The largest near-term focus is on its proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) project. Significant engineering, subsurface evaluation and environmental field work has been completed in preparation for imminent regulatory applications.
When complete, the CCS project proposed by Canada’s six largest oil sands companies would be one of the world’s largest CCS networks and play an essential role in helping Alberta and Canada progress their net zero ambitions.
“We’re taking all the steps needed to ensure this project is ready to go once we have the critical regulatory policies and co-investment commitments from governments that are necessary for our sector to remain cost competitive with other oil-producing regions around the world while we reduce emissions,” said Pathways Alliance President Kendall Dilling.
The proposed CCS network includes a transportation line with capacity to carry carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from multiple oil sands facilities to a hub in the Cold Lake region of Alberta for safe and permanent underground storage. This CCS network could reduce net CO2 emissions from oil sands operations by approximately 10 to 12 million tonnes annually by 2030 and as much as 40 million tonnes per year by 2050.
The first phase of the proposed Pathways Alliance plan calls for more than a $24 billion investment before 2030. Of the $24 billion, approximately $16.5 billion, will support the proposed CCS network. The remaining $7.6 billion investment is earmarked for other major emissions reduction projects and technologies.
Next steps build on more than $1.8 billion already spent by Pathways Alliance members on phase one projects. This includes:
- cogeneration to replace higher-emitting fuels used to produce electricity and steam;
- more efficient in situ oil sands recovery technologies;
- research and development of more than 50 emissions abatement technology projects, such as advanced carbon capture and storage studies and testing, steam reduction and solvent demonstration projects, lower emission fuel switching trials, and small modular reactor feasibility studies; and
- early work on the foundational CCS project, including engineering, feasibility studies and environmental field work.
Emissions reduction investments continue to be made with the bulk spend for construction of the total CCS project later this decade subject to completion of Indigenous consultation, regulatory review and decisions, and final investment decisions.
“The emissions reduction efforts of Pathways Alliance members, working together with governments, will help ensure the oil sands sector can continue to provide hundreds of thousands of jobs across Canada, tens of billions of dollars in annual revenues for governments and the energy security needed for Canada and globally for decades to come,” said Dilling.
Foundational CCS project
- Multiple feasibility studies on phase-one capture facilities, with engineering and design work progressing.
- Major regulatory applications for the CO2 transportation network and storage hub are being prepared and are expected to be filed in late 2023 or early 2024.
- Front end engineering and design work on the proposed 400+-kilometre CO2 transportation line is now more than half complete.
- This includes technical design and numerous tests to ensure the safe transport of CO2.
- Work is ongoing to obtain a carbon sequestration agreement from the Government of Alberta to support regulatory submissions for the carbon storage hub.
- Two wells in the storage hub area have been drilled and tested extensively to better understand the geological properties of the Basal Cambrian Sandstone (BCS) and multiple overlaying salts; four existing wells have been tested.
- More than 2,000 hours of environmental field work has been conducted since 2021.
- The environmental field program has been surveying the proposed transportation line and storage hub project areas conducting hundreds of heritage resource assessments, wetland classifications, soil assessments and aquatic habitat evaluations.
- The data gathered in the environmental field program will be used to mitigate any potential impacts of the foundational CCS project on the natural environment.
- Formal consultation and engagement work with Indigenous groups along the proposed CO2 transportation corridor and storage network began in the fall 2023 and was preceded by months of discussions about the project with communities.
- Pathways Alliance continues to meet with other local community members and landowners to share information about CCS and the proposed project.
- Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Pathways Alliance members are currently advancing several other CCS technology development projects that have the potential to be used by other industries and exported globally, including:
- Advancing conventional carbon capture technology to improve energy and cost efficiency.
- Assessing and piloting next generation CCS technologies, such as those developed by Svante and Ionada.
- Conducting a direct air capture landscape study to assess and understand future technologies.
- Evaluating the feasibility of CO₂ sequestration in depleted natural gas fields.
- Steam reduction technologies to reduce the need for steam, which is a major driver of emissions from in-situ oil sands production.
- Member companies are piloting multiple technologies using solvents (lighter hydrocarbons) in steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) optimization.
- These processes have the potential to lower costs, reduce steam-to-oil ratios and lower GHG emissions intensity from oil sands production by up to 50%.
