Enter The Hub: CCS Knowledge Centre Benefits From Support Across Provincial Boundaries

This is part one in a series on carbon capture knowledge sharing. 

By Alberta recognizing the value of cross-jurisdictional carbon capture and storage (CCS) knowledge sharing via the province’s recent investment in the Regina-based International CCS Knowledge Centre, the centre’s president and CEO James Millar is hopeful that other provinces (i.e., Saskatchewan) will follow suit.

“We continue to have discussions with the Saskatchewan government for them to participate, and then also the federal government, because they’re the ones who have put in place this knowledge-sharing imperative,” he told the Bulletin. He said provincial governmental supports help get more projects built and built faster.

“There’s a great opportunity here to have a lot of the players at the table, getting them to agree on a framework and business model for what this hub will look like, and to be able to share knowledge in the most effective way possible.”

For its part, Alberta’s government is providing $3 million to create the national CCS knowledge-sharing hub. The province’s foundational support in developing the International CCS Knowledge Centre — which is the world’s first open-source repository of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) knowledge and information — represents part of Alberta’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan.

“Alberta continues to share its expertise and experience in the province, in Canada and internationally to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions,” said Gabrielle Symbalisty, press secretary to Alberta’s Minister of Energy. For its part, the hub’s mandate is to collect and curate best practices and lessons from Canadian CCUS projects.

This CCS knowledge sharing hub will be developed and operated by the International CCS Knowledge Centre in Regina to assess and identify best practices and frameworks to get CCUS projects to final investment decision. BHP Group and SaskPower founded the non-profit centre in 2016 to advance large-scale CCUS projects as a critical means of managing emissions and achieving ambitious global climate goals.

An Innovation Saskatchewan spokesperson said the arm’s-length agency would “continue to build resilience to a changing global climate” by supporting the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC), which is responsible for managing and operating the Aquistore CO2 storage facility tied to SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3 CO2 capture.

Michael MacDonald, communications advisor, Natural Resources Canada, said that CCUS technology on its own is not a climate strategy nor does it represent a “silver bullet” for combating climate change. “It is, however, one component of an overarching strategy that seeks to make significant emissions reductions on a pathway to net-zero and do so in a manner that ensures Canada’s continued and future prosperity.”

The federal government, through NRCan, currently is entertaining proposals for CCUS research and demonstration projects. For Millar’s organization, it has been working with the Government of Canada to get fiscal support, with a list of 40 organizations signing a letter to the feds last autumn speaking to the importance of a CCS knowledge sharing hub in Canada. “These weren’t just proponents in Canada. We had three companies we’ve been working with in the U.K.”

Budget 2023 proposed enhancements to the refundable CCUS investment tax credit to incentivize the development and adoption of CCUS technologies to help industries in their journey to net-zero emissions. While the federal budget contains additional measures to support large-scale CCUS projects, Canada’s policy framework still requires details to spur private-sector investment, according to the International CCS Knowledge Centre’s overview of CCUS policy.

The centre highlights critical gaps that still exist within Canadian CCUS policy, including the lack of long-term certainty on the cost of carbon emissions, and the need for a more robust protocol for sharing the valuable knowledge and lessons generated by major CCS projects in order to lower costs and improve the performance of CCS projects across the country and around the world.

Millar added added: “Both NRCan and Finance have said to me, ‘You don’t need to convince us of the merits of CCS.’

“They’re all in on it and they are supportive. It’s more a case of [getting] down to the specifics for support for a knowledge-sharing hub. It’s trying to figure out how that support might look and feel, and how it might work.”

The limits to cross-jurisdictional knowledge sharing

When talking about CCUS, Tania Venn, communications director for B.C. Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship, said it is key to note that western provinces differ from one another considerably in terms of geology and CO2 sources, including a CO2 source’s relative location to storage reservoirs.

“For example, while it may be appropriate for Alberta to adopt large central storage hubs with multiple pipeline feeds [hub-and-spoke model], this is unlikely to be a suitable subsurface solution in B.C. because of where B.C.’s CO2 sources are located relative to the location of storage reservoirs.”

However, according to Millar, cross-jurisdictional CCUS knowledge sharing really is not limited by borders and different geologies — it has more to do with the characterization of flue gas. “You need to analyze your flue gas down to the smallest content and the smallest minutiae of the particles, because that’s what could end up causing you issues, especially with amine absorption, degradation and fouling.”

Even when considering CCUS development on a global scale, he added, different jurisdictions might use slightly-different business models, but there is still a lot of opportunity for co-ordination and co-operation, even if currently there is no formal coalition with organizations such as the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CSSA) or Global CCS Institute.

“We talk about the internet and how it has broken down global barriers, and I don’t see any global barriers with CCS, because we can all learn from all projects. That’s why I think that the hub is a great concept. If you’re a heavy emitter, then I think you can learn something. It’s not just germane to a project that is specific for a certain type of emissions or flue gas.”

The International CCS Knowledge Centre continues to talk with the Government of Saskatchewan, Millar told the DOB, with the hopes of garnering similar provincial-level support as Alberta’s government already is providing. “What really makes it click is getting all three together — getting Alberta, getting Saskatchewan and getting the Government of Canada — because you’re going to see CCS in other provinces.”

CCUS not just an oil and gas issue

According to Millar, CCUS is not just a key issue for the oil and gas sector, but for a range of heavy-emitting industries pertinent to Canada, such as cement and steel manufacturing. He highlighted a feasibility study his centre produced in support of Heidelberg Materials’ proposed cement production CCUS project in Edmonton. “We found the work we did for them was very applicable, because it was based on analysis of the flue gas.”

In terms of energy companies, he said, including CCUS as applicable in project plans is essential, and knowledge-sharing helps. “If we aren’t sharing knowledge, then lots of these projects will have trouble getting approval.”

On that note, Millar encourages those in the energy sector to “be supportive of conversations we’ll need to have” to help heavy emitters obtain the knowledge that they require to develop projects. “We can use CCS to advance and move forward, but we know we can’t mothball infrastructure. It’s a way to continue to use infrastructure through the energy transformation, and you’re maintaining jobs until it’s beneficial to move in another direction.”

He added: “Engage with us as we’re developing this, because there’s such a broad benefit for everyone in doing that engagement and in doing that knowledge sharing.”


Dear user, please be aware that we use cookies to help users navigate our website content and to help us understand how we can improve the user experience. If you have ideas for how we can improve our services, we’d love to hear from you. Click here to email us. By continuing to browse you agree to our use of cookies. Please see our Privacy & Cookie Usage Policy to learn more.