The changing political circumstances surrounding carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions due to their potential impact on climate change are discussed. Greenhouse gas emissions are the basis for substantial effort at the international level to reach consensus on targets for reducing emissions. While these targets are currently non-mandatory, the possibility exists that more enforceable regulations could be implemented in the future. Continued political and public support for stricter measures to reduce emissions will depend on more conclusive scientific evidence for serious social and economic impacts from climate change being proven. A number of companies in developed nations have decided that the risk of enforceable measures to reduce emissions are such that they have begun action to if effectively cut their release of greenhouse gases. These projects are usually reforestation projects, using biomass to capture and store atmospheric carbon, in less developed tropical nations. Such action does, however, implicitly provide a value for CO2. International action in the future could extend the application of these individual projects by providing some form of recognition. This would implicitly raise the value of CO2 and potentially provide benefits to CO2 EOR projects. Government action to reduce emissions through the taxation system or by regulation would increase the value of CO2 further and have greater beneficial impacts on the economics of EOR projects.
It is the purpose of this paper to describe some of the issues facing government and industry decision makers as they develop energy and environmental policy or plan longterm projects, such as the Weyburn EaR project in South Eastern Saskatchewan, that will impact on the production, use and economics of CO2. Other papers presented during this conference will provide detail on the Weybum EOR project and technologies for the production of CO2. Additionally, it is not the intent of this paper to debate the reality of climate change and the part anthropogenic CO2 or other greenhouse gas emissions) emissions play in this potentially major environmental issue - there is already substantial material available on this debate in the popular and scientific literature.
Saskatchewan and the provincial oil industry were interested in CO2 as an agent for enhanced oil recovery in Saskatchewan reservoirs before climate change became an issue on the world political stage. In 1987, Shell Canada, Dome Petroleum and Saskoil, with the support of the federal and provincial governments and SaskPower, agreed to test the amine technology for extracting CO2 from the flue gases of a coal-fired power plant at SaskPower's Boundary Dam electrical generating station. This test was a follow-up to the test at TransAlta's Sundance power plant where the flue gases contacted the amine without pre-treatment. While the process worked, amine losses were such that the CO2 recovered would have been prohibitively expensive.
The pilot was operated in Saskatchewan in 1988, at that time the hottest year on record and the summer that convinced some people that climate change had occurred, providing a test for the plant under extreme weather conditions.