Shell approves $1.36bn oil sands carbon capture project for Alberta site

First project of its kind will capture 1m tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and cut emissions by a third, company says

Shell has approved its planned $1.36bn Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project to cut emissions at an oil sands site near Edmonton, Alberta, by more than one-third.

The company said the facility will capture more than 1m tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and inject it 1.2 miles underground.

The project would be the first of its kind for the oil sands, the world’s third-largest crude reserve after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Oil sands projects, particularly upgraders such as this one that convert bitumen stripped from the sands into synthetic crude oil, emit millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and carbon-capture projects are seen as a way to improve their environmental performance.

Shell said the Quest project will the first that it designs, builds and operates and will be at the centre of the company’s carbon-capture and storage research for its global operations.

“We are helping to advance CCS technology on a number of fronts around the world, but Quest will be our flagship project,” Peter Voser, Shell’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The governments of Alberta and Canada are contributing $874m to Quest. In return, the company will share its intellectual property and data from the project. The federal government is looking to carbon capture technology to help its target of cutting CO2 emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

“Our government is committed to exploring and demonstrating CCS technology as a critical opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our environment,” Canada’s energy minister, Joe Oliver, said at a press conference.

However, critics say the funding could be put to better use.

“These are resources that could be much better spent in promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency,” said Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada. “We’d rather see this going towards promoting cars that use less gas, cost consumers less money, or a source of power like wind or solar … The kind of things that are worthy of public support and would actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

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