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Alberta’s carbon-capture plans gather steam

Two companies are “very close” to winning some of the government’s C$2bn ($2bn) fund

THE ALBERTA government’s climate-change initiative, which it hopes will make the province a world leader in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, is edging towards final agreements on two of four proposals.

Energy minister Ron Liepert says the two that are “very close” to gaining a slice of the government’s C$2bn ($2bn) fund are Enhance Energy’s plan to deliver 40,000 tonnes a day of carbon dioxide (CO2) from North West Upgrading’s planned bitumen upgrader to an enhanced oil-recovery (EOR) site at an ageing central Alberta field and Shell’s plan to inject CO2 from its Edmonton-area upgrader into deep saline aquifers.

Lagging behind are negotiations on a bid by utility company TransAlta to ship CO2 from its coal-fired power plant to an EOR field and an in-situ coal-gasification project by Swan Hills Synfuels.

The Enhance plan, expected to qualify for almost C$0.5bn of government money over 15 years, is designed to generate an extra 1bn barrels of oil production and C$15bn in royalties over 20 years.

But Liepert says the funding won’t be allocated until North West and its partner Canadian Natural Resources sign a final agreement to qualify for bitumen feedstock from the government’s royalty-in-kind programme. To be built in three stages of 50,000 b/d each, the upgrader is designed to use gasification technology to convert the bitumen to hydrogen and ultra-low-sulphur diesel.

Liepert hopes a deal will be concluded this month, once the two sides settle on how much risk will be carried by the government. He says Shell’s Quest project involves straightforward sequestration and is within sight of a deal.

The hold-up with TransAlta’s Project Pioneer stems from uncertainty over the Canadian government’s coal policy, while Synfuels is “much more complicated” than Shell’s venture and will need time to “work through some of the anomalies.”

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