In 2008 the Government of Alberta committed $ 2 billion to large scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. CCS is a process that captures carbon dioxide emissions from large industrial emitters and stores them in geological formations kilometres below the earth’s surface. To assist in facilitating the implementation of this technology, on November 1, 2010, Bill 24: Carbon Capture and Storage Statutes Amendment Act was introduced and given first reading in the Alberta Legislature, making Alberta the first jurisdiction in Canada to consider comprehensive legislation to regulate CCS projects.

When Bill 24 was introduced, Energy Minister Ron Liepert identified the following three objectives it was intended to address:

  1. To clarify the ownership of pore space in Alberta  
  2. To create a scheme whereby the Province accepts long-term liability for injected carbon dioxide  
  3. To create a stewardship fund, financed by CCS operators, which will be used for remedial and ongoing monitoring costs associated with CCS.  

Regarding the ownership of pore space, notably, Bill 24 proposes to introduce a provision to the Mines and Minerals Act which declares that the pore space below the surface of all land in Alberta, other than land owned by the Federal Crown as of the date that the provision comes into force, to be the property of the Crown in right of Alberta. This declaration would apply regardless of whether the Mines and Minerals Act or an agreement issued under the Mines and Minerals Act grants rights in respect of a subsurface reservoir or in respect of minerals occupying a subsurface reservoir.  

In accordance with Bill 24, the Alberta Government would take over the permanent liability related to the injected carbon dioxide once the CCS operator has collected data substantiating that the stored carbon dioxide is “contained”.  

The CCS operator will be responsible for any mitigation work during the operation until a closure certificate has been issued by the Province. CCS operators will also pay into a postclosure stewardship fund (in an unspecified amount) to be managed by the Alberta Government. The fund will cover ongoing monitoring and any remedial work required.  

As stated by Energy Minister Liepert, “[t]he legislation ensures we are on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions…By using some of the captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, we expect it to double Alberta’s conventional oil recovery generating tens of billions of dollars in provincial royalties and taxes”. According to a News Release issued by the Government of Alberta on November 1, 2010, the Alberta Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council estimates that carbon captured and used in enhanced oil recovery to increase production from depleting conventional reservoirs could produce an additional 1.4 billion barrels of oil, generating up to $25 billion in provincial royalties and taxes.

Bill 24 proposes significant amendments not only to the Mines and Minerals Act, but to numerous other statutes as well, including the Energy Resources Conservation Act and the Oil and Gas Conservation Act.