Quest Carbon Capture and Storage Project, Alberta, Canada

The Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project, being developed by Shell as part of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) in Alberta, Canada, is the world's first commercial-scale CCS project planned for an oil sands operation.

The Quest CCS project will capture, transport and store underground more than one million tonnes of CO² from Shell's Scotford Upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan, which was opened in 2003 to process bitumen from Muskeg River and Jackpine oil sands mines of AOSP, a joint venture of Shell (60%), Chevron (20%) and Marathon Oil (20%).

Shell, the designer, builder and the operator of the Quest CCS, started construction on the $1.35bn project in September 2012. The CCS project, upon becoming operational in late 2015, will cut down about 35% of direct CO² emissions from the Scotford Upgrader, which will be equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road annually.

Carbon capture, transport and storage at the Quest project

Scotford Upgrader produces synthetic crude oil by adding hydrogen to bitumen derived from the Athabasca Oil Sands extraction. The upgrader's steam methane units that produce hydrogen for upgrading bitumen are the main source of CO² emissions at the facility.

Athabasca Oil Sands Project, Alberta, Canada

The Athabasca Oil Sands Project is the latest fully integrated oil sands development in 25 years.

The Quest carbon capture facility will capture CO² from the process stream by using an amine solvent. The CO² will then be separated from the solvent by applying heat.

The captured CO² will be dehydrated and compressed into liquid form before being transported via a 60km underground pipeline to a storage site in Fort Saskatchewan located 50km north of the Upgrader facility. The liquid CO² will be injected through three previously drilled injection wells into the porous rock formation called the Basal Cambrian Sands (BCS) for its permanent storage about 2km beneath the ground.

At the time of injection, shallow groundwater will be protected by three separate barriers of borehole steel casing all cemented in place for each of the three injection wells. The formation contains salt water or brine, which will be replaced by the liquid CO². The liquid will be stuck in the small pores of the formation. As time passes a growing percentage of the liquefied CO² will dissolve in the brine and sink to the bottom of the storage.

The Basal Cambrian Sands (BCS) formation is located beneath three sealing layers of impermeable rock, salt and shale, which provides effective barriers to keep the CO² contained deep underground. Sophisticated monitoring technologies will ensure that the CO² is permanently stored.

Quest CCS project financing

A funding agreement was signed between Shell and the Governments of Alberta and Canada to secure $865m for the Quest CCS project in June 2011. The Alberta government will provide a funding of $745m from its $2bn CCS support fund, while the remaining $120m will be provided by the Government of Canada through its Clean Energy Fund.

Shell will share the CCS technology used in the project with the governments as a part of the agreement.

Technologies used

Shell's measuring, monitoring and verification (MMV) technologies and systems are being used to ensure the expected performance of the storage site.

Shell's patented ADIP-X amine-based capture technology will be fine tuned and used at the CCS project to recover 98% pure CO² from the upgrader's hydrogen manufacturing units.

Fluor's 3rd Gen Modular ExecutionSM proprietary technology is used to design the capture unit of the project. The technology significantly decreases the plot size of the unit while improving safety by relocating 90% of the field construction hours to a module yard.

Safety measures

The CO² is dehydrated before being transferred to the pipeline to protect against corrosion in either the pipeline or the wells. The bottom sections of tubing within the injection wells will also be made of chrome steel to prevent corrosion further.

The 60km pipe is being made from low-temperature carbon steel material with specific toughness requirements.

Shell has ensured that the storage site is not proximate to any legacy wells drilled into the BCS or its sealing formations.

Quest CCS project construction

Approximately 50% of the construction work is being carried out at an offsite construction yard and third-party construction facilities in Edmonton are being used. The final pre-assembled model for the capture unit was fitted in August 2014, bringing the capture facilities to 70% completion. Mechanical completion of the underground pipeline is expected by the end of 2014.

"The 60km pipe is being made from low-temperature carbon steel material with specific toughness requirements."

The construction of the Quest CCS Project will involve approximately 400 skilled trade workers on an average for approximately 30 months, while approximately 700 workers will be required at the peak of construction.

Quest and CCS development in Canada

Det Norske Veritas (DNV), an international risk management firm, awarded the Fitness for Safe CO² Storage certificate to the Quest CCS project in November 2011. It is the first such certification to be awarded to any CCS project in the world.

Quest is also the first project to have received rights to inject CO² into underground rock formation in Alberta under the new provincial CCS legislation 2011.

In September 2013, Shell contributed the Quest project to COSIA's (Canada's Oil and Sand Innovation Alliance) Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Environmental Priority Area (EPA) making accessible the technology and the related intellectual property of the project to any member of the GHG EPA for use in their own oil sands operations.

Contractors involved

Flour is the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the Quest carbon capture facility.

KBR, a company based in Texas, was awarded the off-site modularisation and pipe fabrication contract for the project in April 2013. 

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