacturing processes are the major contributors to CO2 emissions. Currently, several approaches are being considered to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions including improving process efficiencies, fuel switching and renewable energy sources. Carbon capture and storage/utilization, where CO2 from industrial emissions and intermediate streams is concentrated and either stored or utilized, is considered as a viable and scalable mitigation option. This talk will provide an introduction to this technology, address key challenges and developments, and discuss the negative-emission technology of direct air capture that aims to concentrate CO2 from the atmosphere.

With Professor Arvind Rajendran, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Arvind's work.

The Currents: From War to Harmony (July 29, 2020)

With Dr. Hao Tian, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

From the war between alternating and direct currents to future grid technology, electricity is a central part of our lives. Power electronics, technology to control power conversion, play a role enabling the modern grid and address many challenges of our current and future system. Join Hao Tian, PhD, from the ELITE (Electronic and Intelligent Grid) Research Lab explore the wars of currents, power electronics and the future grid.

Power on Demand: Renewable Energy Storage (June 9, 2020)

With Professor Pierre Mertiny, Department of Mechanical Engineering, part of the University of Alberta Alumni Webinar Series.

How do we store energy? Chemical batteries may come to mind, but there are other options for the energy system of the future. Pierre and his team are currently working with the City of Edmonton to study flywheels as a means to store energy for a new fleet of electric buses that will be on the road by 2030.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Pierre's work or here to read about the electric bus project.