The head of Suncor Energy Inc. is confident carbon capture and sequestration will play a central role in his oil sands alliance’s plan to reach net carbon-neutral status by 2050.
In an interview Thursday, Suncor President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Little said the consortium, which includes his firm, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd. and MEG Energy Corp., has keyed in on that technology as the heavy-lifting component of the plan, which also includes clean hydrogen and small-scale modular nuclear reactors.
“We think carbon sequestration is about 50 per cent of the answer for us to get to net-zero,” he said. “If you look at it, [the oil sands] make up about 10 per cent of all of Canada’s emissions … so we see ourselves as large emitters, and we need to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem.”
Carbon sequestration is the act of drawing carbon dioxide out of the air and embedding it deep in the earth, removing a gas that contributes to climate change from the atmosphere.
That alliance, announced Wednesday, accounts for approximately 90 per cent of overall oil sands production. Key to the alliance is the creation of a carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) hub that the individual companies can tie their operations into near Cold Lake, Alta.
The group also highlighted the potential for that hub to be utilized by other emitters in the region, over and above just the energy industry.
Little said that centralized hub and ability to share costs with the other producers rather than each firm building its own facilities was a key driver to the formation of the alliance amongst energy patch rivals.
“It makes no sense for Suncor to chart this path by itself, because the amount of infrastructure that’s required for us to do it by ourselves – and Canadian Natural, Imperial, MEG and Cenovus – it just means we end up duplicating a lot of infrastructure, it costs a lot more, it just makes no sense,” he said.
“It makes way more sense for Canada to do this, drive down the cost so that we maximize the value of our resource sector and other industries in the economy.”
Suncor has been active in investing in lowering its carbon footprint, including investing in carbon sequestration firm Svante Inc., and announcing a partnership with Atco Ltd. to potentially build a massive hydrogen project near Edmonton.
Little said those green initiatives will benefit the Canadian energy industry writ large as the world looks for cleaner sources of fossil fuels while simultaneously reducing its overall reliance on crude oil.
“We’re one of two countries in the world that is democratic and that have large resources – ourselves and the United States,” he said.
“The other groups that are in there are Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Venezuela. And so we think when people care about where their energy comes from, and how it’s done, if we can get [Canada’s oil sands] to net-zero, we think that we are the winning card to continue to play in the market decades from now.”
“We certainly plan to be here literally decades from now.”