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Williston Basin Petroleum Conference is back in Regina

Williston Basin Petroleum Conference begins at the Delta Hotel in Regina on May 17 . Petroleum Technology and Research Centre

The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference has returned to Regina after three years. Over 400 people attended it from around North America.

“We are looking at the possibilities of all subsurface energy. There is a lot of technical innovation around emissions reductions, carbon capture and oil recovery. Even topics of water, helium, hydrogen, geothermal energy and innovations are being presented,” Ranjith Narayanasamy, president and CEO of the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) said.

Narayanasamy touted the carbon capture utilization and storage plant built by Saskpower in Estevan at the Boundary Dam Power Station.

“What we do is we deliver the carbon and we capture it. So we want to measure, monitor and verify. We captured almost 40 million tons of CO2 from the plant to use it for enhanced oil recovery and the remaining (40 million tons) CO2 captured is stored under the ground, 3.2 kilometers deep. ”

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He claims enhanced oil recovery is the most environment friendly way to produce oil because the 40 million tons of CO2 that is stored would have otherwise gone in the atmosphere. Pollution from billions of cars have been taken out of the roads through carbon capture and they are using the captured CO2 to produce oil instead of using steam and gas to produce it.

Ranjith Narayanasamy, President & CEO, PTRC talks to attendees at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Regina. Petroleum Technology Research Centre

Bronwyn Eyre, Minister of Energy and Resources said, “If you don’t like oil, you don’t like enhanced oil recovery but, I don’t think that critics should be blind to the fact that enhanced oil recovery generates 82 per cent fewer emissions than traditional wells and it’s really one of the only workable ways you can get from net zero.”

She added that the other thing about enhanced oil recovery is that it actually generates revenue.

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“So, you know, if you don’t do that, of course you’re just storing it, but there’s no revenue,” Eyre said. “So it becomes a very, very expensive proposition.”

Premiere Scott Moe addresses audience at Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Regina on May 17. Petroleum Technology Research Centre

Dr. Hussameldin Ibrahim, director of the Clean Energy Technologies Research Institute at University of Regina, said, “It is not only energy security, but energy security and climate security and they are quite intertwined.

“It’s not a one solution, one size fits all. Even though focus is carbon capture there is also nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal. We need everything to be able to achieve those (climate) goals.”

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He added that using renewable forms of energy are expensive and there is no incentive, not enough tax exemptions are put on it. But now, with government subsidies like the federal government’s announced tax credit of 60 per cent for investing in equipment to directly capture carbon from the air, 50 per cent investments for projects that capture and store carbon emissions and 37.5 per cent for investment in storage equipment, transportation and use, carbon capture is feasible.

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Dr. Hussameldin Ibrahim Director, Clean Energy Technologies Research Institute at University of Regina. Aishwarya Dudha

But despite calls from the oil industry, no incentives were given for enhanced oil recovery where carbon is captured and pumped into older oil wells to pull out more oil.

Peter Prebble, the director of environmental policy at Saskatchewan Environmental Society, said, “Having carbon capture is better than not having it.” He said that the main experience they’ve had so far is at the Boundary Dam Power Station which is a coal fired power station where one unit was retrofitted for carbon capture.

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“They’ve had lots of problems operating it but the operations have improved over the years,” Prebble said. “More and more carbon has been formed, more carbon dioxide has been captured.”

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Prebble said the captured carbon dioxide has been used for enhanced oil recovery which has helped offset the cost of the carbon capture project. “So in that particular case, it’s not really that the carbon dioxide was completely kept out of the environment in the sense that … it’s been used to pump more oil out of the ground.”

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He added that all the CO2 did not come to the surface but more fossil fuels will be burned as a result of the oil recovery so it’s not exactly a carbon neutral project.

“If you’re looking at did more carbon dioxide remain outside the atmosphere as a result of the work? Because that fossil fuel that was removed all got burned. I would say the answer is no, but if you’re saying was there more carbon dioxide kept out of the atmosphere from the burning of coal at that unit? The answer would be yes,” Prebble said.

Ice breaking session at the williston basin petroleum conference held in Regina on May 17, 18. Petroleum Technology Research Centre

Saskatchewan has been criticized for its performance by environmental groups for a long time.

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Prebble said that environmental organizations’ view is that we can’t undertake new fossil fuel projects and hope to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change.

“Saskatchewan needs to wind down its coal-fired power plants and close them all and retrofitting them with carbon capture and storage isn’t going to be good enough. They need to be shut down.”

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Larissa Shasko, a PhD candidate at University of Saskatchewan’s Centre for Study of Science and Innovation Policy, said that a lot of people’s thinking stems from this notion of “all or nothing.”

“It’s unrealistic to discount the work of the oil and gas sector and in looking specifically at carbon capture and storage, to not recognize that those people are part of the solution isn’t getting us to that ultimate goal of solving this problem,” Shasko said.

“It is a transition, it isn’t something that is going to be automatic. We can’t get to net zero in one day, in one decade or … in a very small amount of time.

“I think the largest barrier to solving the climate change crisis is that. Unwillingness to be open minded to other people’s opinions.”

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PTRC director of communications Norm Sacuta sitting at one of the booths at the williston basin petroleum conference in Regina. Petroleum Technology Research Centre

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