Proposed carbon capture pipeline will benefit Indigenous communities, says Pathway Alliance VP

Thursday, January 18th, 2024 8:24am


Image Caption

Mark Cameron of Pathways Alliance


“There is really nowhere else better in the world than in northeastern Alberta and Saskatchewan for carbon capture for permanent storage.” — Mark Cameron of Pathway Alliance
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Mark Cameron is the vice-president for external relations for Pathway Alliance, which was formed in 2021. Its members consist of leading companies that operate about 95 per cent of the country’s oil sands production.

Pathways Alliance is working with Alberta and federal governments to achieve a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from oil sands production.

Cameron was in Toronto on Jan. 11 speaking at the True ReconciliACTION conference staged by the Indian Resource Council (IRC). He was a panelist for a discussion titled “Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage: The Path Towards Net-Zero.” The IRC was founded in 1987 by chiefs representing oil and gas producing First Nations.

Cameron provided details on Pathway Alliance’s foundational project, which is a flagship carbon capture storage initiative.

“It involves creating a 400-kilometre pipeline to go from Fort McMurray to just south of Cold Lake in Alberta,” he said.

It would connect together carbon capture units on 14 different facilities and bring carbon where it would be stored permanently underground just south of the Cold Lake region.

“This is really a massive project in terms of scale,” he said. “It’s a $16.5 billion capital spend.”

Cameron said the project would create massive economic activity, resulting in about 100,000 jobs in Alberta and additional jobs and spinoff effects across the country.

Cameron also said the proposed pipeline would be an ideal storage spot for carbon capture.

“There is really nowhere else better in the world than in northeastern Alberta and Saskatchewan for carbon capture for permanent storage,” he said.

“We’re also deeply engaged in classifications with the First Nations communities,” he said. “There are 25 First Nations and Métis communities in the region that extend from Fort McMurray to Cold Lake.”

Talks with Indigenous representatives have been ongoing for a while.

“We’ve been engaged in pre-consultation for a couple of years,” Cameron said. “We’re having roundtables with the CEOs, companies and the chiefs. And also, now we’re moving forward in formal consultations with over 1,000 engagements of one kind or another, ranging from community meetings to letters to formal chats with the First Nations of the region.”

Cameron said there’s already an existing relationship with Indigenous peoples with the six companies that comprise Pathways Alliance. They are Imperial, Suncor, Canadian Natural, Cenovus, MEG Energy and ConocoPhillips Canada.

“There’s a long history in the oil sands of working with First Nations,” he said. “In the last few years $10 billion has gone to the Indigenous-owned companies for development in the region.

It’s big business already. But expanding it to this carbon capture project we’re looking at in northeastern Alberta would, I think, increase that to another level.”

This is why Cameron believes the project will be a boost for Indigenous peoples as well.

“We see a real opportunity for this to be an example of reconcile-ACTION,” he said. “The pipeline in particular I think is ripe for direct Indigenous participation.”

Another panelist was Jason Comandante, a vice-president of Capital Power, a company which has 30 generation facilities across North America. The company has the capacity to power as many as five million homes.

Comandante focused his talk on Capital Power’s Genesee station, located about 50 kilometres west of Edmonton. The station, previously powered by coal, is being transitioned to operate by natural gas.

The plan is to have the Genesee project become a net-zero carbon emitting facility. Its carbon capture storage is one of Capital Power’s major ongoing projects.

Comandante was frank when asked about his company’s relationship with Indigenous partners.

“I can answer the question in two words,” he said. “What are we doing? I would say, ‘not enough’. I’m not proud of it. But I’m just being open and honest.”

Comandante said relationship building could have been handled much better.

“The conversations, meetings and relationship building that we’ve engaged in started too late,” he said. “I would say it started in earnest approximately one year ago. Where we’ve gotten from a year ago until now has not been very far, very meaningful. As a representative of Capital Power, I personally certainly bear the brunt of the responsibility.”

Comandante said uncertainty of projects is one of the reasons his company has not brought in Indigenous participation sooner.

“One of the things that maybe we’re too careful with it, is we don’t want to bring a contract forward necessarily that doesn’t have a very strong potential for success,” he said.

Comandante said Capital Power would be more than willing to have Indigenous participation on projects once there are certainties projects will go ahead.

Another panelist was Matt Brister, the president of Bison Low Carbon Ventures, a company founded in Calgary in 2020, in part, to operate carbon storage facilities.

Brister said his company believes in early relationship building with Indigenous communities.

“It identifies a problem or maybe an opportunity,” he said.

Support Independent Journalism. SUPPORT US!