Canada Oilsand Companies Look at Nuclear Reactors Again

Canada’s oil and gas companies are looking to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The main vision is Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) which is an emissions reducing technology that is currently being used in Canada and around the world. It captures the carbon before, during and after combustion and then either safely stores it or makes it available for use in products such as concrete. Our plan includes a trunkline connected to a carbon sequestration hub that allows connection for other sectors to use for emissions reductions.

Nextbigfuture notes that capturing carbon dioxide at scale means capturing gases that are greater than the input natural gas. CO2 from natural gas is greater than the mass of the natural gas. Oxygen is added during the combustion processes. Pipelines are needed to deliver natural gas or oil to the plants. Reversing this process to capture CO2 and then put it back into the ground means capturing about double the gases. There is difficulty getting the natural gas and oil out of the ground and transporting them to the plant. Carbon capturing means making a capturing system and a reverse pipeline system. Pipelines are one way to the plants now.

Canada’s oilsand operations are emitting about 70 million tons of CO2 every year. The Fort McMurray test of CO2 capture spent over $1 billion to capture 1 million tons of CO2. $1 billion to capture 5 days worth of oilsand CO2.

Planting less than 1 million trees can capture 1-10 million tons of CO2.

They also plan to deploying existing and emerging GHG reduction technologies at oil sands operations along the corridor, including CCUS technology, clean hydrogen, process improvements, energy efficiency, fuel switching and electrification.

They are evaluating, piloting, and accelerating application of potential emerging emissions-reducing technologies including direct air capture, next-generation recovery technologies and small modular nuclear reactors.

Nextbigfuture wrote about the use of small modular nuclear reactors at Canada’s oilsands 15 years ago. The idea has been considered but has not actually been advanced for over 15 years.

Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy, Imperial, MEG Energy and Suncor Energy formally announced the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative. These companies operate approximately 90% of Canada’s oil sands production. The goal of this unique alliance, working collectively with the federal and Alberta governments, is to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil sands operations by 2050 to help Canada meet its climate goals, including its Paris Agreement commitments and 2050 net zero aspirations.

SOURCES – Oilsands Pathway to Net Zero
Written by Brian Wang,

35 thoughts on “Canada Oilsand Companies Look at Nuclear Reactors Again”

  1. …and most of it is a 'Utility', to boot. Practically glacial in keeping those maintained, much less improved.

  2. that's WTI $100+ stuff — perhaps not in the for-profit sector — menacing east-european oligarchs with putin-influence – possibly…

  3. what?

    planting seeds and growing trees are a tenny bit more proven and likely
    than oil sands and carbon capture and storage.

  4. Wasn't thinking of only cars, all transportation must go EV which mean buses and trucks. Also oil price is elastic, small changes in demand can result is large changes is price. Fracking and Oil Sands are marginal. A lowering of oil prices can take them off line.

    Also industrial process and home heating will also need to change over to renewables.

  5. They are a real pain. Possible solutions: Wind, solar, LNG, hydrogen, batteries, broadcast power. Just have to find something cheaper than dirty, nasty oil, aka bunker oil.

  6. "Planting less than 1 million trees can capture 1-10 million tons of CO2."
    I know Brian is a techy, but he does know trees have to grow to capture CO2 right? Allocating land, planting seeds, years of growing. And that times million and millions.

  7. arpa-e has become a sad and uninspired little enviro-tech mini-grant agency. No DARPA drama, wet missions or such…

  8. whatever happened to eARPA? The energy 'black ops'
    dept with little oversight and undefined budgets..

  9. Big government (EPA, land use, etc.) can certainly create a huge red-tape barrier – but the other way?? streamlined processes, etc., not likely.

  10. Interesting to see which countries can be 'nudged' into closing/ greening their fields and wells…

  11. The Economy and the Environment are interconnected, often talking about one is talking about the other without a need to further explanations.

  12. If these, or any, oil companies are looking to go net zero, start by STOPPING your current activities. Jesus christ, it's not hard.

  13. there will be enough worldwide demand for Energy, in whatever form, that all industries and all price points will prosper — some due to profit, some due to regulation, some due to the inevitable low price and limited availability.

  14. All about energy costs and usage. New supply must 'fit' into existing pricing structures and distribution networks. Monstrous undertaking to 'switch' ona new source (or disable an old one). As with everything ,new stiff must be way better than the status quo.

