Carbon capture, utilization and storage – Environmental safety

Alberta’s government is committed to safely advancing carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) across the province.


Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) can help support plans to reduce emissions in oil sands operations and industries such as power generation, petrochemical manufacturing and clean hydrogen production, cement and steel manufacturing, biodiesel production, and natural gas processing.

Research shows that this technology is safe and effective, and Alberta’s government is committed to safely advancing this technology.

A safe and effective approach

Carbon capture and storage graphic
Image 1. Illustration showing carbon capture, utilization and storage process

Carbon capture and storage is a safe and proven technology that is deployed in several other jurisdictions in the world, including Saskatchewan, the United States, Norway, Australia, the Netherlands and Iceland. CCUS technology has been in use for more than 50 years, and around 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) have already been successfully captured and injected underground. (Source: Global CCS Institute)

Through CCUS, captured CO2 from large-scale projects is stored deep below the earth’s surface, typically more than 1 km underground. For millions of years fossil fuels (oil and gas) were trapped underground in similar geologic formations. The rocks targeted to store CO2 are the same type as those currently hosting the oil and gas. Research demonstrates that various geological trapping mechanisms will safely contain the CO2 deep underground, preventing the CO2 from having any impacts on water, plants or the soil.

Careful site selection and rigorous monitoring serve to ensure the injected CO2 remains sequestered and does not have any impact on fresh water, plants, or the soil.

Read the energy fact sheet for more information on the safety of CCUS, and learn about how carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) works and benefits all of us.

A history of success

Alberta has been using carbon storage on a commercial scale since 2015. In fact, the Quest and Alberta Carbon Trunk Line projects have safely captured and stored a total of more than 11.5 million tonnes of CO2 since starting operations.

The Alberta government remains committed to ensuring public and environmental safety as we advance this technology in the province.

Strong regulatory oversight

Through the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), the province has one of the most advanced regulatory systems in the world to ensure the safe, efficient, orderly and environmentally responsible development of energy resources over their entire life cycle. This includes allocating and conserving water resources, managing public lands and protecting the environment while providing economic benefits for all Albertans.

Alberta has some of the most stringent guidelines in the world to protect public safety, the environment and landowners. The capture, transport and storage of CO2 is well-regulated and each project must be designed, operated and decommissioned in accordance with all applicable environmental regulations and laws. For any CCUS project to move forward, the operator will need to obtain regulatory approvals for energy-related facilities from the AER for CO2 capture, transportation, subsurface injection and storage activities. The AER will ultimately only approve projects that meet the province’s rigorous safety and environmental standards.

Legislation requires that carbon sequestration projects provide and follow a comprehensive monitoring, measurement and verification (MMV) plan and provide a site closure plan. This MMV plan is intended to ensure the injected CO2 is contained and conforming to the predictive modelling in order to protect human health, groundwater resources, hydrocarbon resources and the environment.

On April 25, 2023, the Government of Alberta delegated to the AER the oversight of MMV plans, closure plans, and closure certificates for CCUS activities in the province. The AER has amended references to and submission requirements for MMV and closure plan submissions that can be found at Directive 065: Resources Applications for Oil and Gas Reservoirs.

Monitoring and measurement

Monitoring and measurement are the surveillance activities necessary for ensuring the safe and reliable operation of a CO2 storage project.

Storage sites are analyzed and monitored:

  • before (to establish a baseline)
  • during (reporting safety, measures of CO2 in the ground, air, and water and tracks injection rates and volumes)
  • after (for decades, to confirm it is performing as expected) large-scale CO2 storage projects to ensure the area surrounding the site is unaffected and the CO2 is safely contained in the storage site

Types of monitoring and measurement:

  • Subsurface: monitors the movement of the CO2 in the storage site and the stability of the cap rock
  • Near surface: monitors soil, well water, and groundwater to ensure CO2 is not leaking
  • Atmospheric: monitors CO2 levels in the air around the site

Guidelines for items to be addressed in a monitoring, measurement and verification plan for a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project can be found in the Alberta Energy Regulator's Directive 065.

Developing environmentally-safe storage hubs

To help manage the growth of this technology, Alberta is also issuing  carbon sequestration rights through a competitive process that enables the development of carbon storage hubs. Alberta selected 25 proposals in 2022 to begin exploring how to develop environmentally-safe carbon storage hubs. This approach will ensure that carbon capture and sequestration will be deployed responsibly and strategically in the best interest of Albertans. For a project to move forward, the operator will need to obtain regulatory approvals from the AER for the CO2 capture, transportation and the subsurface injection activities. Learn more about the hub development and approval process.


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