World’s First Oil-sands Carbon Capture and Storage Project Up and Running

Quest carbon capture and storage

By James Noble

November 12, 2015

First announced three years ago, Shell Canada’s Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project recently started commercial operations in Alberta.

The Quest project was launched last week, and will capture about one million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. That’s equal to about a third of the emissions from Shell’s Scotford upgrader in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., a facility that transforms bitumen extracted from oil sands into fuel and other petroleum products. After capture, the carbon dioxide is transported through a 65-kilometre pipeline and injected more than two kilometres underground into impermeable rock formations.

Only 15 large-scale operational CCS projects exist across the globe, largely due to their 10-figure price tags. The $1.35-billion Quest CCS project is owned primarily by Shell, with Chevron and Marathon Oil each holding a 20 per cent stake. The project is a public-private partnership with Alberta’s provincial government and the federal government, which have contributed $865 million to ensure the project’s survival.

As part of the government funding agreements, Shell has agreed to share information on Quest’s design and operations so that the cost of future CCS projects may fall and similar projects may gain traction across the globe.

Canada’s other major CCS project is located in Saskatchewan at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam. This project is also capable of capturing one million tonnes of carbon dioxide while also reducing other pollutants from coal combustion such as sulphur dioxide and fly ash. When it became operational in 2014, the Boundary Dam CCS project was the world’s first post-combustion coal-fired CCS project, which could be important in efforts to mitigate the impact of coal-fired power generation on the environment.

Through the Quest and Boundary Dam CCS projects, Canada has shown a leadership role in CCS. Despite the technology’s high cost, Canada’s early efforts in developing CCS may ultimately help accelerate reductions in climate emissions from fossil fuel extraction and power generation.