International Minerals Innovation Institute

Exploring Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)

The minerals industry, along with many others, is looking for opportunities to adopt greener practices, including the management and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The IMII published a study in 2021 looking at the technologies and strategies that could be the most effective for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in minerals operations. The study focused on the next 10-20 years, and one of the more promising possible solutions that came from this research was carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). It concluded that CCUS could reach maturity and scalability levels in the next decade that could allow it to be deployed in support of Saskatchewan’s minerals industry and beyond.  

Let’s talk about what CCUS is, and the current landscape of CCUS practices in Saskatchewan. 


What is Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)? 

There is no one definition to describe CCUS, as it’s a term used to describe a collection of technologies. These technologies tackle global energy and climate targets from a variety of angles all relating to CO2. They include: 

  • Capturing CO2 from large point sources such as power generation or industrial facilities using fossil or biomass fuels
  • Capturing CO2 directly from the atmosphere
  • Permanently trapping capture CO2 by injecting it into deep geological formations
  • Utilizing captured CO2 in a variety of ways

CCUS has also been identified as the only technology with the potential to contribute both to reducing emissions directly and to removing CO₂ to balance emissions that cannot be avoided.


The Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Process

From examples around the world, CCUS can be broken down into a simple process:

  1. Carbon is captured from biomass or fossil-fuelled power stations or industrial facilities, or directly from the air. 
  2. The CO2 is compressed and transported via ship or pipeline from where it was captured to where it can be used or stored. 
  3. The carbon is either:
    • Used as an input or feedstock to create products or services. 
    • Stored under offshore or onshore geological formations.

*For more information on this fascinating process we recommend you check out the International Energy Agency’s page on CCUS


Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage in Saskatchewan 

Various research, development and demonstration projects have been conducted in Saskatchewan to learn about the efficacy of carbon sequestration and capture. Two projects of note are the SaskPower Power Plant Capture Units and the PTRC Aquistore Project

In the fall of 2014, Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, became the first power station in the world to successfully use Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. The project has demonstrated the technology is capable of reducing the SO2 emissions from the coal process by up to 100 per cent and the CO2 by up to 90 per cent.

Aquistore is an on-going CO2 measurement, monitoring and verification project to demonstrate that storing carbon dioxide 3.4 km deep underground in a brine and sandstone water formation is a safe, workable solution to reduce greenhouse gases.

There are also two organizations in the province that have developed strong reputations in the CCUS space. 

The Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) has been a leader in supporting this technology due to their background in being the technical advisor and project manager for the Weyburn CO2 Monitoring and Storage project from 2000 – 2016. 

The International CCS Knowledge Centre is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a critical means of managing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving the world’s ambitious climate goals.

The IMII, in partnership with Innovation Saskatchewan, SaskPower and member companies BHP and Mosaic, has announced a collaborative study exploring the potential for carbon capture and storage (CCS) hubs anchored by minerals and power production. The PTRC, International CCS Knowledge Centre and Enbridge are undertaking the work. CCS hubs could provide a pathway for reduced greenhouse gas emissions from these two sectors while helping to maintain a competitive economy. Stay tuned for details as this project progresses!