5.2 Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)


As part of its strategy to reduce GHG emissions while maintaining a strong oil and gas production sector, Canada has become one of the few countries operating commercial scale CCUS operations, with two working installations today. 

One of these is the Quest project in Alberta, where the capture operation is applied during the conversion of bitumen extracted from oil sands into higher grade oils. The other is the Boundary Dam coal-fired power station in Saskatchewan, where CO2 produced at the combustion stage is captured. 

Together, these projects provide essential information about real-life working conditions of CCUS technologies. The Quest project has been in operation since 2015. Its 2019 annual report indicates that the project stored 1,128 kt CO2 that year, representing 78.8% of the carbon emitted from the syngas feed stream at the Shell Scotford Upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan. Taking into account the GHG emitted during the entire process—from capture to transport and storage and including imported electricity—the net CO2 reduction amounts to 891 kt CO2 (79% of the total CO2 injected) for a net capture of 62% of carbon emissions1.

For its part, between April 2020 and April 2021, the Boundary Dam project captured some 745,000 tonne of CO2 corresponding to about 75 % of the GHG captured, well below its 90 % target2. While the Quest Project aims at permanently storing CO2, Boundary Dam uses CO2 for oil recovery projects. 

Even with massive subsidies, the financial viability of both projects is closely linked to carbon pricing and oil extraction operations for Boundary Dam and oil prices for Quest. For the time being, SaskPower has indicated that it would not retrofit any of its other power plants. The situation respecting enhanced oil recovery may evolve in the short term with the completion of the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line, a pipeline designed to carry CO2 captures from the Heartland region of Alberta to an injection site 240 km to the south. 


1 Shell Canada Energy, Quest Carbon Capture and Storage
Project Annual Summary Report, Alberta Department of Energy: 2019.

2 SaksPower, BD3 Status Update: March 2021, April 14, 2021.