Carbon Capture & Storage in the Canadian Oil & Gas Industry

pump jacks on horizon with sun settingCarbon capture and storage (CCS) is a new and important tool in lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the fight against climate change. This method of taking climate action has shown a lot of promise not just in Canada, but around the globe.

The International Panel on Climate Change’s report of global warming of 1.5ºC states there isn’t a successful target pathway that doesn’t include CCS in the plan, therefore CCS is something we’re going to be seeing taking an increasingly larger role as the years pass by in reducing man-made GHG emissions while improving overall environmental performance.

Carbon capture and storage is being utilized by a full spectrum of industries in a variety of different ways. One of the Canadian industries devoting a lot of time and effort into CCS development is the oil and gas industry! Today, I'll be focusing on what inventive technologies and practices have been stirring up in oil and gas, and how they benefit people and the planet while creating prosperity for Canadians.

If you’d like to learn more about CCS, be sure to check out "Carbon Sequestration: What it is, Why it’s Important & How it’s Contributing to Lowering GHG Emissions."

Learning about CCS in Oil & Gas

Growing up in Calgary, many of my friends and family had close ties to the oil and gas sector through work and business interests. Being the environmentalist that I am, a lot of my personal focus and attention was on caring for and protecting the environment. My interests led me to enroll in Carleton University in Ottawa into Environmental Studies which taught me a lot about the earth and our relationship to it as humans.

Out of my entire educational and professional career, one of the things that has stood out to me the most was my time volunteering with Canada Action. I was granted a new and positive perspective on Canada's natural resources; I have never quite had an experience such as this one. I learned several facts about how Canadian resource companies operate, many of which have surprised me in a positive way.

I appreciate the fact that Canada's resource companies are spending heaps of time and money trying reducing their environmental footprints on a consistent basis. We can all agree on the fact that there should be a positive balance between the economy and the environment, regardless of which you think is more important. Yes, there were some aspects of operations that I wasn't so fond of, but it's always about making a concerted effort to do better because nothing is perfect.

When it comes to the oil and gas sector, I was also pleased to know there are several stand-up Canadian companies putting considerable effort into CCS which are contributing to lowering GHG emissions. Here are some impactful ways the oil and gas industry is attempting to balance its ecological impact and offset emissions.

The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line Project (ACTL)

Alberta Carbon Trunk Line pipes

The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line is a newly operating CCS project designed to store approximately 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year, cumulatively reducing emissions by up to 1.68 million tonnes annually!

The ACTL is a 240-kilometer pipeline stretching across central Alberta, carrying CO2 captured from the Sturgeon Refinery and the Nutrien Redwater fertilizer plant, to end up in ‘enhanced oil recovery projects’ for further repurpose and use.

How it works: The CO2 emitted from industrial activity and energy production is captured before it gets a chance to be released into the atmosphere. It is then compressed, transported via the pipeline and then safely injected into underground geological formations, where it can be safely stored.

Oil Sands Carbon Capture

Oilsands producer carbon capture and storage facility removing millions of cars

A major oil sands producer in Canada (CNRL) has CCS facilities that remove up to 2.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which is equal to about removing 576,000 cars off the road annually!

To me, this has a massive influence because as Canadians living in the 21st century, driving is one of the most common ways to get around. Some people can lower their carbon footprints by foregoing driving and choosing to bike, walk or take public transit instead, but for others, driving is the best, if not the only solution considering many Canadian cities have massive urban sprawl and rural areas a lack of public transportation.

"Removing" cars off the road through carbon capture and storage can have a huge impact. As an environmentalist who cares about the inevitable collective impact us humans have on the earth, I appreciate the fact that a major oil sands producer has facilities in place that are making a genuine difference by sequestering GHG emissions.

Tree Planting in the Oil and Gas Industry

Oilsands producers planting millions of trees to reclaim the environment

One form of carbon capture and storage is tree planting! Trees are a big player in carbon sequestration; 1 hectare of mature trees soaks up approximately 6.4 tonnes of CO2 per year.

While this may not seem like it relates to the oil and gas industry, a major Canadian oil and gas company has planted more than 11 million tree and shrub seedlings! This is just one of several major oil producers in Canada; the total amount of trees planted by them all is in the tens of millions!

If you’d like to learn more about the science behind CCS in trees and in the forestry industry, check out Carbon Capture & Storage in Canadian Forestry.

All in all, I am pleasantly surprised by the amount of climate action Canadian oil and gas companies are taking to balance their emissions and show genuine influence in the CCS realm. If more world leaders and major oil and gas producers paid more attention to what some of these Canadian companies are doing, we could be making an even larger impact!

About the Author

Tatiana Pratt - Carleton University - Students for Canada - Canada Action

Tatiana Pratt is an environmental studies student completing her final year at Carleton University. She works with Canada Action and Students for Canada as an eco-blogger, and is also chair of the new climate committee for SFC. Tatiana desires to help create a balance in the conversations surrounding climate change and natural resources, and values equal distribution of care for each crucial pillar - people, planet and prosperity. Tatiana hopes her work with Canada Action and Students for Canada helps bridge the divide between Canadian students and citizens, to meet in the middle and create positive solutions for Canada's future.