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Canadian carbon-capture projects lauded in report

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—Two Canadian carbon-capture projects have been highlighted as trailblazers in a recently released report from the Global CCS Institute on carbon capture and storage projects underway around the world.
Canadian carbon-capture projects lauded in report

The projects — Quest, a CCS plant located near Edmonton, Alta. that began operations Nov. 6, and the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL), a 240-kilometre pipeline that will transport carbon dioxide for storage in declining oil fields — are among jobs that show CCS is a "proven technology that is reducing carbon dioxide emissions by millions of tonnes in different countries around the world," said the CEO of the Global CCS Institute, Brad Page.

The Global CCS Institute released the report, titled Global Status of CCS 2015, in advance of the upcoming world climate change conference set for Paris Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. Up to 28-million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will be captured by existing CCS projects this year, according to the institute.

One of the world's first commercial-scale CCS projects and the very first to operate out of oilsands, Shell's Quest is designed to capture and store more than 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to the emissions from about 250,000 cars. Quest will capture about one-third of the direct carbon dioxide emissions from the Scotford upgrader, transport it by an 80-kilometre pipeline and inject it more than two kilometres underground.

Out of a total cost of $1.35 billion, Alberta is contributing $745 million for construction and Quest's first 10 years of operation, the federal government is paying $120 million for engineering and design work and the remainder is coming from project partners Shell, Chevron Canada and Marathon Oil Canada.

The ACTL, from project owner Enhance Energy, will be one of the world's first to undertake large-scale Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) and storage. The ACTL will gather, compress and store up to 14.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year at full capacity. This is said to be equivalent to removing 2.6 million cars off the road annually. The stored carbon dioxide will be injected into depleted oil reservoirs to enable the reclaiming of over 1 billion barrels of oil.

The initial supply of high purity carbon dioxide will come from North West Redwater Partnership's bitumen refinery and from Agrium Inc., a fertilizer company, both located just outside of Redwater, Alta.

The total capital and operating costs of the project over a 10-year period are estimated to be $1.2 billion. The government of Alberta is providing $495 million with the federal government contributing $63 million.

Information on the Enhance Energy website indicates that the project has received the required environmental approvals and is in the procurement stage with construction to follow.

The Global Status of CCS 2015 report indicates that the number of operational CCS projects in the world currently stands at 15, with another seven projects due to come online in the next 18 months.

"CCS has a vital role to play as part of the overall technology mix required to meet the internationally agreed goal of limiting the impact of global warming to two degrees," said Page. "Now is the time for decision-makers to make a renewed commitment to this vital low-carbon technology."

Despite the Global CCS Institute's optimism, CCS seems to have fallen out of favour in Alberta even before Quest and the ACTL get going. Former Premier Jim Prentice called the CCS projects "experiments" during the 2015 provincial election campaign and the NDP promised to pull the plug on funding for both projects. But once elected, the new Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said in July that the province would proceed with the projects, given how "far along" they were.

A statement issued by McCuaig-Boyd at that time indicated, "No further funding for CCS is planned beyond the existing projects," but left the door open for possible future investments.

"We are open to considering new CCS proposals if there is evidence to support their ability to reduce greenhouse gases," said McCuaig-Boyd's press statement. "We intend to evaluate all options for reducing greenhouse gases — like transit, energy efficiency, etc. — with an eye to the greatest return on investment."

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