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Oils Sands Industry Unlikely CO2 Recycling Champion

albertaThe Canadian oil sands industry, long held up as a pariah by the environmental movement, has recently been the source of a flurry of financial and technical assistance for recycling carbon emissions, The Guardian reports.

The impetus for such a seemingly counter-intuitive move appears to be financial, according to the paper. The oil and natural gas industry produces more CO2 than many other industries and, given current legal trends, it seems unlikely that facilities will be able to dump their emissions into the atmosphere without paying for it, the paper says.

Alberta, the Canadian province that houses the oil sands industry, has a $15-per-ton carbon tax. Neighboring British Columbia has a levy twice that high. These taxes are not nearly high enough to worry the industry yet, the paper reports, but the perceived threat of higher levies in the future appears to be affecting the way business is being done.

Bob Mitchell, senior director of the oil sands business unit at ConocoPhillips Canada, told the paper that the company now realizes it is heading for a “carbon constrained” future. As a result it needs a raft of measures for getting costs down and revenues up from CO2 capture.

In 2012, 13 companies that operates in Alberta formed Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. The body is, among other things, supporting a pilot plant being built by COSIA member Canadian Natural Resources that will use carbon emissions captured from oil sands facilities to produce algae-based fuel.

COSIA is also collaborating with Tri-state Generation and Transmission Association, a Colorado-based coal-burning power station that has financed research into carbon recycling. COSIA also has ties to the X-Prize Foundation, which is developing a prize for carbon capture and reuse, the paper reports.

Separately, the publicly-funded Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation has launched a challenge aimed at finding ways to convert carbon dioxide arising from greenhouse gases into carbon-based products with value, the paper reports.

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