The idea that technological solutions to climate change will allow us to continue our existing lifestyle without impact is dangerous. It was recently proposed by US Climate Envoy John Kerry, who said on the BBC, “Scientists have told me that 50 percent of the reductions we need to make by 2050 or 2045 (to get close to zero emissions) will come from technologies that we don’t have yet. ”He said that people“ don’t have to sacrifice quality of life ”to reduce emissions.
Another example of this unbridled technology optimism was Suncor’s recent announcement that it would invest in a natural gas (methane) project to produce 300,000 tons of “clean hydrogen”. The project would use advanced technology to reduce more than 90 percent of the CO. intercept2 Emissions from hydrogen production. About two-thirds of this hydrogen would then be used in refinery processes and cogeneration at the Suncor Edmonton refinery to reduce the refinery’s CO. Emissions2 Emissions by up to 60 percent.
Without context, it sounds like a great idea. But a closer look shows how little it means when it comes to dealing with emissions.
Suncor is in the oil and gas business. Unpacking their announcement helps to understand how much they disguise their core business in the fairy tale of carbon capture. What they are proposing is to eliminate just a small element of the massive emissions generation that is the tarsand of Alberta. If we list the processes involved in their most recent announcement, it becomes clear.
Step 1: drilling and fracking for natural gas
Step 2: Send natural gas to a refinery
Step 3: processing natural gas into hydrogen
Step 4: Capture CO2 from the hydrogen formation process
Step 5: mining bitumen
Step 6: upgrade bitumen in oil
Step 7: processing oil into petroleum products using hydrogen as one of the energy inputs
Step 8: use the resulting petroleum products – in most cases you burn them and generate more CO2 Emissions.
Each of these processes uses energy, most of it from fossil fuels. CO2 is only recorded from step 3, the hydrogen formation process. This hydrogen will only partially reduce the use of fossil fuels in step 7, refining.
What about steps 1,2,4,5,6,8? Climate-impacting CO2 Emissions are generated in the other processes, but not intercepted. Worse still, methane gas, which has about 80 times the impact of CO2, is released through leakage from step 1.
In addition to these emissions, Alberta has the dirtiest power generating capacity in Canada, despite using coal-fired power plants. All of the processes listed will use electricity, much of it from these power plants.
How much will this help Alberta’s emissions problem? The project would CO. to reduce2 -Emissions in Alberta by more than two million tons per year. In 2019 Alberta emits 275.8 megatons of CO2. One megaton is equivalent to 1 million tons. This is how the multi-billion dollar plant becomes the CO. to reduce2 -Emissions from Alberta by less than 1 percent. Is this the best use of a billion dollar investment in our struggle to reduce emissions and their impact on climate change?
The reality is that this project is supposed to distract us from the real task and give Suncor the social license to continue mining tarsand for oil. Do you want your government to subsidize these types of projects through tax breaks, as suggested in the latest budget? Would you like your taxes to go to one of Canada’s most carbon polluting companies to market itself as part of the solution to the climate emergency? If not, inform your MP. In the meantime, always take the time to dig a little deeper when the oil and gas industry touts carbon capture as a way to continue using their fossil fuel CO2 Emission, investment.
Dave Carson lives in Dundas and is looking for ways to reduce emissions personally and in the community.