Cal­gary en­gi­neer hon­oured for work in re­new­able en­ergy

Calgary Herald - - CITY - CHRIS NEL­SON

A young Cal­gary en­gi­neer was re­warded Thurs­day night for his ground­break­ing work in re­new­able en­ergy.

Nabaa Alam was the win­ner in the un­der-30 cat­e­gory in a na­tion­wide com­pe­ti­tion to find the Ev­ery­day Po­lit­i­cal Ci­ti­zen, a con­test spon­sored by the char­ity Sa­mara Canada, a non-par­ti­san cham­pion of in­creased civic en­gage­ment, to ac­knowl­edge those Cana­di­ans mak­ing a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to pub­lic life.

The 24-year-old Cal­gar­ian re­ceived the hon­our at a gala award night in Toronto where he shared the lead­ing un­der-30 des­ig­na­tion with three other peo­ple who were judged to be mak­ing a dif­fer­ence across the coun­try.

Renowned Cal­gary lawyer and cur­rent mem­ber of the Se­nate, Dou­glas Black nom­i­nated Alam for his work in help­ing change the global re­new­able en­ergy busi­ness at such a rel­a­tively young age.

“His work con­vert­ing canola into three prod­ucts: bio-jet fuel, re­new­able gaso­line and re­new­able diesel shows how young Al­ber­tans are lead­ing the way for Canada,” said Black.

Alam, who was born and raised in Leth­bridge, now works for Im­pe­rial Oil as a pro­cess­ing en­gi­neer af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Univer­sity of Al­berta in Ed­mon­ton 18 months ago.

It was while at univer­sity that Alam led an engi­neer­ing team to de­sign a re­new­able en­ergy bio­fuel plant, break­through work that later re­ceived $10 mil­lion in provin­cial fund­ing.

It is es­ti­mated the process will re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 112,000 tonnes by 2020 — equiv­a­lent to re­mov­ing 23,000 cars off the road for one year. Shell pur­chased the tech­nol­ogy’s li­cens­ing rights and is now hop­ing to ex­pand the process across Canada and the rest of the world.

“Es­sen­tially, the project was to take canola oil and then con­vert it into re­new­able gaso­line, diesel and jet fuel,” said Alam. “We came up with the process of mak­ing it work and then the Al­berta gov­ern­ment gave us $10 mil­lion to go ahead and do the project.”

To­day Alam’s work with Im­pe­rial Oil in­volves ex­am­in­ing Cana­dian re­finer­ies to look at ways to im­prove cur­rent pro­cesses and the use of en­ergy and sug­gest ways to im­prove ef­fi­ciency and thereby re­duce green­house gas emis­sions.

He said he al­ways had a dream of mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, but it took an un­for­tu­nate soc­cer in­jury to put him on the en­vi­ron­men­tal engi­neer­ing path.

“I used to play for Canada’s un­der-18 na­tional soc­cer team, and I thought that was go­ing to be my plat­form to make a dif­fer­ence in the world but then I got in­jured,” he said.

“So I re­al­ized I had this abil­ity to do de­sign­ing and engi­neer­ing. My goal right now is to im­prove cur­rent oil and gas tech­nolo­gies and make them more sus­tain­able and also eval­u­ate re­new­able op­tions, so we have sus­tain­able en­ergy for the fu­ture. That is my pas­sion.”

While some en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are protest­ing fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the en­ergy in­dus­try in Canada, Alam said he takes a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

“By 2040, en­ergy de­mand is sup­posed to in­crease 50 per cent with the de­vel­op­ment hap­pen­ing in In­dia and China, so there is go­ing to be a huge de­mand for en­ergy and now oil and gas makes up a large seg­ment of that us­age. So if we can im­prove pro­cesses so it doesn’t im­pact the en­vi­ron­ment, we will be help­ing our­selves in the fu­ture.

“I don’t think protest­ing or shut­ting things down helps be­cause you aren’t re­ally con­tribut­ing to the so­lu­tion if you are not try­ing to find new ways or uti­lize cur­rent tech­nolo­gies.”

The Ev­ery­day Po­lit­i­cal Ci­ti­zen con­test re­ceived over 200 nom­i­na­tions in two cat­e­gories — un­der and over 30. Fi­nal­ists were se­lected by a jury of prom­i­nent Cana­di­ans, in­clud­ing au­thor Mar­garet At­wood, po­lit­i­cal satirist Rick Mercer and for­mer po­lit­i­cal leader Pre­ston Man­ning.

Nabaa Alam, 24, was se­lected for his work on a new process for pro­duc­ing re­new­able gaso­line, diesel and bio-jet fuel from canola oil. He is a win­ner of the Sa­mara Canada Ev­ery­day Po­lit­i­cal Ci­ti­zen award.

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