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Shell’s Quest to study carbon capture

Local $20M project to get started by fall, province kicks in $6.6M

Posted By Paul Grigaitis / Record Staff

21 October, 2008

Fort Saskatchewan will be home to the future of carbon capture and storage if Shell’s Quest project proceeds the way they’ve planned.

Shell revealed its plans for a $20-million carbon capture and storage project, titled Quest, at the Dow Centennial Centre on Thursday. Shell’s effort to reduce CO2 emissions from its oilsands operations will receive $6.6 million in funding from the province through the Alberta Energy Research Institute.

Shell’s Quest project will examine the CO2 injection capability and storage capacities in geographic formations two kilometres underground.

The first stage of Quest involves drilling three test wells into the ground followed by an injection of CO2 (supplied by truck) into the porous rock and salt water below. Dense layers of rock above the storage formation will prevent the CO2 from escaping back into the atmosphere, Shell says.

Shell’s Scotford upgrader was chosen for the project because of its ability to provide pure CO2. The saline aquifers two kilometres below the surface have the ability to store 30 years worth of CO2.

Rob Seeley, general manager of sustainable development for Shell’s oilsands operations, said the project will likely payoff with new jobs and business opportunities for Fort Saskatchewan in addition to reducing Shell’s carbon footprint.

“It’s not having any affect on air quality in the local community, but it is essentially one of the tools in the toolkit around this whole climate change issue. We should feel proud that we’re doing something quite locally to combat a global issue,” Seeley said.

What makes Quest unique is that it is strictly intended to store CO2 emissions rather than using them for enhanced oil recovery, said Malcolm Wilson, director of the office of energy and environment at the University of Regina.

Wilson, who was at the DCC during Shell’s open house Thursday, has been involved in a carbon capture enhanced oil recovery project in Weyburn, Sask., where about 14 to 15 million tonnes of CO2 has been injected in the ground since 2000.

The findings in Weyburn, a project also funded by Shell, can be used in the design of Quest, he said.

Wilson said the local Quest project will pave the way for the future in carbon capture and storage.

“We’re going to learn a lot from Quest.”

Drilling of the test wells is expected to begin in fall, Seeley said. Over the next 18 to 24 months the company will study the science and economics of the project.

If the project proceeds, a three-year construction period will follow with CO2 sequestration expected to begin by 2014.

The first test well will be dug at the Scotford upgrader. Another will be built about 10 kilometres north, near Redwater, and another one will be drilled near Smoky Lake about 60 kilometres northeast.

Kathy Loffelbein and her husband, who operate a cattle farm near Smoky Lake, came to the Quest open house on Thursday.

“We want to know what the benefits are and if there are any negative side effects to this,” Loffelbein said. “What happens if there is a leak of CO2?”

Wilson said that the underground saline aquifer targeted as a CO2 storage formation for Quest poses a lot less risk for leakage than the storage facilities in Weyburn where up to one thousand wells have been drilled underground.

Because Quest is used for strictly sequestration, there are less wells drilled therefore reduced risk for leakage.

“The potential for leakage goes down substantially so long as you understand the geology,” Wilson said.

Those who were unable to attend Shell’s open house are invited to phone 1-800-250-4355 for more information on the Quest project.

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