Alberta Politics

NDP needs to explain why they changed their mind on Carbon Capture and Storage

“The Tories have bet $2 billion taxpayer dollars and our oil and gas industry’s sustainability on CCS. There’s no scientific consensus that the technology is safe in the long term. Any report of a failed CCS project should have the Tories thinking twice about their lopsided reliance on CCS.” – Rachel Notley, NDP MLA Edmonton-Strathcona (January 11, 2011)

“Ed Stelmach has no trouble handing out billions of real tax dollars for carbon-capture to his friends in the oil and gas sector. But when it comes to a plan that could create jobs and improve our environment, the money’s just not there.” Brian Mason, NDP MLA Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood (June 22, 2010)

I want to remind the House that this government has chosen to spend $1.3 billion on an unproven, unfounded technology, carbon capture and storage, and on other priorities of theirs. There’s money for them. Yet when it comes to supporting Alberta families and Alberta’s hardest workers, this government couldn’t be bothered to support or to find the money. – Deron Bilous, MLA Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview (December 3, 2013)

This whole idea of investing, giving industry so much money for carbon capture and storage – right? – is an absolute waste of money. We know full well that this is just another way for enhanced oil recovery. It’s another way for large energy corporations to receive public funding, and there’s very little evidence that this very expensive public investment will pay any significant returns either to our environment or to the original plant to which it was intended. – David Eggen, MLA Edmonton-Calder (April 17, 2014).

Yesterday’s statement by Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd that Alberta’s new government would honour the contracts signed with Shell for the Quest project and Enhanced Energy for the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line carbon capture and storage projects is a significant about face for the New Democratic Party government. The two projects are expected to begin operating in 2016.

In opposition, NDP MLAs were harshly critical of the governing Progressive Conservatives investments in the private energy projects (see the quotes listed above).

During the recent election, the NDP platform pledged to end the carbon capture contracts during the recent election campaign, proposing to reinvest hundreds of millions of dollars into public transit programs.

We will end the PCs’ costly and ineffective Carbon Capture and Storage experiment and reinvest the 2015/16 component of this project into construction of public transit, which will help reduce families’ transportation costs and reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. – NDP 2015 election platform, page 18.

Originally marketed as part of the provincial government’s 2008 climate change plan, the Auditor General reported in July 2014 that “the total emissions reductions are expected to be less than 10% of what was originally anticipated.” The technology is unproven and unlikely to actually reduce carbon emissions in Alberta.

Ms. McCuaig-Boyd said in a statement that no further funding for carbon capture and storage is planned beyond the existing projects, but regardless of future plans, the NDP needs to better communicate why it is not fulfilling their promise to cancel the contracts.

If the financial penalties are too steep or investments already made are too large to justify cancelling the contracts, then Ms. McCuaig-Boyd should explain to Albertans how large these penalties would be or what the cost of withdrawing from the projects would be.

If the old Progressive Conservative government negotiated contracts for carbon capture and storage projects that were not in the best interest of Albertans, then the new government should say so.

10 replies on “NDP needs to explain why they changed their mind on Carbon Capture and Storage”

Depends what you mean by “reduce carbon emissions in Alberta”. If you mean reduce our absolute emissions, no. But over time we (hopefully by market forces) will have to decide whether to use CCS, implement efficiency measures, trade emissions permits with others, or reduce emissions by shutting down industry (most likely it will be a bit of all of the above).

That the NDP government now doesn’t want to tie a hand behind Andrew Leach’s back in options for a reduction strategy is smart. That they don’t want to cancel projects that are almost finished construction is pragmatic.

I’d suggest that the Alberta government makes a comprise and get these companies to use carbon capture using safer algae carbon capture, for use in algae oil, instead of CCS.

I don’t think that honouring a contract is quite the “about face” you are making it out to be. Regardless of the cost of pulling out they should honour these contracts. To not do so would be playing directly into the opposition and industry view that they are a negatively disruptive force on the oil and gas industry.

Besides, it’s only a couple of projects. Yes there is significant money going into them, but a lot has already been spent. Let’s give them the chance to finish and establish some real economics around the technologies. After that they can say no more or let’s build a bunch with some real data to back it up.

‘Da big thing on the front of your car is called a ‘radiator.’ It throws away the two-thirds of the energy in gasoline that your car motor cannot turn into mechanical energy because it is subject to the laws of physics.’

