Carbon capture and storage (CCS) safety

Safety is our top priority and ingrained in everything we do, including careful site selection and regular monitoring. Our member companies have developed some of the world’s most advanced safety measures.

How do we know CCS is safe?

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is a key part of the Pathways Alliance plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from oil sands operations.

Once it’s captured, how can carbon dioxide, CO2, be stored safely? Not every location is suitable. Storage locations in Canada and elsewhere are carefully chosen for their geological properties. Located in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, Alberta has the ideal geology for the stable, permanent storage of captured CO2.

The storage formations are located deep below the Earth’s surface, well below any freshwater sources. They are sometimes deep saline aquifers, geological formations made up of water-permeable rocks.

Alberta has the right kind of geology for storage, with multiple permeable reservoirs beneath cap rocks located far below the surface. In Alberta, the reservoirs and cap rocks sit in a geologically stable region, with minimal risk of natural seismic activity.

No wonder Alberta is one of the most suitable places in the world for the safe construction and operations of large-scale CCS projects. Canada’s energy industry has been a CCS trailblazer and is a leader in that expertise.

Captured CO2 is stored more than one kilometre underground, a depth equivalent to about three stacked Empire State Buildings. Once the CO2 is injected underground, comprehensive monitoring confirms the CO2 remains sequestered and does not have any impact on geological stability. Once it’s captured and stored, CO2 doesn’t enter the atmosphere.

By working together and with governments, oil sands companies are helping Canada meet its climate goals. CCS is one of many paths that will lead oil sands operations to net-zero emissions.

Where is the network?

Our proposed CCS network uses a CO₂ pipeline to gather captured carbon dioxide from oil sands facilities in northeastern Alberta and move it to a planned storage hub in the Cold Lake area of the province. While we prepare our application to move the project forward, we continue to engage with Indigenous groups, surrounding communities and other interested parties.

Map of Alberta with a line running south from the Fort McMurray region to the Cold Lake region.

Where is the carbon dioxide stored?

The proposed storage hub near the Cold Lake region of Alberta will be located more than one kilometre below the Earth’s surface, which is deeper than any freshwater sources.


The Pathways Alliance team will conduct underground monitoring in the injection wells, storage formation, deep monitoring wells and shallow groundwater wells to ensure the safe storage of CO₂ and provide assurance to nearby communities and individuals.

We have significant technical experience understanding subsurface reservoirs, rock properties and the transportation and storage of CO₂. Because Alberta was an early adopter of CCS, the province has comprehensive legislation governing this process.

Carbon Capture and Storage: Safety

September 2023

Discover how risk management, geological surveys and monitoring systems are used to ensure safe carbon capture and storage.

We’re building many paths to net zero

Our companies represent about 95% of Canada’s oil sands production. Together, we can go further, faster. We’re working with the federal and Alberta governments to achieve our goal of net-zero emissions from oil sands operations by 2050.