Historic Shell carbon capture project captures one million tonnes of CO2

In September, Shell Canada’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility in Alberta announced a significant milestone: it had captured one million tonnes of carbon dioxide in its first year.

The project, named Quest, will capture about one-third of the emissions from the Scotford Upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. It is the world’s first oil sands CCS project.

The CCS process separates CO2 from other compounds during upgrading with the help of chemicals called amines. The CO2 is compressed, and then shipped in liquid form by pipeline to a facility at Thorhild County, 65 kilometers north of the upgrader. There, it is injected 2.3 kilometers into the earth, where is it permanently stored.

It was a $1.35-billion project, funded in part with $745 million from the Alberta government and $120 million from Ottawa.

Zoe Yujnovich, Executive Vice-President for heavy oil at Shell, says the technology provides an important bridge as part of a long-term transition towards renewable energy.

“The success we are seeing in Quest demonstrates that Canadians are at the forefront of carbon capture and storage technology, showing the world that we can develop real solutions to address climate change,” she said.

“Not only is Quest capturing and storing CO2 emissions from our oil sands operations, but its technology can be applied to other industries around the world to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions.”

Demand for oil products continues almost unabated, and experts believe that fossil fuels will remain the dominant drivers for heating and transportation for at least 25 years. So, to mitigate CO2 emissions, CCS is a necessary technology. Indeed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes that new targets on climate change may be impossible to meet without it.

Michael Crothers, the President and Country Chair of Shell Canada, explained the need for CCS in a recent opinion piece, which was published in the Globe and Mail.

“… Despite its promise, CCS seems to be the Cinderella of the world’s energy transition. It is yet to be invited to the ball. Instead, attention is focused on renewable energy and efficiency measures.

“Consider this. Desert Sunlight in California is the world’s fourth-biggest photovoltaic solar farm. It covers a land area equivalent to 300 Rogers Centres. It received a federal loan worth nearly $2-billion (U.S.), and displaces 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

“But it would need to be more than three times bigger, covering an area 16 times the size of Toronto Islands, to displace the same amount of carbon dioxide that the Quest CCS project is storing away for good.”

The project has received a lot of attention from other countries, including the United States, Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, Mexico and Taiwan.

“We continue to share knowledge and lessons learned by hosting more than 50 international delegations at Quest and by collaborating with others to improve their technology,” Shell reported on its website.

More strides are being made in Canadian refining, such as at the Redwater Partnership project, also in Alberta – the first purpose-built CCS refinery.
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