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Forever and for Always, Part 3 - Alberta Advances Multiple Carbon Storage Hubs

Capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial and oil and gas activities is already a big challenge but having a safe, permanent place to store them is vital if the goal is to meet or exceed emission-reduction targets. To this end, Alberta, home to most of Canada’s oil and gas industry, including the vast oil sands, is steadily advancing plans to develop carbon sequestration hubs and underground reservoirs across the province in parallel with above-ground CO2 capture plants and pipelines. In separate announcements this year, the province gave the go ahead to 25 projects to develop sequestration hubs and determine if they can achieve commercial viability. In today’s blog, we consider Alberta’s latest efforts to push forward with its emissions capture and storage plans.

Alberta has long been a leader in the production of hydrocarbons — and the emissions associated with them. Although there has been intensified focus on increasing production of oil and gas in light of the current North American and global focus on energy security, and in response to greatly improved prices for oil and gas, Canada’s producers and provincial regulatory agencies have also kept their eye on the ball in terms of advancing plans to reduce and capture anthropogenic-CO2 (A-CO2) emissions — those associated with human activities. In the year or so since we last looked at this topic, Alberta has been advancing legislation and laying the groundwork for the development of carbon sequestration hubs through which A-CO2 would be injected deep into underground reservoirs where it would be permanently sequestered “forever and for always.” With the pressure being increased on the oil and gas sector by the Canadian federal government to meet emission-reduction targets by 2030, determining sites for sequestration has taken on added urgency.

In Part 1 of this series, we undertook a high-level review of the A-CO2 emissions profile for Canada and its oil and natural gas industry. In that discussion, we mentioned that Canada accounts for under 2% of global A-CO2 emissions, a share which has been falling slowly over the past 20 years as emissions and the share of emissions from other major developing economies such as China have been growing steadily. We also noted that even though Canada’s overall emissions profile has held relatively steady over the past two decades, decreases in some sectors of its economy have been offset by a rising share of emissions from the oil and gas sector, from around 20% in 2000 to near 27% in 2019, with a majority of that increase driven by emissions from Alberta’s oil sands. Finally, we discussed three project proposals put forward by major energy players that would capture and sequester emissions from the oil sands and other energy-related activities.

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