Commentary: Ottawa should ignore activist academic plea against carbon capture if serious about meeting Paris climate targets

CCS technology is proven and critical to emissions reduction

By Tom Olsen
Canadian Natural is majority owner of the Quest CCS project at Shell's Scotford Refinery near Edmonton. Photo courtesy Shell Canada

Four hundred academics signed a letter to the federal government, condemning the next big thing in emissions reduction.

Every one of them is wrong.

Their target was Canada’s world leading, GHG-busting carbon capture and storage initiative.

CCS has been hailed as a key to net zero by 2050.

The Alberta government kicked it off in a big way with close to $2 billion in investment more than a dozen years ago.

The results of that global-leading action have been substantial. Coming out of that initial investment are proven projects such as the Quest CCS facility that has safely captured and stored more than six million tonnes of CO2 in its six years of operations (the equivalent of taking about 1.3 million cars off the road).

There’s the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line, the world’s largest CO2 pipeline, which reached the landmark of safely storing one million tonnes of CO2 just one year after beginning operations.

The Weyburn CCS project in Saskatchewan has also safely stored more than 36 million tonnes of CO2 over the last 20 years, the equivalent of taking more than 7.8 million cars off the road.

Take that, bogus claims that this technology isn’t proven.

To emphasize the point, the International Energy Agency recently pointed to CCS technology as a key piece of Canada’s ability to reduce emissions from oil and gas development while maintaining its position as a major global supplier beyond 2050.

“We will still need oil and gas for years to come,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “I prefer that oil is produced by countries… like Canada who want to reduce the emissions of oil and gas.”

Industry has shown it’s up to the task. Case in point – through the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero alliance, companies who operate about 95 per cent of Canada’s oil sands production have committed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to help Canada meet its climate goals.

Yet from the fossil-fuel heated offices of the Ivory Tower, activist academics dismiss the proof that CCS is and will be much more of the solution to emissions reduction.

In fact, several companies have announced interest in plans for new large scale CCS projects and Alberta has begun accepting proposals to set up CCS hubs throughout the province.

Unfortunately, instead of listening to these experts, these academics parrot bogus talking points and hold up renewables as the only way forward.

Renewables do have promise and will be a key part of the energy mix going forward, but they’ve shown they’re nowhere near ready to take on a bone-chilling Canadian winter.

During much of December’s prairie cold snap, approximately 90 per cent of electricity produced came from fossil fuels. In contrast, solar made up less than one per cent of total generation.

Other major producing jurisdictions understand that demand for oil and gas will be strong for decades.

New oil and gas megaprojects are underway around the world in places like Russia, Brazil, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as demand continues to increase, even with the growing role of renewable energy sources.

Canada should be the supplier of choice to the world, with its leading commitment to human rights and the environment, and its expertise in CCS.

Ottawa would be wise to ignore the plea from academics who appear detached from the energy reality the rest of us are living.

Tom Olsen is chief executive officer of the Canadian Energy Centre.

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