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Canadian Energy Centre

Hubs are the future of carbon capture and storage: Why Alberta is an ideal place to make it happen

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Alberta Carbon Trunk Line a ‘perfect example’ of a successful carbon capture and storage hub in action

Call it a CCS highway – a shared transportation and storage network that enables multiple industrial users to reduce emissions faster. 

So-called “hubs” or networks are becoming the leading development strategy for carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the world moves faster to fight climate change, according to the Global CCS Institute.  

Alberta, with its large industrial operations and more CO2 storage capacity than Norway, Korea, India, and double the entire Middle East, is an early leader in CCS hub development.  

“For Alberta, the concept of CCS hubs makes a lot of sense because you have many industry players that are trying to reduce their emissions, paired with beautiful geological opportunities beneath,” says Beth (Hardy) Valiaho, vice-president with the International CCS Knowledge Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. 

Jarad Daniels, CEO of the Melbourne, Australia-based Global CCS Institute, says that historically, CCS would be a single project integrating a CO2 capture plant with dedicated CO2 compression, pipeline and storage systems.  

“Networks, where each entity typically operates only part of the full CCS value chain provide several benefits,” he says. 

“They reduce costs and commercial risk by allowing each company to remain focused on their core business.” 

The institute, which released its annual global status of CCS report in November, is now tracking more than 100 CCS hubs in development around the world. 

Alberta already has one, and Valiaho says it is a “perfect example” of what she likens to on and off-ramps on a CO2 highway.   

The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) went into service in 2020 as a shared pipeline taking CO2 captured at two facilities in the Edmonton region to permanent underground storage in a depleted oil field.  

Map of the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line system. Courtesy Enhance Energy

So far ACTL has transported more than four million tonnes of CO2 to storage that would have otherwise been emitted to the atmosphere – the equivalent emissions of approximately 900,000 cars.  

ACTL was constructed with a “build it and they will come” mentality, Valiaho says. It has enough capacity to transport 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year but only uses 1.6 million tonnes of space per year today. 

The future-in-mind plan is working. A $1.6 billion net zero hydrogen complex being built by Air Products near Edmonton will have an on-ramp to ACTL when it is up and running later this year.  

Air Products will supply hydrogen to a new renewable diesel production plant being built by Imperial Oil. Three million tonnes of CO2 per year are to be captured at the complex and transported for storage by the ACTL Edmonton Connector.  

Hub projects like this are important globally, Daniels says, as CCS operations need to dramatically increase from 50 million tonnes of storage per year today to one billion tonnes by 2030 and 10 billion tonnes by 2050 

“It’s clear the development of CCS networks and hubs is critical for achieving the multiple gigatonne levels of deployment all the climate math says is required by mid-century,” he says. 

Valiaho says Alberta is an encouraging jurisdiction to develop CCS hubs in part because the government owns the geological pore space where the CO2 is stored, rather than developers having to navigate dealing with multiple resource owners.  

“Alberta is a model for the world, and the fact that the government has declared crown ownership of the pore space is very interesting to a lot of international jurisdictions,” she says.  

There are 26 CCS storage project proposals under evaluation in Alberta that could be used as shared storage hubs in the future, including the project proposed by the Pathways Alliance of oil sands producers.  

If just six of these projects proceed, the Global CCS Institute says they could store a combined 50 million tonnes of CO2 per year, or the equivalent emissions of more than 11 million cars. 

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Alberta

Canada’s advantage as the world’s demand for plastic continues to grow

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

‘The demand for plastics reflects how essential they are in our lives’

From the clothes on your back to the containers for household products to the pipes and insulation in your home, plastics are interwoven into the fabric of day-to-day life for most Canadians.

And that reliance is projected to grow both in Canada and around the world in the next three decades

The Global Plastics Outlook, published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), forecasts the use of plastics globally will nearly triple by 2060, driven by economic and population growth.  

The use of plastics is projected to double in OECD countries like Canada, the United States and European nations, but the largest increases will take place in Asia and Africa. 

“The demand for plastics reflects how essential they are in our lives, whether it is packaging, textiles, building materials or medical equipment,” says Christa Seaman, vice-president, plastics with the Chemical Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), which represents Canada’s plastics producers.  

She says as countries look to meet climate and sustainability goals, demand for plastic will grow. 

“Plastics in the market today demonstrate their value to our society. Plastics are used to make critical components for solar panels and wind turbines. But they also can play a role in reducing weight in transportation or in ensuring goods that are transported have less weight in their packaging or in their products.” 

