Government of Canada to Require New Oil Sands Operations to Implement Carbon Capture and Storage Starting in 2012
10 March 2008
|Projected reductions in the future growth of greenhouse gas emissions based on the Turning the Corner Plan. Click to enlarge.|
The Government of Canada has published details of its regulatory framework originally announced on 26 April 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The newly published requirements include setting a target that will require oil sands starting operations in 2012 to implement carbon capture and storage.
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions—to which the oil sands industry is a major and growing contributor—currently are more than 25% higher than they were in 1990, putting Canada more than 32% above its Kyoto target. Without immediate action, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are projected to grow a further 24% by 2020 to reach about 940 megatonnes—58% above 1990 levels.
In addition to the restrictions on oil sands plant, the details of the plan will effectively ban the construction of coal-fired power plants starting in 2012. Utilities that want to build coal-fired plants in the future will be required to meet targets based on the use of advanced technologies, such as carbon capture and storage.
The basics of the Turning the Corner plan announced last April include establishing a market price for carbon; and setting up a carbon emissions trading market, including a carbon offset system, to provide incentives for Canadians to reduce their greenhouse gas emission. The government has committed to a 20% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Our regulations will apply to all big industry. From the oil industry to chemical companies; from smelters to pulp and paper mills, all big industry will have to do their part.—Environment Minister John Baird
As announced last April, regulated industries will face mandatory reductions that require companies to reduce emissions 18% by 2010 for every unit of production and 2% thereafter. This requirement applies to oil sands facilities established before 2012.
The federal government will establish a task force to work with the provinces and industry to reduce emissions from power generation even further by 2020, through increased hydro, renewable and nuclear electricity production and through further development of the national grid. If necessary, regulations remain an option.
Proposed greenhouse gas regulations are expected to be published in the Canada Gazette later this year, and the regulations finalized in 2009 to come into force as planned on 1 January 2010.
The graph title is not correct. It should read Oil Sands Reported GHG emissions (not reductions because there are no reductions on the horizon). Alberta has reported 24 MT for 2006, i.e. exactly one (1) extra MT every year for the past 5 or 6 years. Many people look at those figures with certain mistrust.
Under this plan, Oil sands GHG will still double to 50 MT by 2008 and triple to 75 MT by 2013 and then drop (and stay) at the 50 MT level by 2018.
Going from 25 MT to 50 MT i.e. +100% is not what most people would call GHG 'reduction'.
Posted by: Harvey D | 10 March 2008 at 03:26 PM
Things are getting a little crazy when those hauling vast quantities of already sequestered carbon out of the ground are then expected to laboriously re-sequester a small fraction of it. If you're going to allow tar sands extraction at all, just charge that industry a hefty amount for carbon credits and be done with it. The oil sands products can then be exported to the US and other countries.
Some of the money collected could then be used on ramping up production and distribution of biogas/biomethane and bio-SNG in other provinces, for which Canada has vast feedstocks. Excess gas produced in summer could be stored in spent natural gas fields for winter use by compressing it with wind-powered turbines.
The balance of the emissions certificate income could be spent on incentives to migrate the vehicle fleet from diesel - which is a hassle in arctic climates - to CNG/ANG.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter which industry emits net CO2, all that matters is how much is emitted in total.
Posted by: Rafael Seidl | 10 March 2008 at 03:46 PM
All this craziness, including the heightening increase in the price of oil, keeps pointing toward the need to develop solar power generation and battery cars asap. During this period of transition from fossil fuels expect things to get even crazier as the fossil suppliers try all manner of actions to continue controlling the energy markets. For example, LNG shipped half way around the world to supply the U.S. market, "gasification" of coal and this biggie: pumping CO2 back into the ground--all so we can keep burning toxic chemicals in the atmospere and keep running ineffecient internal combustion engines.
Remember fossil fuels are finite; solar is not!
Posted by: Lad | 10 March 2008 at 04:16 PM
I like your idea of charging 'carbon credits' not to say 'carbon or GHG tax' at the GHG emission sources.
For Alberta tar sands, at a very low $50/tonne, this would mean around:
1) $50 x 25 MT = $1.25 B a year for 2006
2) $50 x 50 MT = $2.5 B a year by 2008.
3) $50 x 75 MT = $3.75 B a year by 2015
Considering the huge profits made by the Canadian Oil Cos, they should have no problems to pay this GHG tax.
The same could apply to coal fired power generating plants. They produce twice as much GHG in Alberta and even more in Ontario.
Alternatively, Canada could pay some of it's remaining $490 B debt at the rate of an extra $10+ B a year.