‘The same laws of physics apply to electrical plants that grunt and puff to change 40% of the coal and or gas energy into electricity’

‘When you put a carbon capture and storage system onto the electrical plant the laws of physics mean the plant now turns about 15% of the energy in the coal and/or natural gas into useful electricity.’ The rest is wasted as heat.

The captured carbon contains just enough water to make a weak acid which is pumped into old oil and gas formations which are mostly old coral reefs which tend to dissolve when exposed to acid.

The whole thing is a transparent scam and the NDP should charge the fraudsters involved and void the contracts without compensation.

I agree Dave! We just voted out a government that was secretive, and rarely told the public the full truth. I was hoping for more from this new government. While, like some previous comments have stated, CCS will have to be a part of the overall carbon emission reduction program, Albertans deserve honesty and respect. Rachel and her NDP government must tell the truth about what is going on, while it is likely, as you said, that the cost was too high, they should tell us!

It is curious that the NDP have gone ahead with these CCS (carbon capture storage) projects. It may be a necessary business to ensure that the world perceives us as making some sort of effort with reference to a climate change policy. In any case, they should explain why they have decided to go ahead despite telling us that they would cancel these projects pre-election. Sometimes political parties, when they become government, find out that it’s not as easy to dump projects as they thought before they become government. In this case, I think they should have dumped these projects. In my mind these projects are going to be financial problems for the citizens of Alberta both in the current expenditures, poor outcomes, and in future liability problems.

This is not the way to achieve world acceptance; it seems mighty expensive and rather a gamble in terms of the results.

Carbon capture and storage projects may also have possible issues with reference to safety in the future. I believe there were some cases of gas migration that have happened naturally —and so isn’t it possible –such gas leaks— could happen with these sorts of projects? I’m not a CCS expert but it is possible that there will be small leaks and if there are small leaks there is always a possibility of a large leak. No industry is perfect and human error can occur. What is the emergency plan if there is a huge leak?

A natural leak resulted in a high fatality rate in the Lake Nyos disaster:

The effect of a CO2 leak on human health is the most obvious concern
related to CCS. This threat has garnered much public scrutiny due to the
1986 Lake Nyos disaster, when a naturally occurring CO2 cloud was
released from the Cameroonian lake, killing 1,700.8

A massive leak from a geological storage facility could pose a threat in low-lying areas, though there is a low probability of this happening.9 A slow CO2 leak through a
wellhead or fracture in a reservoir could also endanger the local wildlife
and agriculture industry.10 Underground seepage of the gas into aquifers
could increase their acidity, ruining them as sources of potable water; this
acidity could also eat away at the cement of wellheads, resulting in leaks
into the environment.11 The high level of pressure in a CCS reservoir could
induce seismic activity even in areas distant to the site.12 Though Elizabeth
Wilson, assistant professor of energy and environmental policy and law at
the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, characterizes the
likelihood of this happening in a well-planned location as small,
geophysicist Dave Eaton suggests that injection techniques have caused
earthquakes that have almost damaged houses.13

The global environment is at risk as well. An accidental release of
CO2 would result in higher concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse
gases, rendering the process counterproductive and increasing the rate at
which climate change occurs. Though a catastrophic failure of a reservoir
is unlikely, even a slow leak, especially if multiplied over many sites, could
substantially diminish the efficiency of the CCS process.

Even if the sites chosen are stable areas of the province, no one has actually done this sort of sequestration before and so we don’t know what will happen with such storage projects in the future.
It only take one major leak to ensure that these projects won’t be seen in a positive way by the public.
Even slow small leaks over many sites would mean ultimately that these project are failures.

This is an experiment of sorts for Alberta. The NDP are going ahead with an experiment that was begun by the Tories and that money has already been sunk into. It seems reasonable to finish these projects and then determine what the benefits/costs are.

These projects appear to be a major part of Alberta’s climate change policy :

Similar to the national strategy, the Government of Alberta has three key strategies to help meet this goal:

Conservation and energy efficiency
Greening energy production

As can be seen on the graph below, CCS is a major part of the strategy, accounting for 70% of emission intensity reductions by 2050.
Besides the matter of safety — no one mentions the matter of permanent liability that is assumed by the government of Alberta that taxpayers will be responsible for.
The public purse assumes liability for the site after closure of the project.