Canada produces about $35 billion worth of plastic resin and plastic products per year, or over five per cent of Canadian manufacturing sales, according to a 2019 report published by the federal government.  

Seaman says Canadian plastic producers have competitive advantages that position them to grow as demand rises at home and abroad. In Alberta, a key opportunity is the abundant supply of natural gas used to make plastic resin.  

“As industry and consumer expectations shift for production to reduce emissions, Canada, and particularly Alberta, are extremely well placed to meet increased demand thanks to its supply of low-carbon feedstock. Going forward, production with less emissions is going to be important for companies,” Seaman says.  

“You can see that with Dow Chemical’s decision to spend $8.8 billion on a net zero facility in Alberta.” 

While modern life would not be possible without plastics, the CIAC says there needs to be better post-use management of plastic products including advanced recycling, or a so-called “circular economy” where plastics are seen as a resource or feedstock for new products, not a waste. 

Some companies have already started making significant investments to generate recyclable plastics.  

For example, Inter Pipeline Ltd.’s $4.3 billion Heartland Petrochemical Complex near Edmonton started operating in 2023. It produces a recyclable plastic called polypropylene from propane, with 65 per cent lower emissions than the global average thanks to the facility’s integrated design. 

Achieving a circular economy – where 90 per cent of post-consumer plastic waste is diverted or recycled – would benefit Canada’s economy, according to the CIAC.  

Deloitte study, commissioned by Environment & Climate Change Canada, estimated diverting or reusing 90 per cent of post-consumer plastic waste by 2030 will save $500 million annually while creating 42,000 direct and indirect jobs. It would also cut Canada’s annual CO2 emissions by 1.8 megatonnes.  

Right now, about 85 per cent of plastics end up in Canada’s landfills. To reach the 90 per cent diversion rate, Seaman says Canada must improve its infrastructure to collect and process the plastic waste currently being landfilled. 

But she also says the industry rather than municipalities need to take responsibility for recycling plastic waste.  

“This concept is referred to as extended producer responsibility. Municipalities have the responsibility for managing recycling within a waste management system. Given the competing costs and priorities, they don’t have the incentive to invest into recycling infrastructure when landfill space was the most cost-effective solution for them,” she says.  

“Putting that responsibility on the producers who put the products on the market makes the most sense…The industry is adapting, and we hope government policy will recognize this opportunity for Canada to meet our climate goals while growing our economy.” 

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Decarbonization deal opens new chapter in Alberta-Japan relationship

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

Agreement represents a homecoming for JAPEX, which first started work in the Alberta oil sands in 1978

new agreement that will see Japan Petroleum Exploration Company (JAPEX) invest in decarbonization opportunities in Alberta made history while also being rooted in the past, in the eyes of Gary Mar. 

JAPEX is seeking to develop projects in carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen and bioenergy. It’s part of the company’s JAPEX2050 strategy toward carbon neutrality. 

“This new endeavour is a great opportunity that demonstrates the world is changing but the relationships endure,” says Mar, the province’s former trade envoy to Asia and the current CEO of the Canada West Foundation 

“Alberta’s very first international office was opened in Tokyo in 1981. And we have built a tremendous soft infrastructure that includes partnerships between a dozen Alberta and Japanese universities.” 

For JAPEX, the agreement represents something of a homecoming for the company that first started work in the Alberta oil sands in 1978 and operated one of the first in situ (or drilled) oil projects for nearly two decades before selling its stake in 2018. 

We are now aiming to come back to Alberta and contribute to its decarbonization,” JAPEX president of overseas business Tomomi Yamada said in a statement.  

Mar says the memorandum of understanding signed this March between JAPEX and the crown corporation Invest Alberta stems from a strong relationship built over decades.  

“You cant be considered a reliable partner for a new venture if you havent been a reliable partner for decades in the past,” says Mar.  

Economies change and worlds needs change but strong relationships are important factor in whom you do business with.” 

Alberta’s established CCS infrastructure has already attracted new investment, including Air Products’ $1.6-billion net zero hydrogen complex and Dow Chemicals’ $8.8-billion net zero petrochemical complex 

Mar sees JAPEX’s deal with Invest Alberta opening a whole new market of potential carbon neutral investors in the Pacific Rim. 

“When other countries who are partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) see JAPEX invest in this decarbonization opportunities and net zero projects in Alberta, it will send a very clear signal to others in the TPP about the potential,” Mar says.  

“This deal may come from the decades-long relationship between Alberta and Japan but can also serve as a signpost for decades to come.” 

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