Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

CCS is a technology that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes before they enter the atmosphere, transports them and then stores them permanently underground. It's an important part of helping the oil sands industry achieve our net-zero goal.

The Pathways CCS network

Our foundational project will use a CO2 transportation line to link carbon capture facilities at oil sands operations to a storage hub in northern Alberta. The province and our industry have decades of experience safely developing, deploying and monitoring this technology.

The Pathways CCS network is a large-scale, long-term infrastructure project that can create thousands of jobs for Canadians. And it’s one of the best ways we can make measurable emissions reductions by 2030 with technology available right now.

Infographic of the carbon capture and storage process at an oil sands facility


  • How exactly does carbon capture and storage work?

    In the capture stage, equipment attached to industrial facilities diverts gas containing CO2 (before it reaches the atmosphere) into vessels. Then a chemical separates and captures the CO2.

    The captured CO2 is compressed to convert it to a liquid. A specially designed pipeline transfers the liquid CO2 to the secure storage hub. The Pathways Alliance CCS project will follow existing pipeline routes as much as possible.

    Finally, the liquid is injected into the storage hub deep underground.  The Pathways Alliance hub near Cold Lake has ideal geological formations for storing CO2. This location has a deep layer of sandstone, which is porous and full of small spaces. When injected underground in liquid form, CO2 fills these minuscule spaces in the rock.

    Above the sandstone layer is rock salt, a crystal that presses together and acts as a natural seal. And above all that are multiple layers of impermeable or low-permeable rock formations, which also act as natural seals.

  • Is there any proof carbon capture works?

    Yes. Canada already has CCS projects that have been reliably operating for years, and there are dozens more around the world. About 100 projects like ours are in progress in other countries, including similar-sized networks in Norway, the Netherlands and the UK. They’ve also proven that industry-government collaboration can help achieve net-zero goals.

  • Is it safe?

    Yes. The captured CO2 is planned be stored more than 1.5 km underground, far below any freshwater sources. These are rock formations that have stored oil and gas for millions of years and can also securely and permanently store CO2. Careful site selection and constant monitoring at multiple depths ensures stored CO2 remains secure, stable and permanently trapped, without impacting freshwater, plants, soil or geological stability.

  • Are the storage sites monitored?

    Yes. Alberta adopted CCS technologies early, so the province is governed by comprehensive legislation.  The Pathways Alliance team is made up of scientists and engineers with significant technical experience in subsurface reservoirs, rock properties, and safe transportation and storage of gases. They’ll also conduct extensive and regular monitoring of:

    • injection wells
    • storage formation
    • deep monitoring wells
    • shallow groundwater wells
  • Are you working on other technologies?

    Yes. Several hundred engineers, scientists, and experts are working to achieve our net-zero goal. Our working groups are studying and advancing more than 70 technologies, including:

    • next-generation carbon capture
    • direct air capture for underground storage and conversion to liquid fuels
    • natural gas decarbonization from in situ operations
    • ways to better manage fugitive emissions
    • fuel-switching that will replace coke-fired boilers with significantly lower-emission cogeneration units
    • new water treatment tech to lower emissions through improved water recycling


    We’re also working on:

    • a pilot project on molten carbonate fuel cell technology for more efficient carbon capture
    • a study to evaluate the feasibility of CO2 sequestration in depleted gas reservoirs
    • ongoing solvent-injection testing to reduce the amount of steam needed to extract oil
    • using clean-burning hydrogen fuel in oil sands operations
    • assessing the future viability of small modular reactors as a safe, versatile and scalable technology
    • studying the potential for using low-emission deep geothermal energy in the oil sands
    • alternative bitumen extraction methods
    • electrification of mining trucks to move materials more efficiently and reduce emissions
    • applying high-temperature, reverse-osmosis membrane technology—this could reduce emissions by producing water that doesn’t need constant heating and cooling
    • accelerating tech that transforms CO2 into usable products through the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance


    Get more details about these technologies


    Read more about the progress we’ve made

  • How are you working with governments on this project?

    We continue to work with the Federal and Alberta governments to ensure Canada’s CCS co-funding programs and regulatory environment are globally competitive, and that emissions reduction targets for our industry are realistic and achievable. We’re encouraged that the Government of Alberta selected our proposed carbon capture and storage hub near Cold Lake to advance to the next stage of evaluation, and that work is well underway.

    The federal government announced an Investment Tax Credit for carbon capture utilization and storage projects. It’s a positive step forward in our foundational CCS project and our efforts to help Canada achieve its climate goals. And we’ll keep advocating for more support from governments to make sure Canada’s industries are on an even playing field with global competitors.

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