Carbon Capture Is About ‘Heavy Emitters,’ Not Just Oil And Gas

Regina — It’s important to remember that carbon capture technology is a way to curb emissions that are tied to “heavy emitters” more broadly, not just the oil and gas industry, noted the head of the International CCS Knowledge Centre.

“When I look at the debate that’s going on from a negative standpoint [on] CCS, if you look at what’s happening in Iowa and Illinois, there is a lot of opposition to CCS,” the organization’s president and CEO, James Millar, told the 2023 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Regina during a panel discussion. “I feel like I’m reliving the same bad B movie that I lived from 2010 to 2015 on Keystone XL.” (Millar previously worked in a corporate communications role with TC Energy Corporation.)

“The activists are taking the same playbook on heavy oil pipelines and they’re now parlaying it into carbon dioxide,” he added. “So it’s the same playbook that’s being employed on heavy oil that’s now being employed on CCS. So that concerns me.”

Opponents are likely tying carbon capture to oil because the product has been maligned with tags such as ‘dirty oil,’ he noted. The ‘dirty oil’ label was used by opponents in the Alberta oilsands, for example.

Millar added: “I was on a panel and I said ‘this is about all heavy emitters’ four times and one of the other panelists got annoyed at me and she said ‘Why do you keep saying, James, this isn’t about oil and gas?’ And I said, because it’s not, it’s about all heavy emitters.

“It’s about cement, it’s about steel, it’s about fertilizer, it’s about power generation, it’s about mining — it’s all of these industries doing their part to ensure emissions are controlled,” he noted.

Lessons learned

Millar said that organizations, including from North Dakota and Alberta, are coming to Saskatchewan to view Boundary Dam 3 (BD3) to understand “lessons learned” from the project.

SaskPower’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility at Boundary Dam Unit 3 capped off a strong 2022 by achieving a milestone of five million tonnes captured since start-up, it reported.

As of the end of 2022, 5,001,707 tonnes of CO2 have been captured and prevented from entering the atmosphere. Total capture for the 2022 calendar year was 749,035 tonnes, and CCS is on track to achieve an 800,000-tonne target for fiscal 2022-23.

“Let’s remember with lessons learned, it’s not just about the positives, it’s the negatives,” he told the audience. “We’ve had many companies in Alberta … we’ve had some in there every other week wanting to see BD3.

“This is all about, for these companies, reducing risk, lowering cost and improving performance,” Millar added. “How do you do that? You learn about others who have already done it.”

Late last month, the Alberta government said it was providing $3 million for the creation of a national CCS knowledge sharing hub, to be led by the International CCS Knowledge Centre.

The mandate of the CCS knowledge sharing hub will be to collect and curate best practices and lessons learned from Canadian CCS projects past, present and future — drawing on knowledge from as many projects as possible from initial planning and feasibility studies, through to construction and ongoing operations — to enhance the success of CCS projects and promote continuous learning and improvement in CCS technology.

Expansion of CCS is also a crucial step for creating and maintaining vital jobs in all heavy emitting sectors provincially and nationally in such areas as cement, iron and steel, power generation, petrochemicals, fertilizer, and oil and gas, noted the CCS Knowledge Centre.

The DOB, meanwhile, is developing a new area of coverage for its Energy Evolution product called “tech transfer.”

It examines the potential for the Canadian energy industry to export its cleantech innovations to help others reduce emissions — this could include regions in the U.S. or other countries abroad like Norway, or other industries altogether, for example the hard-to-abate cement sector.

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