​Canada lagging behind global opportunity for carbon conversion, utilization and storage: CMCRI

Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

A new report from CMC Research Institutes says that Canada “already has the ball rolling” on developing technologies for the emerging global carbon tech market, but CEO Sandra Odendahl says we’re not moving fast enough to fully capitalize on what is likely to become a massive opportunity.

There is increasing global interest particularly in commercialization of technologies that convert waste streams into valuable products, says the report, CarbonTech: A primer on Carbon Capture, Conversion, Utilization and Storage.

CMCRI, which operates test facilities for CCUS processes, estimates that the global market for carbon products could be an estimated $800 billion. However, Odendahl says Canada’s prospects aren’t as sunny as other jurisdictions.

“I think we have a lot of catching up to do,” she told JWN. “At the moment I think we’re just going to keep falling behind because other countries are ramping up.”

Some of the leading players are the United States and the United Kingdom, she said.

For example, last February the U.S. government updated tax credits in order to spur investment in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects.

Through Section 45Q of its 2018 budget, the U.S. increased the tax credit from $10 to $35 per ton for CCS projects that incorporate enhanced oil recovery, and increased the tax credit from $20 to $50 per ton for pure CCS or storage-alone projects.

“What it does is it actually incentivizes companies to capture and store CO2 emissions, whether they’re doing it to extract oil from their existing wells or not,” Odendahl said.

“In Canada, we just don’t have a comparable financial incentive.”

In November 2018, the UK government released an official CCUS action plan. Its vision is for the UK to become a global leader.

“We are committed to the UK having the option to deploy CCUS at scale during the 2030s subject to the costs coming down sufficiently,” the plan states.

“To realize our ambition, our Action Plan is designed to enable the development of the first CCUS facility in the UK, commissioning from the mid-2020s.”

CMCRI says that Canada is already a global leader in CCS, with successful full-scale operations that include SaskPower’s Boundary Dam project and the Quest project at Shell’s Scotford Refining Complex in Alberta.

Additionally, later this year the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line will begin transporting CO2 from the Sturgeon Refinery for use in EOR south of Edmonton.

Odendahl notes there has been good news from startups like Halifax, Nova Scotia-based CarbonCure Technologies.

CarbonCure, which is an NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE finalist, has developed a mineralization technology that utilizes captured CO2 in concrete production.

Its system is now reportedly available in more than 130 concrete plants in North America and Asia.

CarbonCure is an example of CCUS technology being scaled up to commerciality, which is the main challenge faced by the nascent sector in Canada, Odendahl says.

“I don’t think we have a technology problem. It’s getting the stuff scaled up and deployed and commercialized reasonably quickly."

CMCRI and others are at the early stages of creating an advocacy group to help create a more encouraging space for CCUS technology in Canada.

A draft terms of reference has been created for a Canadian CCUS Network, Odendahl says, adding that before the group goes to government both federally and provincially to ask for fiscal incentives, it intends to “do the homework” to identify what are the best levers to be pushed.

“CCUS is increasingly becoming important for industry around the world. They’re looking for these kinds of developments and innovations,” she says.

“We can either be the provider of these technologies or we can be buyers of them.”

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