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Shell Announces CCS Plan for Edmonton-Area Refinery

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Shell Canada Ltd. has announced tentative plans to build a large-scale carbon capture and storage project at its Scotford Complex near Edmonton, part of its strategy to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050.

The company expects to finalize the plan in 2023, and won’t even expect government subsidies to make it happen, The Canadian Press reports.

The proposed Polaris CCS project will capture carbon dioxide from Shell’s Scotford refinery and chemicals plant, the company said Tuesday, with storage capacity of about 300 million tonnes of C02 over the life of the project.

“It’s a significant reduction of emissions,” Shell’s senior vice-president of products and chemicals Mark Pattenden told CP, adding the project’s initial phase could see the plant capture and store 750,000 tonnes of C02 per year.

He said that would result in direct and indirect emissions reductions of up to 40% from the refinery and up to 30% from the chemicals plant.

Pattenden wouldn’t attach a price tag to the project, CP writes. But he said Canada’s soon-to-be-implemented Clean Fuel Standard—as well as the federal carbon tax, which is set to increase to $170 per tonne by 2030—means Polaris makes financial sense and won’t require government funding.

“We’re confident we have a robust project,” he said.

Shell already has experience with carbon capture and storage at its Quest facility, which it operates on behalf of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project joint venture at the Scotford Complex. The installation has safely stored more than six million tonnes of C02 in its six years of operation, and Shell said it has proven to be 30% cheaper to operate than anticipated. The colossal fossil is also involved in other major carbon capture projects in Norway and the Netherlands.

Chris Severson-Baker, Alberta regional director at the Pembina Institute, said Shell’s announcement Tuesday is significant because it reduces emissions from an existing facility rather than a new fossil fuel project. “Often when there’s announcements…of new technology that will result in better environmental performance. it’s usually on a new project, so it’s actually adding emissions overall even though it might be lower on a per-unit basis,” he told CP. “In order for us to achieve the kind of targets Canada has set, we need to achieve really significant reductions in existing emissions from oil and gas operations.”

But even so, Canada will need significantly more CCS capacity to have a shot at meeting its 2050 climate change commitments, Seversen-Baker added. “We don’t know exactly how much carbon capture we will need in Canada, but we will need a certain amount of it and certainly a heck of a lot more than we’ve already developed,” he said.

In its release Tuesday, Shell said it wants to transform the Scotford Complex into one of five energy and chemicals parks it owns around the world, CP writes. In the first phase of the Polaris project, Pattenden said, carbon dioxide captured from the Scotford refinery would produce blue hydrogen for use in the refining process, with the potential for large-scale blue hydrogen production later on.

Shell is also exploring opportunities around biofuels. Within the decade, Pattenden said, the company wants to use carbon capture and storage and renewable power to process bio-oils or waste oils that emit less carbon dioxide.

“These would be potentially blended into existing fuel streams that we sell to customers or in the future they could be produced as stand-alone fuels…they could immediately be put into vehicles,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2021.