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Liability Issue Over Carbon Capture

Posted by mhudema on July 18, 2008

Liability issue raised over carbon capture
Dan Healing
Calgary Herald

The Alberta government is considering a formula to share future legal liability for stored carbon with industry as it moves forward with a $2-billion carbon capture and sequestration program.

Calgary MLA Len Webber, parliamentary assistant of energy, told an oilsands trade show audience in Calgary Wednesday the Alberta Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council is looking at the issue and will make recommendations this October.

“There is some discussion regarding perhaps the industry having liability for the first 10 years and after that the liability would be transferred over to the government but it’s a work in progress,” Webber said in response to a question from an audience member from Houston.

Another American drew a parallel with the controversy in the United States over disposal of nuclear waste, asking whether there are issues with provinces refusing to accept each other’s carbon.

Webber said there isn’t — and quickly added Alberta is firmly on the fence on the issue of allowing nuclear power plants in the province.

Eddy Isaacs, executive director of the Alberta Energy Research Institute, said several other countries are working on the problem, including Australia, which is looking at the government taking over liability from industry when the project operations close down.

“Certainly it’s a key issue but, from a technical point of view, the liability actually declines with time because the CO2, after you’re finished injecting it over a period of, say, 20 or 30 years, starts to sequester much better, it dissolves much better if you’re putting it into saline aquifers, it is converted to mineral matter. . . .

“Because the CO2 is going to be in the ground for thousands of years and many companies are not going to be around for those periods, government will have to assume liability.”

Isaacs said companies might also be required to buy a bond before leaving a project. He added the chance of a dangerous carbon accident is low.

“If you do your homework right, there ought not to be leaks. But of course, we’ve had wells that could be corroded or collapsed, CO2 could migrate or find its way out. So a monitoring program will start to tell you that and then you can fix the problem,” he said.

Alberta will not own any of the projects built with its $2-billion program to capture and store industrial carbon dioxide emissions underground.

Three to five initiatives are to be approved by Energy Minister Mel Knight by the end of March.

Bids from coal-fired electricity producers, the oilsands and manufacturing plants will be evaluated by a government committee that includes departments such as Energy, Environment and Finance.

The carbon-capture projects won’t be entirely funded by government, but industry’s share is unknown.

The province expects by 2015 capturing carbon will cut five million tonnes a year from

Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are the highest in the country.

© The Calgary Herald 2008

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