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In-depth
Burying the problem
In the search for the best solutions for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, carbon capture and storage (CCS) — capturing the greenhouse gas and injecting into the ground instead of the atmosphere — is one of the most promising

  CAPTION PHOTO: GREG LOCKE   

CCS Projects: Weyburn, Sask. Q&A
Interview by Antonia McGuire

A 330-kilometre-long pipe connects the oil fields of Weyburn Sask., to a coal gassification plant in Beulah, North Dakota. Tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) are transported through it daily to be injected beneath Canadian soil. This example of carbon capture and storage is seen by many government and industry leaders as a vital way of reducing CO2 emissions. The federal government sees it not as a quick fix, but rather a means of transforming a low emissions energy industry. CG spoke with Carolyn K. Preston, executive director of the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC), more about the CCS research her centre is spearheading in Weyburn.

CG: What is the Weyburn project?

CP: Well, there are actually two Weyburn projects. There is a commercial CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project at the Weyburn oil field that is just over a $1 billion dollar operation run by EnCana, a major oil company based in Calgary. The second project is a research project (formally known as the International Energy Agency GreenhouseGas Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage) managed by PTRC that is being conducted in two phases. In its final phase, the research project now includes monitoring at nearby Apache Canada’s Midale field.

CG: Where does the PTRC fit into these projects?

CP: In the Weyburn-Midale CO2 project, the PTRC is taking a look at the potential to store captured CO2 in the EOR process for a very long period of time, removing it permanently from the atmosphere. The capture, in this case, is happening at the Dakota gasification facility in North Dakota.

CG: When did the Weyburn-Midale CO2 project begin?

CP: The first phase began in July 2000. Research so far has indicated that this formation is highly suitable for long term geological storage — we are currently working on building a best practices manual for CO2 storage during the final phase of the Weyburn-Midale CO2 project (2005-2010) and developing an understanding of the complex nature of oil wellbore integrity over hundreds of years of CO2 storage.


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CG: How is the Weyburn-Midale project important for the environment?

CP: The potential storage is equivalent to removing 8 million cars off the road for a year. That would be equivalent to the amount of emissions that are being injected and stored at Weyburn-Midale over their 35 years of operation. Over a million tonnes a year of CO2 are being injected into the reservoir…producing a greener, or cleaner oil. Not that the actual emissions of combusting that oil as a transportation fuel is any lower, but you actually offset that by storing CO2.

CG: It is sort of a Catch-22, isn’t it?

CP: You’re producing more oil which contributes to more greenhouse gas emissions but you are doing it more cleanly than you used to. The key is to keep using our existing infrastructure because we have an infrastructure to providing energy to consumers whether they are industrial consumers or the average person. We can’t immediately change to alternative renewable sources of energy. We are slowly going to convert to those when they become economically feasible. That could take us many decades while we could begin storing CO2 very soon to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

CG: How does carbon storage or injection play a pivotal role for enhanced oil recovery?

CP: In the case of coal-fired power generation stations, they are producing a rather dilute flue gas. But if you were to couple coal-fired power generation with CO2 geological storage — through carbon capture and storage — you would be producing green electricity. Meaning that there would be no greenhouse gas emissions associated with power generation.

 
Carbon Capture and Storage
Background
What to do about CO2
What is CCS

CCS Projects
Weyburn, Sask.
Alberta
Global sequestering

Personal Projects
Your carbon footprint
The power of one

Maps
International CCS projects
The Weyburn pipeline
Alberta: Ico2n's CCS project

Photo Gallery
Carbon photos

Diagram Gallery
CCS diagrams

Video gallery
Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR)
Sleipner CCS

Glossary Term
Carbon tax: A compulsory measure where monetary value is imposed by governments on burning fossil fuels. The measure is intended to force industries and consumers to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
view all »   
Resources
Global Sequestering
IPCC — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
PTRC — Petroleum Technology Research Centre
CO2 Capture and Storage
Energy INet Presentation
Zerofootprint


Contributors
Sheri Gagnon
Cormac Rea
Antonia McGuire
Max McBride Peterson
Allan Casey
Gina Gill
Geoff Dembicki
Mona Harb
Alyssa Julie
Rachel MacNeill


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