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Home » Environment » On the Quest for Cleaner Energy with Carbon Capture Technology
Michael Crothers

Michael Crothers

President & Country Chair, Shell Canada

As Canada looks to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s much discussion about the concept of a green recovery — a widely-used term for the environmental, regulatory, and fiscal reforms needed to recover prosperity after the pandemic.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C, emphasized that many clean energy technologies will be needed to mitigate climate change. The world needs clean technologies, and it needs them now.

In Canada, there is one technology that’s been successful for many years whose moment may have finally arrived: carbon capture and storage (CCS), which traps carbon dioxide (CO2) and transports it to a storage location, usually deep underground.

Shell’s Quest facility lowers carbon emissions and costs

This year, the Shell-operated Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility in Alberta reached a major milestone: over five years, Quest officially captured five million tonnes of CO2 from oil sands operations and safely stored the CO2 underground. That amount of CO2 is equal to the annual emissions from about 1.25 million cars.

Innovative partnerships like the Quest CCS facility can help Canada balance its economic and environmental aspirations. Quest, which was constructed by Shell and started up in 2015, is a joint venture between Canadian Natural Resources, Shell, and Chevron, and received partial funding from the governments of Canada and Alberta to build and run the facility.

“With Quest, together with joint venture partners and government, we’ve shown the world that Canadians have the know-how and technologies to lower carbon emissions and that CCS is working,” says Michael Crothers, President and Country Chair at Shell Canada.

Not only is Quest showing the world that CCS works, it’s also showing that this technology can run at a lower cost than anticipated. If it were to be built again today, the Quest facility would cost about 30 percent less thanks to capital efficiency improvements.

“Our Scotford complex, where Quest is located, is synonymous with innovation,” says Crothers. “Not only is it among the most energy-efficient operations of its kind in the world, it’s also a platform for future opportunities — an energy hub for the next generation. We see it as providing Canadians and global customers with lower-carbon energy solutions.”

Looking at the Carbon Capture Unit

Global leaders in CCS

While the Quest CCS facility has proven to be a great success, for Canada to meet the 2050 net-zero emissions target set as part of its plan to fight climate change, CCS will need to continue to grow both in Alberta and in Canada at large. The good news is that the technology currently used to capture CO2 in facilities like Quest can be applied to existing industrial sources and growing sectors to lower CO2 emissions, such as hydrogen production and clean power generation.

“Widespread adoption of CCS is one of the key solutions the world needs right now to help solve the climate challenge,” says Crothers.

In Norway, together with Equinor and Total, Shell is looking to develop the Northern Lights project, a transport and storage solution for CO2 from industrial sites in Europe. A decision is expected later this year on whether Norway will move ahead with the project. The Northern Lights project has incorporated lessons from the Quest facility, which has been sharing knowledge learned over the last five years to encourage greater adoption of CCS.

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