Regulatory Framework Assessment

Under the Carbon Capture and Storage Statutes Amendment Act, 2010, the Government of Alberta assumes long-term liability for a CCS storage site once a closure certificate is issued.

Section 121 sets out the liabilities and obligations the Crown will assume when it issues a closure certificate
We’ve never done this sort of project before, but we’re going ahead, and we have permanent liability for any unexpected problems of these projects. In my mind, the Tories should have only done one project, tested it out before investing any more public money. This sort of due diligence takes longer but seems to be a better experiment in public expenditures.

Why not let industry keep the liability? I’m not sure. Is this transfer of liability yet another one of those gifts of the Tories that just keeps giving even after we turf them out? I would encourage the NDP not to invest any more money in these sorts of projects and if they do, to not allow the transfer of future liability to the public purse. The Auditor General of Alberta should look at these future liabilities in this area and see if these sorts of closure certificates and transfer of liability agreements–are in the public interest.

a. CCS is a new industry where no projects have yet gone through the closure process.
b. Transfer of responsibility and liability protection is a very unusual step, offered to very few industrial activities, requiring the public to take on long-term risk exposures about which it knows little.
c. Any significant post-transfer incidents that arise could seriously damage public confidence in
CCS activities.
d. With almost all other jurisdictions that allow for transfer of liability opting for some default
closure period, not having a minimum period may be problematic from the standpoint of
public perception

The Alberta public is being asked to accept all future liability in perpetuity, at a time when there is little accumulated data on the long-term performance of carbon sequestration sites.

The problem with government is that they aren’t working with their own money but with our money and the money of our kids.

I would encourage the NDP to do real cost and risk analyses of these projects and if they won’t do it, then I would ask that the Auditor General of Alberta evaluate these projects and tell us if they are worth the future liability.

With respect to the size of the proposed activity, CCS projects are by nature very large
compared to other injection or disposal facilities. For example, a project that would sequester one million tonnes of CO2 per year would inject CO2 volumes that are much greater (at least an order of magnitude) than the majority of current acid gas disposal schemes. In terms of the nature of the activity, permanent underground disposal of CO2 for the purposes of climate change mitigation is a novel concept to the general public. As well, after the operator has received a closure certificate, the Government of Alberta will assume liability of these projects in perpetuity which is in contrast to current oil and gas projects where the operator remains liable in perpetuity for certain parts of their operation. In addition, the presence of public funding may increase public scrutiny. Together, these factors contribute to public concerns regarding CCS.

I’m concerned about these CCS projects.

Here are some legal concerns:
Legal Issues (storage)
a. Property issues
b. Regulatory issues
c. Liability issues
d. Greenhouse gas accounting and incentive issues

Property owners near these projects will experience decreases in property value. If there is leakage there may be cumulative health problems due to low level exposure; worst case scenario might be a major leak and then what sort of emergency planning is in place for such a devastating problem? Alberta can barely handle pipeline leaks and think how it will handle a carbon dioxide leak. I’m not optimistic.

This may be fantastical to imagine but what if?

Also what if these CCS projects cost us more than we expect and don’t deliver what is advertised? These projects may become money pits. And we’d be responsible for the payouts.

CCS is not an established technology. In fact, the former Auditor
General of Alberta, Fred Dunn, has suggested that CCS projects could
potentially waste billions of dollars with little or no greenhouse gas

co2 is found naturally in alot of deep zones of sask and the usa, it has been used successfully for decades in the usa for secondery recovery of old oilfields with out problems as well oil cpmpauies have taped into natural co2 reservoirs from deep zones to enhance oil recovery. every old oil field in canada has recovered about 15% of original oil from the pool, with co2 and water flush combined in a closed system can recover about 50% more oil. most of these old oilfields contain less contaminints than the oil whats the big worry go and investiage some of these plants that use this system the trouble with most of the protesters they want a quick fix on climate change and tere is none in the immediate future

co2 is found naturally in alot of deep zones of sask and the usa, it has been used successfully for decades in the usa for secondery recovery of old oilfields with out problems, as well oil cpmpauies have taped into natural co2 reservoirs from deep zones to enhance oil recovery. every old oil field in canada has recovered about 15% of original oil from the pool, with co2 and water flush combined in a closed system can recover about 50% more oil. most of these old oilfields contain less contaminints than the oil whats the big worry go and investigate some of these plants that use this system The trouble with most of the protesters they want a quick fix on climate change and there is none in the immediate future

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