Nnaziri Ihejirika

Nnaziri Ihejirika has nearly fifteen years of engineering and operations leadership experience across the downstream, upstream and midstream sectors of the oil & gas industry with Suncor Energy, Canada’s largest integrated energy company. Nnaziri is the founder of Clean-Efficiency, an energy advisory and advocacy NGO focused on industrial decarbonization globally and access to sustainable energy in emerging markets. He is also an alumnus of the inaugural OnDeck climate tech fellowship as a builder. Nnaziri has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto, and an MBA in strategy and energy management from the Vienna University of Economics and Business.

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                    [post_content] => Canada’s position as a global leader in oil and gas production, as well as a proponent of emissions reduction, has led to significant support for the commercialization of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology. Viewed as the best way to reduce emissions from heavy industry, CCUS can also enable the value chain for technologies like direct air capture (DAC) which are seen as the future of carbon capture. Successful CCUS projects such as Shell’s Quest and the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line have demonstrated that the operational expertise exists in Canada. To support the broad adoption of this technology, the government has introduced two fiscal and regulatory levers – carbon pricing and a CCUS investment tax credit (ITC).

Federal output-based pricing system (OBPS) for carbon, introduced in 2018, will see the cost of CO2 escalate from CA$65/tCO2e in 2023 to CA$170/tCO2e by 2030. Despite some structural differences, there has been strong alignment on carbon pricing and CCUS incentives at the provincial and federal levels. In the province of Alberta, the likely hub of CCUS activity in Canada, the TIER regulation for industrial emitters has been deemed sufficient to avoid the federal large emitter program being applied as a backstop. On the other end of the carrot-stick dynamic, the ITC provides a rebate – approximately 20-30% – of project costs associated with CCUS implementation. The formation of the Pathways Alliance reflects the oilsands sector’s trend towards collaboration as a way of supporting the sector’s economic future. If successful, the alliance will see sharing of common costs like transportation and storage, thus reducing the risk for individual facilities and driving down the levelized cost of CCUS.

The ITC in combination with carbon pricing provides enough of an incentive for firms to deploy CCUS. It may not be as lucrative for investors as the 45Q tax credit in the United States, but it does offer long-term value to heavy emitters when avoided costs of carbon are considered. To sustain momentum and ensure project delivery, additional economic levers may need to be pulled to narrow the investment gap. More importantly, it is crucial that federal and provincial governments offer carbon price certainty, for example through carbon contracts for differences (CCfDs). In addition, whether through programs like TIER or the federal OBPS, tightening rates and the expiry term for offsets and credits may need to be adjusted as required to balance supply and demand. With the government’s carbon management strategy about to be released, there is CCUS momentum in Canada – delivering on it will require continued collaboration, project excellence and consistent fiscal and regulatory frameworks.
                    [post_title] => Scaling CCUS in Canada: An Assessment of Fiscal and Regulatory Frameworks
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                    [post_content] => Canada has been an enthusiastic developer and implementer of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies, currently accounting for nearly 20 per cent of installed CCUS capacity globally. Along with a steep hike in the federal carbon price announced in 2020, the government has crafted a hydrogen-centric strategy to support a decarbonized economic transition, with CCUS identified as a key enabler of both pathways. On the one hand, CCUS justifies continued investment in the oil and gas sector through the permanent sequestering of CO2. On the other hand, creating additional economic value from the blue hydrogen generated from CCUS can demonstrate the viability of carbon-negative hydrogen production using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) or from electrolysis with offsets from direct air capture with carbon storage (DACCS). Oil and gas firms, supported by their peers in heavy industry, have announced blue hydrogen, oilsands CCUS, and carbon transportation projects which – if implemented – could transform the province of Alberta and disrupt the Canadian economy. Despite the bold vision of the government’s strategy and the announced projects, there are potential challenges to widespread CCUS deployment, including technological scope, project finance, and regulatory assurance. Carbon pricing will support project economics, but only up to a certain point, especially given the volatility of commodity markets and declines in Canadian oil and gas sector investment. And federal and provincial regulations – with the allied components of social, Indigenous and environmental support – will require clarity if announced projects are to be implemented.
                    [post_title] => The Role of CCUS in Accelerating Canada’s Transition to Net-Zero
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                    [post_content] => In line with promises made during his election campaign, the Canadian Liberal government of Justin Trudeau enacted the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act in 2018. This act set a carbon tax that increased from C$20/tCO2e in 2019 to C$50/ tCO2e in 2022 and obliged provinces to either develop similar pricing schemes or follow the federal one. The ante was upped in November 2020, when the government announced that the tax would be hiked by C$15 annually beginning in 2023, reaching C$170/tCO2e in 2030. This move sets Canada on the path towards exceeding its commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in 2030 compared to 2005.