Posted by: Harvey D | 10 March 2008 at 04:28 PM
I think it is a great idea. If they have old NG wells, just build the pipelines get on with it and quit complaining. They make a ton of money off of us, so it is about time they did something good for a change.
Posted by: sjc | 10 March 2008 at 04:42 PM
SPEAKING OF NATURAL GAS, GUYS GOOGLE:
STRATFOR Fuel Technology: Geopolitically Significant Microbes?
ITS THE FIRST ONE, THOUGH THE NEXT FEW ARE GOOD TOO.
Posted by: sdf | 10 March 2008 at 04:56 PM
Assuming we have hit peak oil I don't think any rationally corrupted politician is going to willingly turn down opportunities to extract as much fossil fuel as they can, especially with oil prices set to increase even more.
Can anyone give a guess to how long it will take for solar power to be cheaper than oil (since I doubt any other energy source could come close to the scale of fossil fuel use)? Until that happens I don't think we can expect any decline in the amount of oil being pumped or shoveled out of the ground, as I'm sure there will be ample supplies of oil available for a long time with the Arctic melting and the high oil prices driving relentless exploration and extraction costs. Which means the only remediation we can do for reducing GHG emissions is carbon capture, because one way or another it's comin' out and people are going to make money off it.
Posted by: MarkBC | 10 March 2008 at 06:04 PM
Assuming that solar panel + controls + storage unit* will soon reach $3 per watt. A $300, 100- watt panel system could produce the equivalent of 18.68 million BTU in 25 years, i.e. at 6 hrs/day in a dry sunny place.
* Storage units can be downsized where solar systems supply peak demand during daytime hours only.
A $100 barrel of oil contains about 5.8 million BTU of energy or about 1/3 the energy produced by the above $300 solar system. Three barrels of Oil ($300) contain about 18 million BTU or about the same energy as the $300 solar system.
Basically, solar will soon compete with Oil at $100+ a barrel.
Within 10 years, when oil price is between $150 and $200 a barrel and solar systems & storage units are mass produced, solar energy may be as cheap if not cheaper than oil.
Posted by: Harvey D | 10 March 2008 at 06:56 PM
How come everything starts in 2012? It must be International Year of Penance when we go on a diet, give up alcohol etc. Or maybe it buys time for some kind of distraction to emerge.
Posted by: Aussie | 10 March 2008 at 06:59 PM
You are right, but 100Megatonnes of CO2 might be difficult to offset. The real question is : are these tar Sande really worth to extract ? They are burning the last bubble of natural gas to produce that low quality crude, in short we are burning a clean energy to make a dirty energy, or turning gold into lead ...
I know you can say there is no pipeline to use that gas,etc. We shouldn't extract that oil if we can't do it cleanly and with a correct EROI. Just as it shouldn't be allowed to burn natural gas to distillate ethanol. Natural gas is the cleanest energy, we could burn in our car or cities bus more efficiently than gazoline or ethanol, it is a crime to hydrogenate bituminen with it and then to burn it into gas guzzlers and other SUVs.
Posted by: Treehugger | 10 March 2008 at 07:13 PM
2012 is when the global cooling is supposed to kick in - meaning that these onerous regulations can be retired then before they do much damage.
Posted by: Matthew | 10 March 2008 at 07:15 PM
"Global Cooling", dream on!
Why don't you invest in that theory, and let us know when you get rich!
Posted by: GdB | 10 March 2008 at 07:24 PM
Things start in 2012 because that is 4 years away, which happens to be the length of the election cycle, which enables future governments to shift responsibility onto previous ones.
Thanks for the numbers Harvey, that is encouraging. I have been doing some preliminary searching for installing solar panels on a building up here, and the prices seem to be about $6/W. The problem is it's on the rainy coast at 50 degrees latitude. But I think China's massive economy of scale can only bring the price down quickly in the near future.
Posted by: MarkBC | 10 March 2008 at 08:30 PM
The nice thing about this carbon storage regulation is that the laws of thermodynamics make it nearly impossible - it is tantamount to shutting down the mining of bituminous sand and coal-fired plants.
Sequestering CO2 from natural gas production is possible - CO2 can be separated at little additional cost. Separating CO2 from the products of coal or heavy oil combustion requires enormous amounts of energy since CO2 is in low concentration and pressure in flue gas, with contaminants. You then have to use CCS on the additional energy required, and so on. In the end, you are consuming great amounts of expensive energy and bringing the cost of this dirty energy up higher than the cost of clean energy.
