​Quest CCS project reaches big CO2 storage milestone

Image: Shell

A carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility near Edmonton has reached a milestone that ranks it the highest of its kind in the world.

The Quest project has stored four million tonnes of carbon dioxide underground since operations started four years ago, more than any other onshore CCS facility with dedicated geological storage, according to data from the Global CCS Institute.

Quest is part of the package of assets that Canadian Natural Resources Limited acquired a majority stake in from Shell Canada and Marathon Oil for $12.74 billion in 2017.

The project is connected to the Scotford Upgrader, which is integrated into Shell’s Scotford refining complex, and as such, Shell continues to be the operator.

The $1.35-billion Quest facility was built with support from the provincial and federal governments; in 2011 Alberta committed $745 million to help fund Quest, which was followed by $120 million from the Government of Canada.

Shell says that the is performing better than expected on a number of metrics including its operating costs and its ability to both capture and store CO2.

“From a technological perspective, I think we’ve de-risked it to a large extent. It’s a very, very safe operation. The real challenge, to be honest, for CCS and CCUS is really more on the business and economics side,” Shell CCS advisor Anne Halladay told JWN.

“This is a new industry and currently it needs some sort of incentive here in the province and globally to get going, but we’re working to get rid of some of those business barriers to deploy more.”

Halladay said that in the early stages of Quest project development, Shell thought it was going to cost significantly more to build and operate, although she admits that the company was conservative in its projections.

“I think what we’ve been able to demonstrate over the past four years is that our costs are coming down. Initially in the project phase 5-10 years ago we thought it was going to cost us about $120/tonne to build and operate this facility. Now we’re finding that costs are more around $80/tonne, so that’s super significant,” she said.

“If we did this again, we think we could even get that lower to $60/tonne.”

That’s also an estimate of the cost to replicate the Quest CCS facility and not for a carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) project that involves a commercial use for the carbon dioxide - something like the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line.

The $900-million ACTL project is currently under construction and expected to start operating in 2020.

When completed, it will be the world’s largest CO2 pipeline. The 240-kilometre pipeline will collect captured CO2 from a fertilizer plant and the new Sturgeon Refinery near Edmonton, and pipe it to mature conventional oilfields near Clive, Alberta.

It is estimated that the CO2 from the pipeline will allow producers to wring an additional one billion barrels of light oil out of mature, largely depleted reservoirs.

ACTL is also expected to sequester up to 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 per year.