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Carbon capture facility reaches five million tonne mark as fifth anniversary nears

Quest CCS facility - CO2 stripper in forefront
Quest CCS facility - CO2 stripper in forefront.

In less than five years since its start up, the Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility has captured and safely stored five million tonnes of CO2 and at a lower cost than anticipated. Five million tonnes of CO2 is equal to the annual emissions from about 1.25 million cars. The cost to operate Quest is about 35% lower than what was forecast in 2015, and if Quest were to be built today, it would cost about 30% less thanks to capital efficiency improvements.

The Quest CCS facility, which celebrated its start-up on November 6, 2015, was designed to capture about one million tonnes of CO2 each year from oil sands operations and safely store the CO2 more than 2km underground in a sandstone rock reservoir. Quest has exceeded this target while lowering costs thanks to an excellent storage reservoir with significant capacity for CO2 injection, and strong capture reliability with less than 1% of downtime annually. Alberta is an ideal location for CCS with its deep saline aquifers and depleted oil fields providing extensive options for safe underground CO2 storage.

"Congratulations to Shell and its joint venture partners for reaching this historic milestone. Exceeding targets for capturing and safely storing CO2 emissions at the Quest facility showcases the energy sector's dedication to technological innovation and government's commitment to responsible energy development," said Alberta premier Jason Kenney. "We're thrilled that Shell is taking the time to share this success story. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is working, and Quest is a model facility that others are learning from across the globe to scale up CCS. Collectively, our voices will continue to tell the world that there's no better place to produce energy than right here in Alberta."

Shell is active along the full CCS value chain and continues to invest in CCS globally as part of its ambition to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner. Shell, together with partners Total and Equinor, took a final investment decision on the Northern Lights CCS project in Norway in May 2020. Northern Lights has incorporated lessons from Quest, which has been sharing knowledge and lessons learned over the last five years to encourage more widespread implementation of CCS. Quest's designs and performance data are available in an annual report through the Government of Alberta website.

Quest CCS facility - CO2 pipe.

Quest is the world's first commercial-scale CCS facility applied to oil sands operations and is operated by Shell on behalf of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP). The respective ownership interests of AOSP assets in aggregate, directly and indirectly, are 70% Canadian Natural Resources Limited and an affiliate, 20% Chevron Canada Limited and 10% Shell Canada Limited through certain subsidiaries.

"Our energy is produced under the world's highest environmental, human rights and labour standards. That's why Canada, led by Alberta, ranks third among oil producing nations in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors - and we're committed to strengthening these efforts. Quest's CCS milestone is the perfect example of how the use of game-changing technology will enable Alberta to build on our existing energy foundation, as we also pave the way for emerging sectors to grow and succeed. Congratulations to Shell Canada, its joint venture partners and everyone involved in Quest's impressive achievement," said Alberta minister of energy Sonya Savage.

Three workers stand in front of Quest CCS facility.

"Widespread adoption of carbon capture and storage is one of the key solutions the world needs right now to help solve the climate challenge," said Shell Canada president and country chair Michael Crothers. "In its fifth year operating, Quest continues to be a thriving example of how carbon capture and storage is working; showing it can make a significant contribution to lowering CO2 emissions and at a lower cost than anticipated. Our expertise, regulatory frameworks and geology make Alberta an ideal place to continue developing CCS technology."

Quest wellhead.

Quest CCS Facts:

  • The Quest CCS facility captures and stores about one third of the CO2 emissions from the Shell-operated Scotford Upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, which turns oil sands bitumen into synthetic crude that can be refined into fuel and other products. The CO2 is transported through a 65-kilometre pipeline and injected more than two kilometres underground below multiple layers of impermeable rock formations. 
  • Quest has stored the most CO2 of any onshore CCS facility globally with dedicated geological storage. Quest has also captured more CO2 in a calendar year than any other CCS facility with dedicated geological storage. Source: Global CCS Institute
  • Quest has a robust measurement, monitoring and verification program verified by a third party (Det Norske Veritas (DNV)) to ensure the CO2 is permanently stored. 
  • Quest received $865 million from the governments of Canada and Alberta to build and operate the facility, which was constructed by Shell and started up in 2015. 
  • CCS technology can be applied to a wide range of industries, including steel, cement and power generation, to significantly reduce CO2 emissions. 
  • Shell is involved in a slate of CCS projects worldwide. Shell is a partner in the Chevron-led Gorgon project in Australia; has a share in the Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) in Norway; and recently took a final investment decision in the Northern Lights CCS project in Norway. CCS technology developed by Shell subsidiary Cansolv is in use at the Boundary Dam CCS project in Saskatchewan.

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