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Market News

 November 23, 2006
Oil companies turn to Alberta for carbon harvesting

 (by CBC News) - The Edmonton region could become a place to store carbon dioxide harvested from oil industry smokestacks, says a member of a federal advisory group.

The National Round Table on the Environment advises government on ways to reduce pollution in an economically viable manner.

One priority raised at a meeting held in Edmonton Wednesday is to promote collecting carbon dioxide, or C02, and then storing it underground or using it to enhance oil and gas drilling.

That turns carbon dioxide from a pollutant causing climate change into a commodity that's caught the attention of some oil companies.

Consortium looking at Edmonton area
Steve Williams, who sits on the roundtable and runs Suncor's oilsands operations, says his company is part of a consortium looking at the Edmonton region and the Rocky Mountain foothills for what's called carbon sequestration.

Stefan Bachu, an advisor to Alberta's Energy and Utilities Board, said there are several underground sites near Edmonton that could store C02 from smokestacks.

"There are oil and gas reservoirs, also deep saline aquifers several thousand feet deep. There is potential and capacity all around."

Once carbon dioxide is stored, it could be piped to oilfields near Swan Hills or Drayton Valley. Pilot projects have shown it to be useful in getting more oil out of wells thought to no longer be productive.

The idea makes Alberta New Democrat environment critic David Eggen uneasy.

"You have to go very far under the ground, which I don't think has been entirely looked at," he said.

"And if you go into shallower sites there's hundreds of thousands of holes drilled in the ground. You have to think about something like that if you expect it to stay down there, too."

Bachu says oil companies wanting to store C02 would have to be absolutely certain it couldn't escape from where it's buried.