• 20th and 21st large-scale CCS facilities commence operation

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      Philip Sharman

      IFRF Director

Last week, a refinery and a fertiliser plant connected to the now operational Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) became the world’s 20th and 21st large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities in operation.

The ACTL carbon capture, utilisation and storage system utilises and stores carbon dioxide captured at the North West Redwater Partnership (NWR) Sturgeon Refinery and Nutrien’s Redwater Fertilizer Facility.  The two projects have a combined CCS capacity of almost 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 per annum (mtpa).

The ACTL is a 240km pipeline that transports CO2 to aging oil fields for secure and permanent geological storage via enhanced oil recovery (EOR).  The pipeline is owned and operated by Wolf Midstream while Enhance Energy will be the owner and operator of the CO2 utilisation and storage part of the facility.  The pipeline can transport up to 14.6mtpa of CO2.

Currently transporting about 1.6mtpa, the system’s capacity indicates the potential for other industrial facilities to capture their CO2 and use the ACTL’s transport network, reducing risk and cost.  At full capacity, the ACTL could become the largest CCS system in the world.

“This is just the beginning,” said Jeff Pearson, President of Wolf Midstream’s Carbon Business Unit.  “The future of energy and a lower carbon economy relies on key infrastructure like the ACTL”.  Kevin Jabusch, CEO of Enhance Energy, added “We are putting CO2 to use. We permanently keep CO2 out of the environment, while producing low-carbon energy. Not only are we reinvigorating our rural energy economy at a time when it is needed most, but we are playing a key role in advancing a sustainable solution to global energy requirements.”

Hubs and clusters, like the ACTL providing transport and storage infrastructure for multiple sources of CO2, are largely regarded as the next wave of CCS projects.  These projects unbundle the capture, transport, and storage of CO2, reducing project risk and cost, and allowing each project party to focus on their core competencies, while also enabling further capture sources to be connected.

The ACTL was supported with CAD$495 million from the Alberta Government’s CCS Fund, as well as with CAD$63 million from the Canadian Federal Government.

According to the Global CCS Institute’s 2019 Global Status Report, these two new facilities double the number of large-scale CCS facilities operating in Canada, making Canada the second leading country in terms of operating CCS facilities behind the USA which has 10 large-scale facilities.  Other such facilities are operating in Norway (2), Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, China and Australia.  A further 30 are in various stages of development (in Australia, Canada, China, the Netherlands, Norway, the UAE and the USA), with two currently under construction.  Together with those already in operation, these facilities will have an estimated combined capture capacity of just over 100mtpa CO2.

While these numbers sound impressive, it leaves a lot more still to be achieved if CCS is to fulfil its role as a “critical technology” – as identified by such organisations as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).  By 2050 approximately 2,000 facilities are expected to be needed to meet climate and energy-related sustainable development goals, according to the IEA.

The pace of development of CCS has been painfully slow worldwide – ten years ago, it was anticipated that there would be 100 CCS demonstration projects by 2020, not 21.  In its 2007 Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan, the European Commission set a target of “12 demonstration plants of sustainable fossil fuel technologies in commercial power generation” to be operating by 2015:  So far, the only new commercial plant to be build in Europe since 2007 is the Snøhvit offshore gas facility in Norway.  The pace needs to pick up, and fast!