- Natural gas decarbonization and hydrogen use in oil sands facilities. A fuel switching pilot is being conducted to convert natural gas into hydrogen and solid carbon (that can be stored or used). This can significantly reduce CO2 emissions from the hydrogen production process and from natural gas combustion.
- Evaluating technology options for converting carbon in natural gas and flue gas into economically useful products like graphite.
- Small modular reactors
- Pathways Alliance is continuing analysis and evaluation of the application of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) as one of the many long-term methods to produce energy for industrial steam and sharply reduce CO2 emissions from oil sands production.
- One of the Pathways Alliance members, Cenovus Energy, has completed a joint feasibility study to assess how SMRs could be applied in the oil sands and has launched the next stage of assessment through various engineering, design and other studies.
More detailed information on emissions reduction work underway by Pathways Alliance members can be found here.
Canada’s six largest oil sands companies are working together – and with governments – on an ambitious plan to help meet the national 2050 net zero goal and deliver the world’s preferred barrel of responsibly produced oil.
The Pathways Alliance members have set goals to reduce emissions from oil sands operations (scopes 1 and 2) by 22 million tonnes per year by 2030 and achieve its goal of net zero from oil sands operations by 2050.
To do this, a multi-stage effort is planned to deploy various emissions reduction technologies, including one of the world’s largest proposed carbon capture and storage projects that would be constructed in the Cold Lake region of northeastern Alberta.
The Pathways Alliance is a model for all sectors within Canada and globally of how peer companies can set aside their competitiveness to work together towards a common goal.
Cautionary Statement: Statements of future events or conditions in this press release, including projections, targets, expectations, estimates, and business plans are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as achieve, aspiration, believe, anticipate, intend, propose, plan, goal, seek, project, predict, target, estimate, expect, forecast, vision, strategy, outlook, schedule, future, continue, likely, may, should, will and/or similar references to outcomes in future periods. Forward-looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to, references to the viability, timing and impact of the net zero plan and the development of pathways in support of a net-zero future; support for the pathways from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada; the ability to enable net zero emissions from oil production and preserve economic contribution from the industry; the deployment of technologies to reduce GHG emissions; the ability to create jobs, accelerate development of the clean tech sector, provide benefits for other sectors and help maintain Canadians’ quality of life; and making economic investments to ensure a successful transition to a net zero world and delivering long term value to shareholders. All net-zero references in this announcement apply to emissions from oil sands operations (defined as scope 1 and scope 2 emissions).
Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions at the time the statements are made. Actual future results, including expectations and assumptions concerning: demand growth and energy source, supply and mix; amount and timing of emissions reductions; the adoption and impact of new facilities or technologies, including on reductions to GHG emissions; project plans, timing, costs, technical evaluations and capacities, and the ability to effectively execute on these plans and operate assets; that any required support for the pathways from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada will be provided; applicable laws and government policies, including climate change and restrictions in response to COVID-19; production rates, growth and mix; general market conditions; and capital and environmental expenditures, could differ materially depending on a number of factors. These factors include global, regional or local changes in supply and demand for oil, natural gas, and petroleum and petrochemical products and the resulting price, differential and margin impacts; political or regulatory events, including changes in law or government policy and actions in response to COVID-19; the receipt, in a timely manner, of regulatory and third-party approvals including for new technologies; lack of required support from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada; environmental risks inherent in oil and gas exploration and production activities; environmental regulation, including climate change and GHG regulation and changes to such regulation; availability and allocation of capital; availability and performance of third-party service providers; unanticipated technical or operational difficulties; project management and schedules and timely completion of projects; reservoir analysis and performance; unexpected technological developments; the results of research programs and new technologies, and ability to bring new technologies to commercial scale on a cost-competitive basis; operational hazards and risks; general economic conditions, including the occurrence and duration of economic recessions; and other factors referenced by the companies’ in their most recent respective annual reports and management’s discussion and analysis, as applicable.
Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve a number of risks and uncertainties, some that are similar to other oil and gas companies and some that are unique to the companies. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by its forward-looking statements and readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on them. The companies undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this press release, except as required by applicable law.
SOURCE Pathways Alliance
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