Firms in the Canadian oil and gas patch have faced significant headwinds since the oil price collapse in mid-2014. Lower commodity prices have been exacerbated by tight takeaway space, lower investment, and higher divestment. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also resulted in sharply lower demand for liquid fuels, and calls for the economic recovery to be powered by low-carbon energy. Firms, particularly those in the oilsands, have largely remained resilient with profitability approaching pre-2014 levels, despite commodity prices being 30%-40% lower. Potential breakthrough technologies that could significantly reduce upstream emissions, particularly carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) and its enablement of blue hydrogen, are already proven. A sharply increasing carbon tax may provide the business case for broad-based adoption of these innovations at scale.

Strategic approaches for firms include reducing upstream emissions using technology, offering low-carbon fuels to sustain consumer demand and diversifying revenue streams through the sale of upstream by-products like electricity and CO2. Larger oilsands firms, especially the integrated ones, will put effort into all three areas, but their focus is likely to remain on oilsands development, given the long-life of that resource base. Natural gas players will need to be more tactical, and may adopt the approach taken by European majors of turning their attention to the electricity and hydrogen market. The Canadian oil and gas industry is entering into an uncertain period, where the ability of firms to develop and deploy technological breakthroughs while maintaining focus on operating costs and shareholder returns will be key. The carbon tax hike, while onerous in the short-term, could be the catalyst for anew cycle of investment and profitability, even in a carbon-constrained world.
                    [post_title] => Canada’s Carbon Tax Hike and Strategic Implications for Oil & Gas Firms
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                    [post_content] => The Canadian oilsands resource has gone from being touted as energy security for North America to being derided as an energy-intensive form of oil extraction with no long-term future. New investment has been affected by the emergence of other unconventional oil sources, particularly light tight oil (LTO) in the United States. Environmental concerns have also weighed on the debate about the future of the oilsands. Compounding the threat, pipeline capacity has not kept pace with the growth in oilsands production, increasing the discount on Canadian oil relative to global benchmarks and applying downward pressure on operating profits.

The focus of this Energy Insight will be on the levers within the control of oilsands firms, and how effectively they have been deployed to sustain profitability during this turbulent period. From a firm perspective, the oilsands industry largely remained profitable during the oil price collapse and moderate recovery. Strategies adopted by the companies to remain profitable include cost leadership, vertical integration or a combination of both. The data suggest that under a low price environment, cost leadership is the best strategy for oilsands segments to turn a profit, while vertical integration offered an opportunity for the wider company to remain profitable in all business environments, even if the oilsands segment incurred losses.
                    [post_title] => The Canadian Oilsands and Strategic Approaches to Profitability
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            [post_content] => Canada’s position as a global leader in oil and gas production, as well as a proponent of emissions reduction, has led to significant support for the commercialization of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology. Viewed as the best way to reduce emissions from heavy industry, CCUS can also enable the value chain for technologies like direct air capture (DAC) which are seen as the future of carbon capture. Successful CCUS projects such as Shell’s Quest and the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line have demonstrated that the operational expertise exists in Canada. To support the broad adoption of this technology, the government has introduced two fiscal and regulatory levers – carbon pricing and a CCUS investment tax credit (ITC).

Federal output-based pricing system (OBPS) for carbon, introduced in 2018, will see the cost of CO2 escalate from CA$65/tCO2e in 2023 to CA$170/tCO2e by 2030. Despite some structural differences, there has been strong alignment on carbon pricing and CCUS incentives at the provincial and federal levels. In the province of Alberta, the likely hub of CCUS activity in Canada, the TIER regulation for industrial emitters has been deemed sufficient to avoid the federal large emitter program being applied as a backstop. On the other end of the carrot-stick dynamic, the ITC provides a rebate – approximately 20-30% – of project costs associated with CCUS implementation. The formation of the Pathways Alliance reflects the oilsands sector’s trend towards collaboration as a way of supporting the sector’s economic future. If successful, the alliance will see sharing of common costs like transportation and storage, thus reducing the risk for individual facilities and driving down the levelized cost of CCUS.

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Latest Publications by Nnaziri Ihejirika