Application for region’s first carbon capture under review

·3 min read

A Calgary oil and gas company is eyeing a potential project that would put carbon emissions back in the ground where they came from.

West Lake Energy Corp. has multiple natural gas wells outside Pincher Creek that are now entering the closure phase. As extraction comes to an end, the company is aiming to build a carbon-capture sequestration hub that would store carbon dioxide emissions underground, utilizing many of the old wells in the process.

The site would provide carbon capture, utilization and storage for industry in southern Alberta and the northwestern United States.

“At a minimum we’re going to repurpose our facility, and we’re hoping to actually repurpose wells as well and turn a liability into an asset,” says Brannen Kasper, West Lake’s director of new ventures.

West Lake submitted a proposal for the project to the Alberta government at the beginning of May. If approved, the company would go forward in securing investment partners.

The economic benefit, says Kasper, makes West Lake eager to get the project underway as soon as possible.

“One thing we are good at at West Lake is drilling wells — that’s our bread and butter,” he says. “From an execution standpoint we’re suited well to do that. Once we get that application approved then we’re going to hit her into sixth gear and really get at ’er.”

Preliminary feasibility studies show the project would have the capacity to store over 2.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year over its 30-year lifespan. The storage capacity would have the potential to help industry expand in the region, including BowArk Energy Ltd.’s Drywood power plant.

BowArk acquired the six-megawatt natural-gas-fired plant in 2007 and began taking steps in 2019 to expand the site’s electrical production to 34 megawatts. Federal carbon regulations have put the development on hold, though the proposed carbon-capture project would enable the expansion to move forward.

“Industry is seeking these carbon hubs because a lot of these guys can’t get financing without a carbon solution,” Kasper says, adding that the ability to capture and store carbon emissions would likely attract other industries to the area.

Additionally, West Lake is hoping to build an ammonia plant to produce fertilizer at the same location as the old Palmer Ranch ammonia plant, which was deconstructed in the 1980s. The plan at this point is conceptual, though the availability of natural gas and carbon storage, along with existing capacity for railway infrastructure, makes the plant a viable proposition.

Access to rail is particularly important since it would allow transport to domestic and international markets. With the current war in Ukraine creating shortages of food and fertilizer, the ammonia plant would help fill some of that demand.

Overall, Kasper estimates provincial approval for the carbon storage project could open the door to a project that would be worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 billion.

Roland Milligan, director of development and community services for the MD of Pincher Creek, says the municipality supports the proposed project because it makes use of land with the proper industrial zoning that isn’t being used.

“It’s a big piece of land that’s been sitting idle for years,” he says. “We generally don’t have economic development [plans] for the MD because we’ve been fortunate enough to have a resource industry, as well as a very strong agricultural industry. Anything like this is always a bonus, as we rely on developers to come up with these ideas.”

Although still a few years out, Kasper says building the carbon storage facility carries significant benefits to the Pincher Creek area.

“We plan to work very, very close to the community and use community services,” he says, adding that his meeting with MD council back in April reinforced the importance of using local contractors, hosting town halls and consulting with local stakeholders.

The potential economic development and resulting employment demand, Kasper continues, would be an economic boon.

“Things are going to get hot for Pincher.”

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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