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By James Fann, Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Affairs, International CCS

The quest to establish a carbon-neutral world presents Canadians with a formidable challenge, given the energy-intensive nature of our lifestyles and our economy’s reliance on emissions-intensive industries that supply essential products and resources in high demand globally. The urgency of this matter is underscored by our national climate objectives, which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions across the nation by 2050.

Thankfully, many technologies essential for achieving these goals are already operational in Canada. One noteworthy solution in which we hold a position of global leadership is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Canada’s influence in this field exceeds its relative size, housing five of the world’s 37 operational commercial CCS facilities and accounting for approximately 15 percent of the world’s current CCS capacity, even though our nation contributes less than two percent of global CO2 emissions.

CCS projects in Canada have securely stored over 47 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to removing more than 10 million cars from our roads. These achievements can be attributed to initiatives such as SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Unit 3 CCS facility, the world’s first CCS facility on a commercial power plant, which has captured more than 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 since 2014. Similarly, the Quest CCS facility, operated by Shell, has effectively sequestered over 7 million tonnes of CO2 from the Scotford Refinery near Edmonton since 2015. Further along the CCS value chain, our extensive expertise in process engineering, reservoir geology, and pipeline development played a pivotal role in constructing the world’s largest-capacity CO2 pipeline, the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line, and the most extensive storage project for anthropogenic CO2 in the Weyburn-Midale oil field of southeast Saskatchewan, where more than 38 million tonnes of CO2 have been securely and permanently stored since 2000.

Canada is primed to lead the next wave of carbon capture projects and reap substantial benefits from the imminent CCS boom. We have favourable geological conditions for safe underground CO2 storage, a skilled workforce, robust cleantech innovation programs, world-class regulatory procedures, and government incentives to encourage investments. Leveraging these assets is pivotal to unlocking the opportunities that accompany the significant expansion of CCS within Canada and on a global scale.

Under Canada’s existing federal emissions reduction plan, national CCS capacity is projected to triple by 2030, reaching at least 15 million tonnes annually. However, the Canadian Energy Regulator’s latest long-term outlook suggests that to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, national CCS capacity, including carbon utilization projects, must escalate to 60-80 million tonnes per year by 2050—significantly exceeding the current capacity of about seven million tonnes annually.

On a global scale, the challenge is even more daunting. The International Energy Agency contends that global CCS capacity must exceed 800 million tonnes annually by 2030, a monumental increase from the current capture of about 40 million tonnes. Achieving the climate targets outlined in the Paris Agreement requires a more than 100-fold growth of the CCS industry by 2050.

Recognizing the swiftly narrowing window of opportunity, business leaders understand the urgency of gaining a competitive edge by delivering low-carbon products that the world continues to demand. CCS and other emissions reduction projects are among the most substantial investments planned within Canada’s emissions-intensive industries. Virtually all of the nation’s resource-based companies, including sectors like cement, steel, fertilizer manufacturing, mining, electricity generation, and oil and gas, are exploring CCS integration. Each of these initiatives holds the potential to generate thousands of high-quality jobs, forge economic partnerships with Indigenous groups, and provide ongoing employment opportunities for facility operation and maintenance, thereby supporting local communities.

Beyond the immediate economic advantages, Canada’s leadership in the CCS sector offers broader long-term prospects. The innovation and expertise cultivated through clean tech initiatives can be readily exported, making them highly sought after as global climate action gains momentum.

As with any evolving technology, the rapid expansion of CCS is accompanied by uncertainties and unforeseen challenges. Applying the knowledge and lessons learned from the first generation of CCS projects is instrumental in mitigating risk, reducing costs, and enhancing the performance of the multitude of new projects planned worldwide.

Canada is well-positioned to assume a leadership role in the CCS arena. With a rich history in the energy sector, a skilled workforce, a culture that nurtures innovation, and the necessary financial and community support, we stand ready to make a substantial contribution to the global transition towards sustainable energy.

Originally published in Scovan’s IGNITE Vol. 7