We asked Wes Jickling, why carbon capture and storage matters to him and Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), as well as what they see as important and necessary right now. Here’s a hint – Wes reflects on how large-scale CCS among COSIA members is playing a key role in reducing emissions in Canada and the contribution to achieving the overall climate goals.
1. In your opinion, why does Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) matter?
Carbon capture and storage has been identified as an important technology to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil and gas. The oil sands industry is a pioneer in the development of CCS and has deployed an application of CCS in oil fields for decades. Now, the oil sands industry aims to be a leader in helping Canada achieve its climate goal of net zero emissions by 2050, through CCS and other means. All to say that COSIA and its members are front and centre in the development of CCS technologies in Canada.
2. What role does CCS have in championing climate action for your organization?
COSIA is a unique alliance of oil sands producers that together make up 90 per cent of all oil sands production. It’s a vehicle for the research and development of clean technologies, including CCS, for application in the oil sands. COSIA works with scientists and innovators to reduce emissions, improve water management, reduce the land footprint and reclaim the landscape more efficiently. This work is aimed at producing the energy that Canada, and the world, needs in a sustainable manner with low to no emissions. CCS is a part of that sustainable energy picture, and our members see significant potential in this area – which is key to the oil sands industry realizing net zero emissions from their operations by 2050.
3. What challenges are you working to overcome in deploying CCS?
Collaboration will be critical to the deployment of CCS technologies and COSIA is working closely with stakeholders who are committed to the success of CCS in Canada, including CMC Research Institutes (Alberta), InnoTech (Alberta), the Alberta government and Natural Resources Canada. We also have a standing working group made up of member company experts who are consolidating CCS knowledge while working to lower costs associated with deploying existing CCUS technologies in the oil sands. This group is also seeking to identify new and emerging CCS technologies that offer advantages in terms of technical performance and economics for research, demonstration and eventual deployment in the oil sands.
4. How can CCS contribute to optimizing your industry?
Let me give you an example from COSIA member Canadian Natural, which has been involved in CCS for a long time. The company is the largest industry owner of carbon capture and storage capacity in the country through its Quest carbon capture facility. (Canadian Natural owns 70%, Chevron 20% and Shell Canada 10%). Quest achieved a milestone in 2020, capturing and storing five million tonnes of CO2 since it was launched in 2015, successfully reducing emissions from the company’s Scotford Upgrader by about one third. That’s the equivalent of taking 1.25 million cars off the road for a year. That’s the kind of impact CCS can have through decarbonizing oil and gas production, thus helping contribute to Canada’s climate change commitments.
5. What is your perspective of CCS and existing or needed incentives/policy drivers in your region/country/industry?
COSIA is a science and technology organization so I can’t comment on that aspect. What I can say is that it will take significant investments from multiple participants to share the costs of CCS technology development and deployment in the oil sands. This work includes designing and building the capture, transportation and storage infrastructure that will be required to scale this technology. COSIA can play a role in that journey through its unique innovation model, which allows for intense collaboration among its members so they can progress technologies farther and faster with less cost and lower risk.
6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
We haven’t touched on carbon utilization, which is another important aspect of this scenario and one where COSIA has also played a big role. Converting captured carbon into valuable products is an alternative to geological storage that is progressing, but the marketplace for carbon products is still in its infancy. The recent NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE international competition, which was co-sponsored by the oil sands industry, gave this area a huge push onto the world stage over its five-year run. It promoted awareness, proving this can be done, and ignited global discussion of a circular carbon economy.