Posted by: M Laplante | 11 March 2008 at 12:53 AM
I am very very disappointed in Canada's conservative government. Their plan is to put off any action for 4 years, till after the next election. This is a crime.
As noted by others in this string, burning the natural gas to extract dirty oil is a foul business.
Canada should be leading the world in changing to cleaner energy, not being a big part of the problem by producing dirty energy.
Posted by: John Taylor | 11 March 2008 at 06:54 AM
Obviously the average consumer Canadian is going to like hearing this a lot more than a proposal for a consumer carbon tax. (which might actually do some good! ) Ya! Stick it to the big multinational coorporations that make billions per year! As opposed to stick it to the middle class Canadian with 3 cars and a new 2000ft2 house in the burbs.
As for the timelines of the above proposals its just another example of all talk and no action. Obviously the government isn't going to do anything revolutionary. It comes down to us as consumers to make a difference. As much as this scares me all I can really do is try to be the change that I want to see in this world.
On a positive note by driving nicely over the last 2 days I've brought my average fuel economy down from 7.7 to 7.2 l/100km city! (2004 matrix) so I save.....calculating... $1/week... hmmm
Posted by: Jesse 67 | 11 March 2008 at 07:31 AM
"I am very very disappointed in Canada's conservative government."
Well I'm not disappointed in them at all. I can say that because it's hard to be disappointed in someone you had such low expectations of in the first place. I expected S.H. to be as bad as G.W.B. and so far he hasn't disappointed me in the least.
Posted by: ai_vin | 11 March 2008 at 08:55 AM
Oh no the big bad green house gases are coming to get us. Here comes the Canadian government to the rescue.
Posted by: lol | 11 March 2008 at 09:13 AM
When will the enviros turn on Solar and denounce it as a menace?
It is inevitable that they will, once the Anthropogenic Global Warming effects of wide spread solar usage is understood.
From even the simpleest calculation it is easy to show that solar energy generates more than 2 magnitudes MORE warming per megawatt of energy generated, than burning fossil fuels.
It is dangerous to alter the Albedo on a large scale. Solar is not clean; nor pollution free. Thankfully, it is an economic basketcase, that has prevented wide adoption.
Posted by: stan peterson | 11 March 2008 at 09:56 AM
In case you didn't notice the sun dose shine on whatever is underneath a solar panel before the panel is put up. The earth's average albedo, ~36% a solar panel ~10%. To lower the albedo even a fraction of a percent we would have to cover millions of square km.
say world energy consumption ~20TW
@10% thats 2 x 10^11 m^2, say the sun shines 25% of the time so thats
800,000 km^2. This would cover the worlds current energy needs, so an area smaller than british columbia, for the entire worlds needs.....Those were pretty simple calculations.
Posted by: Jesse 67 | 11 March 2008 at 11:56 AM
Wow, I just found this, seems my guesses were pretty close.
remember this in the worlds entire energy consumption, not just electricity.
Posted by: Jesse 67 | 11 March 2008 at 12:01 PM
"In the end, you are consuming great amounts of expensive energy and bringing the cost of this dirty energy up higher than the cost of clean energy."
In the end that might be the only solution, and it will require all governments to get on board equally to enforce. If the costs of sequestering carbon back from coal pants is incorporated into the equation then we wouldn't see many more of those!
This is why the poeple saying that the private sector alone should be responsible for reducing GHG's are out to lunch because there is no incentive for them to do so.
Posted by: MarkBC | 11 March 2008 at 12:11 PM
I doubt solar will ever become a demon to the enviros, unless is creates pollution in manufacturing or disposal. I don't follow your argument that solar produces more than 2 magnitudes the heat of fossil fuels. I notice you didn't provide a calculation to support that, detailing your assumptions.
If solar panels were to become so ubiquitous that farmers were paving over farmland to produce energy then of course there would be opposition, but why would anyone do that when you can instead cover your house and any other useless surface with them. And if solar panels became so ubiquitous then by definition energy would have become cheap, meaning the value of the land would be higher for growing food, which I'm sure will only increase in the future. Tada, the energy crisis would be solved before that happened.
Posted by: MarkBC | 11 March 2008 at 12:17 PM
Stan, can you show us the simple calculation ?
Posted by: Alain | 11 March 2008 at 12:52 PM
Solar panels certainly aren't going to affect albedo for decades. And I doubt even that would occur. If the panels allow us to cut CO2 then by the greenhouse argument the extra heat should radiate to space.
I suppose we could cover some desert with whiter material to offset the black solar panels. That could be done at relatively little cost.
Alas. Any offset technique will also be unacceptable.
Posted by: K | 11 March 2008 at 01:18 PM