The British Columbia-based environmental engineer has spent five years investigating and demonstrating how carbon dioxide could be recycled.
"We recycle plastic, why shouldn't we recycle carbon?" she asks rhetorically in an interview. "I am demonstrating a more sustainable and carbon-negative solution that has lower costs, treats carbon as an asset, and could extend the life of coal resources by up to 10 times.
Around the world, utilities, oil companies, energy agencies and industrial companies are collectively spending billions of dollars to investigate and prove various types of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies.
"I am trying to signal to the industry that it's cheaper to recycle carbon than to store it," Cundliffe says. "Companies should beware of the potential liabilities of long-term contracts to bury carbon dioxide. For example, we lose access to this compound and control of it."
Cundliffe, President of Strategic Visionary Alternatives Limited (Kamloops, British Columbia), has held one pre-commercial demonstration of her technology at a commercial property located in south-central British Columbia. The company, which has received funding from private sources, governments and non-governmental organizations, filed a global patent application on the technology this past April.
Strategic Visionary Alternatives technology, called "Green Carbon," is a post-combustion technology that uses heat and special catalysts to split carbon dioxide into its constituent parts carbon and oxygen. The carbon, captured as a fine powder not unlike pulverized coal, can either be re-injected into the combustion chamber for burning or captured in pelletized form for use elsewhere.
The pure carbon would have a British thermal unit (BTU) value that is 15% higher than Western coal, she says: "It is basically the same BTU value as metallurgical-grade coal with no impurities."