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Partnership expands thriving carbon capture business in Alberta

Energy asset operator Wolf Midstream has forged a partnership with Whitecap Resources, the First...

Wolf Midstream's facility

Wolf Midstream’s carbon recovery facility is located near Fort Saskatchewan. (Courtesy Wolf Midstream)

Energy asset operator Wolf Midstream has forged a partnership with Whitecap Resources, the First Nations Capital Investment Partnership (FNCIP) and the Heart Lake First Nation to build a saline aquifer hub in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.

Wolf Midstream has extensive experience in the carbon capture sector, though this is its first project of this type.

In 2020, Midstream completed the 240 km Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) construction, which transports man-made CO2 from capture sites to permanent and secure underground storage. At the end of 2021, the ACTL had transported two million tonnes of third-party CO2 into storage.

So when it comes to carbon capture, the company is a bit “ahead of the curve,” as Jeff Pearson, Wolfstream’s president of carbon, puts it.

Since then, it has been looking for ways to de-risk decarbonization. Enter the saline hub, which has been in development for several years and is expected to be in service by the end of 2024.

The aquifer hub

“If the reason for doing (a carbon-capture project) is to make sure that CO2 goes in the ground and stays there forever,” Pearson said, “then you want a really good solution for putting it in the ground and making sure it stays there forever.”

A key point for both Midstream projects is that they are not made for use by their creator. Pearson said Midstream is not a large emitter, so the company is open to allowing third-party emitters in the Fort Saskatchewan area to use the hub.

Air Products Canada Ltd., an industrial gas supplier, based in Mississauga, just west of Toronto, has signed on as Midstream’s first hub customer.

“We’ve been working with their products for a long time, and they were at a position where they wanted to support our project publicly,” Pearson said.

Whitecap is also building a net-zero hydrogen energy complex in the region. This project and others not yet revealed are projected to provide initial CO2 delivery to the hub of two to three million tonnes per year. Ultimate volumes could exceed six million tonnes per year.

Whitecap was enlisted first because of its involvement as manager of the Weyburn CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project in Midale, Sask., a company Pearson calls a “very technically capable and competent subsurface operator.”

Then, the FNCIP was approached to be part owner.

“We’re all having more and more conversations about reconciliation and Indigenous participation, (so) we sought a group of Indigenous participants who we know would want to participate as well,” said Pearson.

The Fort Saskatchewan location was chosen for two reasons. First, there is plenty of source CO2 in the area due to the many industrial projects in development. Second, the geology itself is suitable for the hub.

Pearson cites a Shell project that has been injecting CO2 into the same aquifer since 2015.

This is the only project of this sort that Midstream has on its schedule. Still, Pearson believes more hubs will be announced in the Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan areas once governments and other companies take notice of the possibilities presented by this type of hub.

“We’re in the second inning, but the more we do it and prove that it’s a pathway to reduce emissions that would have otherwise gone into the atmosphere, I think the more people are going to want to do it, Pearson said.

“It’s not the only tool of decarbonization, but it’s one of the tools, and I think we need to use all tools at this point in time.”

More on the hub partners

Midstream is a Calgary-based private company backed by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board formed in 2016. It also owns and operates two CO2 compression facilities. According to Pearson, the ACTL is delivering 1.6 million tonnes per year at the time of writing, although its ultimate capacity is 14.6 million tonnes per year.

Whitecap Resources Inc. is a public company based in Calgary focused on acquiring, developing, and producing oil and natural gas assets in western Canada. Aside from Weyburn, it operates the Alberta Joffre EOR project and manages over 200 CO2 injection wells and associated pipelines and infrastructure. These projects sequester two million tonnes of CO2 per year, almost half of annual sequestered volumes in Canada. The Weyburn project is the largest anthropogenic carbon sequestration project globally, with over 36 million tonnes stored to date.

This past January, the FNCIP was formed to invest and acquire assets and comprises the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, Paul First Nation, and Alexander First Nation. Its financial advisor is Axxcelsus Capital Advisory Partners.

“Working responsibly with industry and building partnerships supports our long-term vision of becoming a self-sufficient Nation,” Enoch Cree Chief Billy Morin told the Toronto Star at the time. “Growing our economic opportunities will help strengthen the well-being of all of our people. By passing down the values of our ancestors and embracing new ideas, we can enhance the prosperity of our Nation for generations.”

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