Carbon capture, utilization and storage – How it works and benefits

Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) is critical to meeting Canada’s long-term energy needs and climate goals.


Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) is a term that refers to technologies that capture the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) and utilize it or store it safely underground, so that it does not contribute to climate change.

How it works

CO2 is separated and collected from emissions produced by industrial activity, then compressed and transported to a storage site and injected into carefully selected, secure underground geological formations that can safely and permanently store the gas. After injection activity ends at the site, the site is tightly sealed and monitored to ensure there are no safety or health risks to the public or to the environment. More details can be found in the Carbon Capture,Utilization and Storage fact sheet or video.

CCUS involves 3 steps – capture, transport and storage.

  • Capture: During capture, CO2 is separated from other gases produced at large industrial facilities, such as steel mills, cement plants, petrochemical facilities, coal and gas power plants, or from the atmosphere. There are several capture methods in use – all are proven and effective, with different methods applied based on the emissions source.
  • Transport: Once separated, the CO2 is compressed for transportation. This means increasing pressure so that the CO2 behaves like a liquid. The compressed CO2 is then dehydrated before being sent to the transport system.
  • Storage: Following transport, the CO2 is injected into deep underground rock formations, often at depths of 1 km or more, where it is safely and permanently stored. These rock formations are similar to what has held oil and gas underground for millions of years. (Source: Global CCS Institute)
Cone shape showing layers of the earth to show the carbon capture and storage process
Image 1. The carbon capture and storage process (source: Global CCS Institute)

Where it’s stored

For millions of years fossil fuels (oil and gas) were trapped underground in similar geologic formations and would have remained there if humans had not extracted them. Research demonstrates that various geological trapping mechanisms will safely contain the CO2 deep underground.

Geological storage involves injecting captured CO2 into rock formations (not caverns) – called a storage formation – typically underground at depths of more than 1 km, thereby permanently removing it from the atmosphere. According to the Global CCS Institute, storage formations are typically associated with the following characteristics:

  • Pores: millimetre-sized voids that provide the capacity to store the CO2.
  • Permeability: a geologic feature wherein the pores in a rock are sufficiently connected. Permeability enables the injection of CO2 at the required rate, allowing the CO2 to move throughout the formation.
  • Permanence: a storage formation must include an extensive cap rock, or barrier, around the formation which helps ensure the CO2 is contained permanently.

How it benefits Alberta

CCUS is critical to meeting Canada’s long-term energy needs and climate goals. Alberta is among the global leaders in developing CCUS technology. The International Energy Agency (IEA) and other sources say that, without substantial support to further develop and employ this technology, it will be difficult for Canada to meet its emission reduction targets.

Located in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, Alberta has the ideal geology for CCUS. Rock formations that have securely stored oil and gas for millions of years can also safely store CO2 permanently.

By continuing to advance this technology, we will help Alberta diversify the energy sector and reduce emissions in many different industries, including concrete and fertilizer, and hydrogen development. Experts agree that carbon capture and storage will be important for hard-to-abate sectors where no other viable solutions currently exist.

Alberta’s skilled workforce and years of expertise in CCUS are critical to helping industries in the province, and across Canada, meet our country’s emissions goals.

Additional benefits

Alberta is preparing for a lower emission future. Continuing to develop CCUS will help Alberta capitalize on emerging opportunities, such as clean hydrogen development. Alberta has considerable experience with hydrogen and plans to move forward to integrate clean hydrogen into existing and emerging energy systems.

The Hydrogen Roadmap is part of the province’s plan to develop and diversify hydrogen development. Developing CCUS and hydrogen together reduces the cost, coordinates efforts and optimizes the opportunity to responsibly develop this resource.

Alberta’s Petrochemical Incentive Program provides direct funding to companies for eligible projects, which may include CCUS. The program covers 12% of eligible capital costs once a facility is up and running, employing Albertans and producing valuable products for Alberta, Canada and the world.

Funding through Emissions Reduction Alberta’s Carbon Capture Kickstart program is intended to lay the groundwork for significant future investments by supporting pre-construction studies for facility-specific opportunities. This investment will inspire shared learnings about the economic and emissions reduction potential of this critical technology and will position Alberta and Canada as developing CCUS technologies the world needs.


Connect with Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Email: [email protected]