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The Quest Project

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ZERO's Kari Elisabeth Kaski visited Shell's quest project in Alberta, Canada. This is her report from the visit.

Photo: Shell

I have just visited Shell’s Quest project in Alberta, Canada. When the project is completed in 2015, 1 million tons of CO2 will be captured and stored in a nearby reservoir. This will make it the first commercial CCS project to deal with some of the climate gas emissions linked to oil sand production.

The Quest project involves capturing CO2 from «the Scotford Upgrader», which processes oil, or bitumen, which is piped from the oil sand plant to Shell in Alberta. Bitumen is thick and cannot be sent directly to the refinery. Instead it is put through an «upgrader» that adds hydrogen and thereby transforms bitumen into crude oil, ready to be refined. Hydrogen is produced in the plant, and it is though this process that Shell will capture CO2.

The decision to invest was made in 2012, building has started, and capture and storage will be up and running in 2015.

Unfortunately, few full-scale CCS projects will be completed in the coming years. This alone makes Quest an especially interesting project, A lot can be learned when it comes to technology, costs, and tools. What makes Shell and Alberta so successful in their CCS venture?

The capture facility

In the Quest project, Shell will use amine technology in the capture process. The capture facility itself is therefore comparable with the full-scale CO2 capture facilities being built by Statoil at Mongstad (CCM). At the same time, Quest will face gas under high pressure and a higher concentration of CO2, which makes it easier to capture CO2.

The capture facility is being built and will be run on the same site as what is currently a large oil refinery. This means that they will face some unique challenges, especially when it comes to the risk of explosions. When it comes to the full-scale Mongstad project, the fact that the power station is on the same site as the refinery is put forward as a significant cost driver. It is interesting therefore to note that the estimated cost of the Quest project is 20 billion lower than those of Mongstad.

An investment in CCS

The Quest project is part of Shell’s CCS portfolio, which is intended to give the company important experience within various parts of the CCS value chain. Bill Spence, who leads Shell’s CCS venture says that he is operating under a clear mandate: to make the company ready to implement CCS if and when it becomes obligatory. According to Spence, the project is seen as vital also at the corporate level.

The project shows, just like the SaskPower project at Boundry Dam, how important it is that the highest levels at companies should be involved in these projects. An important factor in the success of both projects is that the companies themselves have taken the initiative, and are incorporating CCS in their business development.

Costs and measures

The total budget for the project is approximately $1-1.35 billion. Canada and the province of Alberta both have CCS funds that help to finance competing CCS projects. In 2011, the Quest project was granted $745 million from Alberta and $120 from the federal government. A slightly different form of the competitive model has been tested in Europe, but so far without the same results.

Another measure that secures the project’s finances is the Alberta carbon credit system, which in this case gives the company double credit at a carbon price of $15 a ton. From a climate perspective, this is unfortunate, because in reality you could make up for the reduction Quest carries out twice.

Authorities in Alberta have prioritized CCS as a central technology in the province’s industry. In Alberta, wages and jobs are intertwined with the oil and coal industry. CCS is therefore seen as their central measure in reducing emissions in the coming years. However, it must be said that Alberta’s goals for total emission reductions are remarkably unambitious.

The most important thing that marks Quest as an exciting project is that they have moved from planning a full-scale CCS project to actually building one. Projects such as this are important because they show that CO2 capture technology has matured, and that it is possible to use this technology on a large scale within a robust financial framework.





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