Carbon capture and storage technology has immense potential for Canada’s oil industry, but comes at a staggering cost. Will it ever be truly viable?
ALBERTA HAS BEEN CAPTURING CARBON for three decades. Yet, ask anyone who spends their days contemplating carbon capture and storage (CCS) about its future in the province and you’re likely to get similar responses from each: a small sigh, followed by descriptors like “disappointing” and “not good.” It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The sighing is no doubt related to the high ambitions for CCS under the Alberta government’s climate change plan of 2008. A gargantuan 139 megatons of emissions – over two-thirds of projected reductions – were to be cut from Alberta’s projected “business- as-usual” emissions by 2050, mostly by way of CCS technology. David Keith, professor of public policy and applied physics at Harvard University, says it was “an ill-informed claim by a government that lacked analytical capabilities or any serious interest in tackling climate.”
Before the release of the Alberta NDP’s new environmental policies in late 2015, CCS was the closest thing the province ever had to a tangible plan on climate change. A $2-billion carbon capture fund was set aside by Alberta’s previous government, which included funding for Shell Canada’s Quest project, located near the Scotford Upgrader north of Edmonton.