I must admit I’m one of those people who has trouble remembering what all the acronyms mean. ESG, CCUS, and the list goes on. As one business owner suggested once he discovered what Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) meant, “Isn’t that the stuff we’ve been doing all along?”
Let’s back up even one step further, could you describe what greenhouse gas emissions are and how they are produced? How they actually harm the environment? Where does carbon dioxide and carbon fit in? Are they good or bad? I guess I should have paid attention to the periodic table a little more closely in chemistry class.
If you have those figured out, then explain net zero, carbon neutral, carbon footprint or blue hydrogen versus green or pink hydrogen.
Over the last few months as the restrictions have been lifted and businesses have had a chance to re-open (or not), Danielle Smith and I have been speaking to hundreds of businesses. What is amazing is the mindset of the business owners. Clearly the environment and net zero are a focus for businesses. They understand their social responsibility, and they could teach courses to governments on governance. Businesspeople get it, and from my experience they always have.
At AEG we are excited to see the development of technology and expertise in how to turn what was considered bad into good. Utilization is the ‘U’ in CCUS. Can we utilize carbon as a feed stock instead of considering it a waste product? Absolutely. Carbon fibre for example is five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff. It is lighter than steel, making it the ideal manufacturing material for many parts. Methane, which is CH₄, can be broken down to hydrogen, a much sought-after energy source, and then the carbon can be reused for carbon fibre.
There are so many brilliant minds creating solutions because that is what entrepreneurs do. They see a problem and want to solve it.
There is an emerging view with entrepreneurs in the energy sector that the hydrocarbon industry needs to transform, not transition, by treating emissions in a circular fashion.
We can reduce emissions by retrofitting homes and buying zero emissions vehicles, including hydrogen cars, which are some of the ideas mentioned in the report.
We can reuse emissions by capturing carbon dioxide and turning it into useful products such as carbon fibre, cement, industrial minerals, ethylene and propylene. Demonstration projects already exist that are doing this.
And we can return emissions underground by either capturing from the air – a process being developed by carbon engineering – or capturing them at source – a process pioneered at Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan – and storing it underground.
We’ve spoken to Mike Monea, the global expert for CCS deployment behind the Boundary Dam project, and he tells us Alberta likely has enough capacity to capture all of Canada’s emissions and more. Imagine that? We could start charging the rest of Canada and even the rest of the world for the service of capturing and storing their emissions.
Wind and solar are not carbon neutral until concrete, steel, fibreglass, crystalline silicon, rare earth minerals, metals like copper and aluminum, and heavy equipment transportation are carbon neutral.
Let’s quit with this make-believe world of just turn off the taps on energy for the world and begin to practically apply these three important words reduce – reuse – return.