The fundamentals of global energy consumption are changing; the demand for oil and gas will likely increase over the long term driven largely by increased energy demand in developing countries. Simultaneously many global energy companies are faced with aging assets, and have less access to ‘easy’ oil, driving many to explore opportunities in heavy oils. These sources of oil require more energy to produce and therefore emit more greenhouse gases in the production process. This is at odds with the IEA's statement that the world needs to stabilize global greenhouse gases at 450 part per million. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has been suggested as a way to square the circle and support the production of heavy oil while lowering CO2 levels during production. This paper will explore the degree to which CCS may be a solution for reducing the climate impact of heavy oil. The focus of this analysis will be on capture technologies in the Canadian oil sands. This resource represents the largest known heavy oil deposit in the world and requires more energy to produce than conventional oil and most heavy oils, representing a likely maximum cost for heavy oil CCS. The paper concludes that it is technically feasible to use CCS on some, but not all, types of oil sands facilities. It also concludes that CCS from oil sands is potentially inefficient when compared to capture from certain other sources of CO2. Further, this paper will evaluate the cost of CCS at heavy oil facilities and put these in a global CO2 abatement context.

Global Energy Context

Global demand for energy is expected to more than double by 2050 as economies in both developed and emerging countries continue to grow and the standard of living improves in the developing world. The International Energy Agency (IEA) describes three future scenarios. In all three scenarios fossil fuels remain the dominant energy sources in 2035, though their share of the overall primary energy mix varies from 62-80% of the mix in 2035. The varying strength of policy action taken to address climate change, energy security concerns and fossil fuel energy subsidies are the major drivers for the different energy mixes.

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