Canadian Manufacturing

Shell embarks on carbon capture quest

Project is first of its kind for oilsands in Canada.



CALGARY—Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced plans today to go ahead with the Quest carbon capture and storage (CSS) project.

The project will store carbon dioxide (CO2) generated at the Scotford Upgrader—part of the Athabasca Oilsands Project—below the earth’s surface.

The Athabasca Oilsands Project in Fort McMurray, Alta., is a joint venture between Shell, Chevron and Marathon Oil. The Shell-owned Scotford Upgrader produces synthetic crude oil using the hydrogen-addition process, which breaks up the bitumen’s hydrocarbon molecules and produces CO2 as a by-product.

The CO2 will be pumped along 80-kilometres (km) of underground pipe and injected into the Basal Cambrian Sands, a porous rock formation north of Fort McMurray located 2 km underground, below layers of impermeable rock. Shell says Quest will reduce direct emissions from the Scotford Upgrader by 35 per cent—the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road.

“Carbon capture and storage is critical to meeting the huge projected increase in global energy demand while reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” said Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

“If you want to achieve climate change goals, CSS has to be part of the solution.”

Ottawa has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 607 megatonnes, or 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and Environment Canada said in August we are well on the way to meeting that target.

The oil and gas sector’s share of CO2 has risen dramatically from 1990 to 2005 as a result of oilsands development. Emissions fell from 2005 to 2010 due to decreased demand for petroleum products during the economic downturn, Environment Canada reports.

Still, the oil and gas industry released 154 megatonnes (MTs) of CO2 in 2010, accounting for roughly 22 per cent of Canada’s total emissions. Alberta’s share of CO2 has continued to increase, reaching more than 233 MT in 2010, up from approximately 166 MT in 1990.

Both the government of Alberta and the federal government have invested in the Quest project. Alberta will invest $745 million from a $2-billion fund established to support Quest, while the feds will contribute $120 million through the Clean Energy Fund.

Quest is scheduled to kick-off in late 2015. During the 30 months of construction, the project is expected to provide an average of 400 jobs for workers in the skilled trades, peaking at 700.

“Quest is important because it is a fully integrated project that will demonstrate existing capture, transportation, injection and storage technologies working together for the safe and permanent storage of CO2,” said John Abbott, Shell’s executive vice-president of heavy oil.

“The knowledge it provides will help to enable much wider and more cost-effective application of CSS through the energy industry and other sectors in years to come.”

Shell is involved in the development of CSS projects in other countries, including Australia and Norway.

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