As energy companies await the details on Ottawa’s planned carbon capture investment tax credit, the president of Shell Canada Ltd. says the program should be coupled with more urgency on clean fuel standard regulations to help accelerate investment in technologies that can reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Susannah Pierce took the helm of Shell Canada last year, as the oil and gas sector tried to regain its footing after decimated demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She also heads up its renewable energy unit, which is responsible for identifying investment opportunities in renewable power, carbon capture technology and hydrogen.
Investors are no fans of uncertainty. And while a carbon capture investment tax credit will be something of a salve because it will likely reduce costs and create some potential for economic returns, Ms. Pierce said until Canada’s clean fuel standards are finalized, there will continue to be “a great deal of hesitancy for investors.”
Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) facilities force carbon-dioxide emissions deep into the ground to keep them out of the atmosphere. The technology can be used in various industrial sectors, including fossil-fuel production, power generation and manufacturing. The International Energy Agency, a Paris-based organization that advises industrialized countries on energy policy, also says CCUS will play a crucial role in global emissions reduction.
A recent report by Shell China emphasized the importance of the technology, including a goal to scale up CCUS capacity by more than 400-fold over the next four decades. It also supports ramping up a government-led carbon price by at least fourfold between 2030 and 2060.
Ms. Pierce, meanwhile, believes Shell’s Quest CCUS project in Alberta demonstrates how the technology can be used in existing markets such as China, which is the world’s largest energy consumer and carbon emitter.
The Quest facility captures and stores about one-third of the carbon dioxide emissions from Shell’s Scotford refinery just outside Edmonton. It has captured more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide since it began operations in late 2015.
A recent report by Global Witness, a Britain-based environmental group, called into question just how well Quest is working. Using data from Shell and the Pembina Institute, a Canadian think tank, it concluded that the facility emitted 7.5 million tonnes of carbon over the same period it captured five million.
Ms. Pierce countered that the report’s conclusions were wildly inaccurate, adding, “That’s unfortunate because I think it creates the wrong message with respect to the viability of CCUS.”
Ms. Pierce said Quest is a great example of how CCUS projects can be tied to existing facilities.
“We need to learn from it,” she said.
“It’s also something that we can do here that can create learnings for other countries which are larger emitters. So I think it’s fundamentally important.”
The oil and gas sector asserts that CCUS is key in reducing its emissions, but critics say an investment tax credit amounts to nothing more than a subsidy for the sector. More than 400 Canadian climate and energy scientists and academics recently sent a letter along those lines to the federal government, urging it to cancel the CCUS tax credit slated for release this year.
Ms. Pierce wasn’t surprised at the letter, saying, “pushback never surprises me.”
But she said critics too often ignore that many of the technologies upon which Canada is depending to help meet climate goals, such as solar panels and wind turbines, “didn’t happen on their own.”
“We needed to have the incentives to get them into place to build the market so that they are now economic. Same thing with CCUS,” she said.
“I do hope that because of the urgency and the need for climate action that we can come together in a way that really has a good honest discussion around the facts and the technologies that are going to be required.”
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