  15. Stuck on Stupid – here we go again…
    The first thing I read was, Need twice as much in as out… Does anyone understand this will kill Canada's oil industry
    Opinion: Net-zero won't cure the climate but it may kill Canada | Financial Post
    The 2nd item is "Paris Accords" which really have nothing to do with saving the planet. Its more like – LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD FOR NON-OIL PRODUCING NATIONS.
    Some day, the Canadians will smarten up and eject Quebec and form a new, sane, Canada.
    Finally, compact nuclear fusion is a great solution, but not a panacea for an industrialized nation! For one, every EV sold will draw from the grid no matter how the power is generated. Powerful countries around the planet are circling like wolves America, Canada, and other nations blessed with natural resources…
    Wise up people! WE ARE NOT BUYING IT….

  16. You could switch the entire global car fleet to EV, and global crude demand would still be at the level it was in 2008. Crude is used for much more than gasoline.

  17. Stuck on stupid. Oils Sand aren't even economically viable at current prices. A drop in oil demand and its over with. That drop is going to happen with the adoption of EV.

    Leave those sands alone!

  18. They are getting close to adding H production here too, as the H is *good* if the C it came with in the carbohyd is captured.

  19. Space Solar! Now is the time. Criswell LSP find searchanddiscovery link. The winning mechanism of LSP is price and distribution with power beaming. Killer app.

  20. If you do this, you can also power beam electricity out by burning some C there, where it can be scrubbed. Assuming the C was destined to burn elsewhere for electricity, not cars. Search Criswell LSP find searchanddiscovery link ppg 12-13 esp.

  21. If the reactors were built soon, and if the reactors were based on Thorcon, or Elysium Industries designs, they would help lower CO2 emissions. Why them? Because they are both relatively low cost designs, and are well suited for mass production.
    Thorcon is out since a ship can't get there, so Elysium is what is needed. This is an industrial heat application, but they're fools if they don't cogenerate. That would look good in the press release, plenty of heat to remove kerogen from the sands, high temperature heat to run a refinery, and electricity to run it all. If it goes well, and the customer decides to expand the facility, they can just use another of the preexisting taps on the reactor vessel. Pump the salts through another heat exchanger, and energy for their expansion, no new reactor needed.
    The faster you remove heat from this reactor, the faster it creates heat to stabilize salt temperature. This not regulated by some human built feedback loop, but by natural law. You can't get more reliable than that.

    If Elysium can get some reactors in the field, it will be "the sky's the limit".

  22. and everyone's friend, Saudi Aramaco, believes there are 20T!!!b worldwide recoverable out of the less than 10% of that previously, profitably accessed. Better to 'treat and hide' the evil than root it out, i suppose.

  23. There is reason to believe that 'point source' combinations of scrubbing, capturing, treating, repurposing, and localized storage is a hugely understudied and implemented industry, also able to remove much large and small ppm pollutants — seriously able to 'cash in' on the benefits of prioritized locations (closer to transportation and labor) with recognized limits being maintained. Many EPA exhaust/ discharge/ pollutant metrics can be comibined into scrubbers and filters and outflow systems with C included — seems a profitable undertaking when used in conjunction with previous standards and mechanisms…

  24. …and if the current political system cannot significantly disable fracking and its ongoing sprawling tech, land acquisition, and rebounding investment… what chance does petro-dismantlement have?? Now various fracking techs with high power spectrums such as microwave are coming on board. Also, 'Green fracking' (giggle) with low- and no-water usage; minimized treatment wastes, etc.. Also, WTI way above $80 for this summer driving season – make no mistake…

  25. Well. The recent peak oil estimates at 110 – 120 Mb/d for early 2040s with a taper to 25% of that for a 9B+ population at 2100 seem reasonable in light of the likelihood of 'cornucopian' oil extraction (pragmatically endless reserves, increasing means of maximizing recovery and tap of the previously inaccessible/ exhausted, improved geological assessment, intractable political circumstances in those producers…(petro-engineer M.Eng., programs are not shrinking)) or the fantastically-named petro-abiogenesis: the idea of significant oil locations actually able to abitoically replenish themselves per Prof. T.Gold.
    Anyway, the key is realizing which extraction sources are the greatest contributors to CO2, foundations of economies, and can be nudged into carbon neutral production. Also, methinks WTI is not falling below $70 anytime soon, so…

  26. because the Economy is more important than the Environment. And glib and disingenuous responses create more chaos than the resulting alleged drawbacks of far-future CO2 issues.

  27. How about closing the oil sands and investing in oil reduction technologies as a better way to reduce CO2 emissions?

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