Pathways Alliance injects $10 million to advance oil sands CCS pipeline

In northeastern Alberta, workers survey the location for the proposed Pathways Alliance carbon capture and storage project in preparation for regulatory submissions later this year. Photo courtesy Pathways Alliance

Canada’s oil sands producers have taken a $10 million step toward building one of the world’s largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. 

Engineering firm Wood will now begin design work on the 400-kilometer pipeline to be the backbone of the project, connecting an initial 14 oil sands facilities to a storage hub in northern Alberta. 

The project, being developed by the Pathways Alliance, is expected to remove up to 12 million tonnes of emissions annually by 2030, at a development cost of $16.5 billion.  

Based in Scotland with a long history in Canada’s oil sands, Wood has designed and managed more than 600,000 kilometers of pipelines around the world, the company says.  

Most recently it was awarded a grant by NASA to conduct a design study for a pipeline on the moon to transport gaseous oxygen to support a proposed future lunar base.  

In Alberta, Wood’s engineering work will help propel the Pathways Alliance to their target of net zero emissions by 2050. Senior vice-president John Day called the CCS project a “prominent response” to the challenge of reducing emissions while maintaining critical energy supply. 

The six companies in the Pathways Alliance represent 95 per cent of oil sands production, or about three million barrels per day in 2022, according to Canada Energy Regulator data.  

The CCS project is the foundation of the group’s emissions reduction strategy, expected to provide about half of its target to reduce annual emissions by 22 million tonnes by 2030. Before the end of the decade Pathways plans another $7.6 billion invested in technologies like switching to clean hydrogen and electricity to power oil sands operations. 

“There is a tremendous amount of activity going on with the Pathways Alliance,” Imperial Oil CEO Brad Corson said during a recent call with investment analysts. 

Pathways says that in addition to the $10 million contract with Wood, there are 135 experts doing early environmental work on the CCS project including aquatic and wildlife biologists, archeologists and paleontologists. Early engagement is underway with more than 20 Indigenous communities along the proposed pipeline route. 

Detailed engineering on the storage hub is well underway, thanks to a carbon sequestration evaluation agreement with the Government of Alberta. 

Pathways plans to file its regulatory application for the CCS pipeline before the end of this year.  

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