The virus may dominate the headlines, but Alberta’s biggest battle still looms.
If we do not gain the “social licence” to produce environmentally acceptable oil and gas, we might as well pack up and leave Alberta now rather than later.
We face a staggering enemy, outnumbered even within Canada by those in provinces like Quebec, Ontario, B.C. Those who believe fossil fuels must be phased out and replaced by renewable energy if the Earth is not to turn into one giant, overheated Sahara Desert.
It is hugely frustrating, because Alberta is a world leader in “de-carbonizing” our oil and gas production, in creating products from fossil fuels WITHOUT releasing CO2 into the air.
There is a little snowball happening, about 45 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
A little snowball that must grow into an avalanche of positive proof: That the processing of oil and gas can be as pure and clean as driven snow.
Coming up shortly are announcements from the Sturgeon Refinery, from Wolf Midstream and from Enhance Energy that will be that snowball.
The new $1-billion Alberta Carbon Trunk Line built and operated by Wolf’s Carbon Solutions division will be fully operational, carrying ALL the CO2 produced at the Sturgeon Refinery and its neighbouring Nutrien fertilizer plant to Clive, Alberta, 21 kilometres east of Lacombe.
At Clive, Enhance Energy will pump the CO2, liquified under high pressure, into deep, currently depleted underground oil formations. The CO2 operates as a lubricant, enabling Enhance to pump out more of the oil still underground, whilst leaving the CO2 buried forever.
“Sequestration” is a fancy word for burying the CO2 produced from refineries, petrochemical plants and the like. Carbon sequestration is on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes’ (IPCC) Top Three list of solutions to climate change.
Hello Quebec? Hello Green Party? Hello Justin Trudeau? Alberta is becoming a world leader in sequestration! Alberta is carrying out the exact wishes of the IPCC!
Can we get some support here?
The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line is now a reality!
It has the potential to be expanded across Central and Northern Alberta, collecting all the CO2 coming from every plant that processes oil and gas into products – at least 50% of Alberta’s top industrial emitters. (The technology to extract small quantities of CO2 out of flue gases is not yet commercially viable.)
The economics of CO2 sequestration is inexorably intertwined with oil prices and government incentive/subsidy/penalties. The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line was a billion-dollar project half-funded by provincial commitments made in the Ed Stelmach era. (CO2 capture was spurned by the ND government of 2015-19. They were in love with renewables.)
The other major sequestration project in Alberta – the Quest project carrying CO2 from the Redwater Scotford Refinery 65 kilometres to geological formations near Thorhild – was a $1.3 billion project, again about half provincially funded during the Stelmach era.
CO2 sequestration, with or without enhanced oil recovery, is expensive.
But can we afford not to do it?
Without total CO2 capture, world opinion will shut down our oil & gas industry.
If our oil and gas processing plants are not soon CO2 emission-free, government-imposed penalties, plus no government incentives, will force them out of business.
It’s a long, hard struggle.
Both Kevin Jabusch, CEO of Enhance Energy, and Jeff Pearson, President of Wolf’s Carbon Solution division, caution that CO2 capture is not a panacea to solve all Alberta’s energy woes.
But both foresee costs dramatically dropping as more CO2 capture systems come into play and with improvements to current technology.
Both foresee strong growth thanks to a combination of concentrated CO2 feedstock, underground storage capacity, a good regulatory framework and Alberta’s reputation for energy innovation and research.
The fact of the matter is we have no choice.
Carbon-capture on a grand scale must happen, or, as our opponents so fervently wish, Alberta’s #1 industry will march into the global graveyard of industrial processes that did not adapt to the times.