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Government R&D Spurs Economic Development
Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering Portfolio,
National Research Council, Canada
Canada is bounded by three of the world’s largest oceans and boasts one of the largest freshwater systems in the world, and its future economic development relies on how effectively we utilize and manage our ocean, coastal and river resources.
Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) helps develop creative and practical solutions to engineering challenges in ocean, coastal and river environments. We provide expertise and tools to improve the performance and safety of marine operations; meet the challenges of climate change; and protect infrastructure, property and people from environmental risks. Our approach includes physical and numerical modeling, engineering analysis, technology development, full-scale experiments, and field work.
Our Marine Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources program creates and implements new tools to predict and manage water availability, quality and flooding, and optimizes and validates marine infrastructure designs while accelerating the commercialization of technologies to extract energy from waves and currents.
We’ve recently completed a successful collaboration to improve navigation safety at the Shippagan Gully in northeastern New Brunswick; a direct route between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the commercial harbors of Baie des Chaleurs. In peak season, more than 15,000 tonnes of seafood caught in the Gulf generates $30 million to $50 million in annual revenue for the local economy.
Fishing vessels often avoid the Shippagan Gully due to high winds, rough seas, strong tidal currents, and accumulated sand that make it too narrow and too shallow to pass through safely. Our team relied heavily on numerical modeling tools—CMS-Wave and CMS-Flo—and on stakeholder consultations to model the dynamic coastal processes of the Shippagan Gully inlet and to model more than 20 potential solutions. Based on this research, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans decided to make the channel deeper and wider, as well as to construct a 150-m outer jetty to block waves, deflect wave-induced currents offshore, and prevent sediment from entering the channel. These measures will ensure cost savings and safer, easier navigation. Construction is expected to begin in a few years.
In the marine renewable energy sector, we help assess and improve the technical performance and lower the cost of new technologies. We also work to identify and characterize marine renewable energy resources and support the development of international standards for the sector.
We’ve recently launched a study with Natural Resources Canada and BC Hydro to develop a digital atlas, database and analysis system of marine renewable energy resources. Our goals are: a comprehensive assessment of tidal energy resources throughout British Columbia, based on new, detailed hydrodynamic modeling; assembling a geospatial database containing best-available information on wave, tidal and river hydrokinetic resources in B.C. combined with demographic data sets; developing a geospatial analysis, mapping and decision system to support identification and evaluation of sites for prospective development; and defining the technical wave, tidal and river hydrokinetic resources throughout B.C. and estimating the potential future market penetration for marine renewables there. We will also benchmark the unit energy costs for tidal, wave and river hydrokinetic energy in B.C., while providing research for regulatory agencies, policy makers, utilities, and industry.
We anticipate this project and others we are working on will lead to an increased interest in developing marine renewable energy resources in Canada. As the need for clean energy rises, we will strive to be at the forefront of assisting Canadian companies with developing new products and technologies for the emerging sector.