Challenging conventional thinking for carbon reduction and removal

By Paul Krawchuk | August 6, 2020

As the world continues to adapt to the global energy transition, we are seeing a major shift to less carbon intensive forms of energy, while at the same time trying to meet ever increasing energy demands. Microsoft. Google. Siemens. Amazon. These are just a very few of the global brands setting and realizing ambitious carbon reduction and removal goals. In the oil and gas industry, we are seeing much of the same. Big players in the space are committing to reducing their carbon emissions to net-zero through the implementation of innovative decarbonization strategies.

While some reductions will be achieved through increases in process efficiency, as well as cogeneration to help further the electrification of equipment, the vast majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from oil and gas producers will come from the scale up of technology. Carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technology is leading in this space. CCUS is the process by which technology is utilized to capture carbon dioxide emissions preventing them from entering the atmosphere. Essentially CCUS captures emissions from operations and sequesters them in deep underground reservoirs. These emissions can also be captured and reused as a valuable raw material.

In Canada, the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) project is a great example of CCUS in action. The large-scale enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and carbon sequestration initiative is the largest CCUS project in the world that exclusively uses CO2 originating from human activity. Using proven technology, the ACTL project will gather, compress, transport, and safely store up to 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year at full capacity. For context, this represents approximately 20 percent of all current emissions from the Alberta Oil Sands and will be the equivalent of removing 2.6 million cars off the road each year! Transporting this CO2 to depleted oil fields for use in EOR will even allow oil that is produced to be net negative, a new term in the oil and gas industry, meaning that more carbon will be injected into the reservoir and sequestered than the actual carbon footprint of the barrel if it were to be fully combusted.

While CCUS has made meaningful progress, it is still relatively new and unproven in that there are currently less than 20 large-scale CCUS applications in operations globally. For CCUS to effectively put a dent in carbon emissions and to achieve global climate change targets, this number needs to scale up significantly. In fact, the International Energy Agency estimates that to meet the target of 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2050, approximately 3,400 CCUS applications will need to be implemented within the next 30 years. To achieve this, we must overcome the enormous stumbling block which is the high cost of carbon capture. Balancing decades of global experience with innovation, we’re prepared to take on this challenge by screening new technologies, designing and building practical CCUS solutions, and effectively implementing these into operation. To enable a low-carbon and sustainable future, the oil and gas industry must continue to challenge conventional thinking. CCUS is one avenue that will be vital in this effort!