Canadian Underwriter

Oilsands carbon capture and storage project reaches one-year milestone

September 14, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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Shell Canada has announced that the Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project has captured and stored one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) underground “ahead of schedule” in its first year of operation.

The Caterpillar 797B is the world’s largest mining truck with horsepower equal to 100 pick-up trucks. Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. The Quest Project will be the first application of carbon capture storage for an oil sands operation. Photo Credit: .Shell Flickr.

Quest is the first CCS project applied to oilsands operations, and was made possible through collaboration between Shell Canada, joint venture owners Chevron Canada Limited and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation, and the governments of Alberta and Canada, Shell said in a press release on Wednesday.

“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,” said Zoe Yujnovich, executive vice president, oilsands, for Shell. “Not only is Quest capturing and storing CO2 emissions from our oilsands operations, but its technology can be applied to other industries around the world to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions.”

Quest has been working better than planned, both in preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere and in safely storing that CO2 deep underground, since its start-up last November, Shell said in the release. Both its capture technology and storage capability have helped Quest exceed its target of capturing one million tonnes of CO2 per year, and “through careful study and monitoring, the subsurface geology is proving ideal for long-term, safe storage of CO2.”

Quest was designed to capture and store about one-third of the emissions from Shell’s Scotford Upgrader (near Fort Saskatchewan, Alta), which turns oilsands bitumen into synthetic crude that can be refined into fuel and other products. One million tonnes of CO2 captured and stored each year at Quest is equivalent to the annual emissions from about 250,000 cars, the release said.

From the outset, any intellectual property or data generated by Quest has been publicly available, in collaboration with the governments of Alberta and Canada, to help bring down future costs of CCS and encourage wider use of the technology around the world, the release said. This means that others can take the detailed engineering plans, valued at $100 million, to help build future CCS facilities.

“Supportive government policy was essential in getting Quest up and running and will continue to play a vital role in developing large-scale CCS projects globally,” added Yujnovich in the release. “Together with government, we are sharing lessons learned through Quest to help bring down future costs of CCS globally. If Quest was built again today, we estimate that it would cost 20-30% less to construct and operate thanks to a variety of factors, including capital efficiency improvements and a lower cost environment.”

One of the lessons learned has pointed to how significant cost savings could be achieved through joint transportation and storage facilities, Shell reported. For example, another capture facility could be tied into the existing Quest pipeline for CO2 storage. Operating costs for Quest are also 30% less than anticipated, mainly due to lower fixed costs and energy efficiency savings.

Quest was built by the Athabasca Oil Sands Project joint-venture owners Shell Canada Energy (60%), Chevron Canada Limited (20%) and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation (20%), and was made possible through support from the governments of Alberta and Canada who provided $745 million and $120 million, respectively, in funding.

The Global CCS Institute said that there are 15 large-scale CCS projects in operation worldwide, with a further seven under construction (total CO2 capacity for the 22 projects is around 40 million tonnes per annum). Four large-scale projects are in Canada.

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