Shell's Quest CCS facility stores over a million tonnes of CO2 annually

Sep 19, 2019   | Categories: Environment, Fossil Fuels, Lower Carbon Future
Shell is committed to reducing their emissions intensity and continuously works to improve the energy efficiency of theirs operations. Back in 2015, Shell and its partners opened the Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Alberta, an initiative which aims to reduce the effects of global warming. Earlier this year, the Quest project reached an important milestone when it announced that it had captured and safely stored four million tonnes of CO2, ahead of schedule and at a lower cost than anticipated.
In this article, we’ll talk about Quest and Shell’s other CCS projects which aim to use a combination of technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide deep underground, preventing its release into the atmosphere.
We talked to Stephen Velthuizen, External Relations Advisor to get an update about Quest and learn more about Shell’s other initiatives in a recent Q & A interview.
Q: Shell has a long tradition of innovation and is committed to doing its part in tackling climate change and finding ways to provide energy with less carbon dioxide. As the first world’s first oil sands CCS project, Quest project is a great example of both. We last featured this initiative in 2016 – what has happened since then?

A: Since Quest started operations less than four years ago, the facility has captured and safely stored over four million tonnes of CO2. This was done ahead of schedule and at a lower cost than anticipated. To give a sense of scale, four million tonnes of CO2 is equal to the annual emissions from about one million cars. Quest has now stored underground the most CO2 of any onshore CCS facility in the world with dedicated geological storage.

We had high expectations for Quest, but what we’ve actually seen is both the capture and storage processes are working better than anticipated. The facility is exceeding its target of capturing one million tonnes of CO2 per year and the storage reservoir – two kilometres underground – is demonstrating incredible capacity for CO2 injection. 
Q: We’ve given a high level explanation of what carbon capture and storage is. Can you explain to us how it works in more detail? And what the environmental impact of implementing CCS represents?

A: Quest captures CO2 from three hydrogen manufacturing units (HMU) in the Scotford upgrader facility. CO2 is a by-product of steam methane reforming (where you use natural gas and steam to create pure hydrogen). A Shell-proprietary amine is used to absorb the CO2 from within the HMU and the amine/CO2 mixture is then sent to the Quest capture facility where it is separated. The amine is recycled back to capture more CO2 and the CO2 is sent to be dehydrated and compressed. Once compressed to a supercritical state (or liquid-like state), the CO2 is sent to a 65-km pipeline that brings it to three injection wells. The CO2 is injected two kilometres underground into a porous sandstone layer called the Basal Cambrian Sands. The rock layer has excellent permeability and porosity – allowing the CO2 to be easily injected. Numerous layers of impermeable “caprock” layers sit on top of the Basal Cambrian Sands – ensuring the CO2 will stay safely and permanently stored underground.

In terms of environmental impact, the Quest CCS facility stores over a million tonnes of CO2 annually. This has reduced the CO2 emissions from the Scotford upgrader by about a third.

Q: Q: Shell believes that CCS will play a big part in the next energy transition. What needs to take place in a refinery to accommodate CCS? 

A: There is room for CCS in just about any refinery (along with many other industrial facilities). There are different capture technologies depending on the source of CO2 (for instance, pre- or post-combustion), but the overall process is about the same for different CCS facilities. The biggest challenge is not technology (all of the technologies used in CCS have been used in the industry for decades), but rather it’s a cost challenge.
The good news is that costs are coming down. When we first proposed Quest, we estimated it would cost $120 per tonne of CO2 stored (inclusive of feasex, capex, and opex). We’ve had significantly lower operating costs with Quest, and our actual performance is showing overall costs closer to $80/tonne. If Quest were to be built again today, it would cost 20-30% less to build thanks to a variety of factors including replication of publicly available engineering, capital efficiency improvements and a lower cost environment. So, our estimate for the cost of building a new CCS facility based on Quest would be closer to $60/tonne.

Q: Shell has an integrated approach to sustainability; the company believes it is essential to the longevity of your business and your role as a member of society. How is this reflected in how you approach innovation and business decisions?

A: The world needs to take urgent action to tackle climate change. The Paris Agreement set a goal of keeping the rise in the global temperature well below 2° Celsius, and Shell strongly supports it. Our ambition is to make sure the energy we sell is in tune with society as it moves towards that goal.

Shell intends to cut the carbon intensity of the energy products we sell, in step with society as it moves towards the goal of the Paris Agreement. That means fewer greenhouse gases emitted on average with each unit of energy we sell – by around 20% by 2035 and by around half by 2050.

The world also needs more energy. While clean energy solutions will make up an ever-greater percentage of the energy mix, we will need more and cleaner energy in the future. Given this, oil and gas production will continue to play an important role in the future.

Shell has created a New Energies business, which is focussed on developing new fuels and power. We also recognize the key role that innovation plays in improving the carbon intensity of the oil and gas portion of our portfolio.

Q:  With increasing energy demands, and environmental pressures rising, how is Shell adapting and leveraging innovation to find ways to emit less CO2?

A: Shell is looking at opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions from refining globally. This can be looking at more efficient ways to provide heat, power or steam, it could be carbon capture and storage, or it could even be finding ways to integrate our refineries into local neighbourhood efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and boost renewable energy. The right approach and innovation depend on the local reality, but globally Shell is committed to meeting our aspiration of more and cleaner energy for consumers.
To learn more about Shell and how they use ingenuity, innovation and technology to unlock more, cleaner energy, please visit:
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