By Serina Penner and Nikki Fotheirngham
On March 20th, Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, announced an investment of $14 million in Aquistore, a carbon capture and storage demonstration project near Estevan, Saskatchewan. This injection of funds followed investments put forward by the Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) of $5 million, and from the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment’s Go Green Fund of a further $5 million. In total this will put Aquistore on the threshold of a $19 million investment by the Canadian government.
This kind of investment is significant in many ways. It’s a sign that the Canadian Government, even under Conservative leadership, is moving forward with its mandate to support the cleantech industry. “The Government of Canada is strengthening its support for carbon capture and storage,” said Minister Oliver. “The Aquistore Project is an example of governments, academia, and industry working together to advance clean energy technologies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
What is Aquistore? And why has it attracted so much attention in the past months?
“The Aquistore Project represents a first in the world: the first time carbon dioxide is sequestered safely at this scale in the ground from a coal-burning plant,” said SDTC President and CEO Vicky Sharpe. “It is clean tech innovation like this that will help drive the Canadian economy, creating jobs and economic growth, and a source of innovative solutions.”
The science behind Aquistore is truly innovative and its goal is simply to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The poject hopes to prove that it’s possible to store carbon dioxide (CO2) deep underground (in a brine and sandstone formation) in a safe way that is significantly less harmful to the environment than releasing it into the atmosphere. Aquistore will take captured and compressed CO2, transport it by pipeline to a site where it will be injected in a deep saline formation 2,200 metres (or 2.2 kilometres) below the earth’s surface.
The Aquistore project has been split into two phases. The first phase which, thanks to the recent financial support it has received, will be underway soon on reclaimed industrial land west of the Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan. This land was specifically chosen because of the ideal rock formations, able to hold liquid CO2. Aquistore intends to take the CO2 by-products from the Boundary Dam Power Station and move it via pipeline, deep underground, into the Williston Basin, located in southeastern Saskatchewan (as well as south western Manitoba, North and South Dakota, and Montana, in the United States).
Managing the Aquistore project is the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PRTC), a non-profit research organization that has over 10 years of experience managing CO2 monitoring and storage through its management of the IEA GHG Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage Project. The PRTC states that: “The first phase of the project is a pilot to gain baseline research information and to evaluate and establish that the process is safe, reliable and predictable prior to commercial use.”
Once the first phase has been deemed successful, the second phase of the project will usher in participation in one of the world’s first commercial carbon capture storage (CCS) projects. The CCS projects will be of great importance as they will provide countries with a viable way to reduce their carbon emissions, thereby reaching federal, state and provincial environmental goals more easily.
“This federal and provincial support to undertake independent research is essential for the future of carbon capture and storage advancement in Canada and the world,” said Malcolm Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of PTRC. “The learnings from Aquistore will be transferable to industry and governments globally and will help inform the creation of industry-wide CO2 capture and storage regulations and policies.”