Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new $7.3 billion (9.1 billion CAD) climate emissions reduction plan that will be enforced to help Canada meet its carbon emissions target by 2030. According to the emissions reductions plan, Canada will aim to cut nearly 13% of the oil and gas sector’s projected greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 using the carbon capture technology.
A new report following the news came out on March 31st, questioning carbon capture as a viable emissions reduction method and calling the targets outlined in the plan ”not at all realistic.”
The new report was issued by Environmental Defence and reveals that carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) projects have managed to capture 0.05% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, or around 3.55 million tons of CO2 per year.
Since 2000, the report estimates that the government has spent approximately $5.8 billion on the technology, and this number is projected to grow in the April 7 federal budget. Leaning on those results, Julia Levin, the senior program manager at Environmental Defence, claims the government’s projections of 13% emissions cut by the technology by 2030 is unrealistic given its high costs and the meager emissions cuts it yields.
The new climate change plan also includes the government’s proposed investment carbon capture tax credit, designed to reduce emissions by at least 15 million tons per year, with more details appearing later in the budget.
According to Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson: “at this stage in Canada, carbon capture and storage technology has not reached the level of commercial maturity nor cost maturity that is likely going to be a solution before 2030.”
He also previously noted it will play a role in Canada’s emissions reductions, but it’s not a solution for everything, and would only be supported if it captures all emissions.
The efficiency of carbon capture has been under the radar over the past few years. Several projects have reported missed capture targets which has questioned the viability of the technology.
Shell’s Alberta-based project Quest has succeeded in capturing 48% of the plant’s carbon emissions in the first five years of operation, with that number falling to 39% when other greenhouse gas emissions from the project are included. Almost 90% of the over $1 billion for this carbon capture plant was funded by regional and national governments.
Chevron’s major Project Gorgon located in Australia managed to meet just around 30% of its initially planned CO2 sequestration target which resulted in a hefty penalty from the government. The company would have to buy carbon credits to compensate for the difference which amounts to well over $250 million Australian dollars ($184 million).
“At a time when the oil and gas industry is flush with cash, if they want to take bets that they can meet their mission targets with CCS, let them pay for it… But we should definitely not be using taxpayer dollars and we also shouldn’t be baking it into our climate plans,” said Levin, also noting the emissions reduction plan urges the oil and gas sector to use its profits to cut emissions.
Mrs Levin also outlines that the emissions cap needs to be “way more ambitious” than the 31% reduction under 2005 levels by 2030 highlighted in the plan. If the increased target then could not be reached by carbon capture, oil and gas companies would have to cut down production which according to Levin is “what needs to happen.”
Scientists and organizations in Canada are opposing strongly the government ramping up support towards carbon capture, blue hydrogen and carbon reduction technologies under the notion they allow the industry to keep pumping oil and gas from the ground.
They also claim the technologies are not as efficient as phasing out fossil fuels and instead more funding should go towards renewable energy. The government and the industry though have always been clear that carbon capture is an important part of the broader climate plan so investments in the sector are projected to increase. If the opposition continues to see more disappointing results, the push against carbon capture could eventually make the Canadian government rethink its approach.