In late March, Enbridge announced further details around the development of the Open Access Wabamun Carbon Hub, west of Edmonton. A partnership with Capital Power, Lehigh Cement and local Indigenous communities, this transportation and sequestration hub has been designed with phased-in in-service dates starting as early as 2026. We asked Adam Chalkley, Enbridge’s Director of Low Carbon Development, what this means for the company, and for the advancement of CCS technology this decade.
What role does carbon capture and storage have in building climate action at Enbridge?
As a leading North American energy infrastructure company, Enbridge transports 30% of the crude oil produced in North America, and 20% of the natural gas consumed in North America. We were also an early investor in renewables, particularly in wind energy. In 2020 we announced our ESG goals, to reduce emissions by 35% by 2030, and to be at net-zero by 2050. This includes reducing our own emissions by approximately 11 million tonnes per annum, in part by deploying capital to build the next wave of low-carbon infrastructure. Enbridge is an industry leader in moving to a sustainable, lower-carbon future in which CCS will be a key enabler.
What were the key factors in choosing this particular project to advance Enbridge’s involvement with CCS technology?
The Wabamun Carbon Hub isn’t Enbridge’s first experience with CCS technology and infrastructure. More than a decade ago we were involved in a project with Capital Power and TransAlta that looked at saline aquifer storage in the Wabamun area, assessing its suitability for permanent storage of CO2. This new project involves partnering with Capital Power and proposes to sequester three million tonnes of its post-combustion CO2. The Hub will also sequester post-combustion CO2 for Lehigh’s west Edmonton plant, to make it the first net-zero cement plant in the world. When we began the original project with TransAlta and Capital Power, it was too soon. There was no pan-Canadian price on carbon in those days, among other factors. Today, the technology has advanced, and the policy and regulatory frameworks are being strengthened to incentivize investment in CCS.
What have been some of the challenges so far in getting this project approved / off the ground?
We’re focused on the opportunities and successes to date. Canada has been a leader in CCS. Among existing CCS projects and facilities, Canada captures 10% of all emissions captured globally, though we only have 1.2% of GHG emissions globally. The storage foundations are well-defined. There are four deep saline aquifer wells being utilized for CO2 storage in western Canada already. Capture technology has been in place for gas plants since the 1970s. We have the expertise and the technology, but the real challenge has been in the economics, which continue to improve through collaboration between industry, government, civil society, and academia
What do you think are the most important incentives / policy points needed to advance CCS?
The economics for CCS have advanced since 2019, with government funding and regulatory support. This included the 2019 implementation of the federal price on carbon, the new investment tax credit for CCUS, emerging talk about carbon contracts for difference, new federal and provincial supports for pre-FEED and FEED studies, and prompt action by the Government of Alberta around establishing carbon hubs. These are helping to fill economic holes for CCS, but it’s important to note that the world won’t meet its emissions goals without CCS. Every credible scenario, from organizations including the United Nations and the International Energy Agency, calls for CCS as a critical piece of the broader decarbonization puzzle. So, developers need government support and guarantees, to provide predictability to make the economics work.
Why was it important to involve Alberta Indigenous communities in this project?
We’re proud of this opportunity to partner with local Indigenous communities, including the Alexis Nakota, Alexander, Enoch Cree and Paul Treaty Six First Nations and the Lac Ste. Anne Métis. We approached this project by consulting with Indigenous communities very early in the process, asking them if they wanted to be part of it, rather than presenting a done deal. Seeking early input and acting on that input is, and will continue to be, critical to the success of the project. Also, collectively, these local Indigenous communities have the opportunity to take ownership of up to 50% of the project.
Does this type of project strengthen partnerships within industry, in tackling the challenge of climate change mitigation?
In addition to demonstrating a model for collaboration with local Indigenous communities, giving us a blueprint for a next-level standard for engagement and inclusion, the carbon hub is a great example of collaboration across industries. Carbon capture and sequestration isn’t just an issue for oil and gas. Capital Power and Lehigh aren’t our traditional customer base, but working with these partners provides us a long-term, expandable opportunity with proven technology that can benefit all industries