One million tonnes of CO2 captured and stored each year at Quest is equivalent to the annual emissions from about 250,00 cars.
One million tonnes of CO2 captured and stored each year at Quest is equivalent to the annual emissions from about 250,00 cars.

Quest – A Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project that is Exceeding Expectations

In its first operating year, Quest has captured and safely stored one million tonnes of CO2, and has achieved this milestone ahead of schedule.

“The success we are seeing in Quest demonstrates that Canadians are at the forefront of carbon capture and storage technology, showing the world that we can develop real solutions to address climate change,” said Zoe Yujnovich, Executive Vice President, Heavy Oil for Shell. “Not only is Quest capturing and storing CO2 emissions from our oil sands operations, but its technology can be applied to other industries around the world to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions.”

Quest has been working better than planned, both in preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere and in safely storing that CO2 deep underground, since its start-up celebration in November 2015. Both its capture technology and storage capability have helped Quest exceed its target of capturing one million tonnes of CO2 per year, and through careful study and monitoring, the subsurface geology is proving ideal for long-term, safe storage of CO2.

Shell is doing their part, through Quest, to share knowledge and technology, to help bring down the cost of CCS. If Quest was built again today, we estimate that it would cost 20-30 per cent less to construct and operate thanks to a variety of factors including capital efficiency improvements and a lower cost environment.

Since 2014, Quest has drawn interest from governments and education institutions in places like the US, Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, Mexico and Taiwan. We continue to share knowledge and lessons learned by hosting more than 50 international delegations at Quest and by collaborating with others to improve their technology.

In September 2016, the Global CCS Institute will hold a global CCS classroom event at Quest with CCS experts from around the world to explore lessons from our experience.

CCS is viable in the world’s energy transition and in some cases, the only viable option for significantly reducing emissions from large-scale emission sources. The success of Quest after only one year of operations shows that the technology is working and can be applied to a variety of industrial sectors such as power, iron and steel.

For CCS to have an impact on global CO2 emissions, it needs to be supported by governments and taken up widely by industry. Quest was made possible through funding for CCS from the governments of Alberta and Canada (C$745 million and C$120 million). From the outset, any intellectual property or data generated by Quest has been publicly available, in collaboration with the governments of Alberta and Canada, to help bring down future costs of CCS and encourage wider use of the technology around the world. effective government support and robust regulatory frameworks will continue to be critical to accelerating the momentum of CCS implementation worldwide.

“Supportive government policy was essential in getting Quest up and running and will continue to play a vital role in developing large-scale CCS projects globally,” added Yujnovich. “Together with government we are playing our part, through Quest, to help bring down future costs of CCS. This includes facilitating the development of this globally significant technology and sharing the lessons we have learned to help bring down costs of design, construction and operation of future CCS facilities.”

In addition to Quest, Shell is involved in a slate of leading CCS projects worldwide. Building know-how in carbon capture and storage is one of the immediate actions Shell is taking to address climate change. Our focus in Canada at the moment is on knowledge sharing through Quest.

Discover more about ccs

Key to Addressing Climate

Key to Addressing Climate Change

The Athabasca Oil Sands project produces heavy oil called bitumen, which is transported by pipeline to Shell’s Scotford Upgrader near Edmonton, Alberta. Beginning in 2015, Quest will capture and store deep underground more than one million tonnes a year of CO2 produced in bitumen processing.

CCS is critical to meeting the huge projected increase in global energy demand while reducing CO2 emissions, explained Peter Voser, Former Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell plc. “If you want to achieve climate change goals, CCS has to be part of the solution.” The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects CCS could provide around one fifth of the world’s CO2 emissions reductions by 2050. The agency also calculates the cost of reaching those CO2 targets will be 70 per cent higher without rapid CCS progress.

“We will need all sources of energy to meet world demand in the coming decades,” Voser noted. “Lower CO2 energy sources will grow, but even by 2050 at least 65 per cent of our energy will still come from fossil fuels. So CCS will be important to manage climate impacts.”

Shell is proceeding to construct the Quest CCS project at its Scotford oil sands Upgrader near Edmonton, Canada on behalf of the joint venture owners and with funding from the Canadian and Alberta governments. The Upgrader and Quest are part of the 255,000-barrel-per-day Athabasca Oil Sands Project, owned 60 per cent by Shell Canada Energy and 20 per cent each by Chevron Canada Limited and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation.

Designed to capture and store more than one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, Quest will capture about one third of the direct emissions from the Scotford Upgrader – that’s equivalent to the emissions from about 250,000 cars.

Shell’s flagship CCS project

Shell considers Quest the flagship of its global CCS programme. It is the world’s first commercial-scale CCS project to tackle carbon emissions in the oil sands, and the first CCS project in which Shell will hold majority ownership and act as designer, builder and operator. It will also form the core of Shell’s CCS research programme and help develop Shell’s CO2 capture technology. To progress CCS on a global scale we need projects like Quest to improve technology and lower costs.

In addition to Quest, Shell is involved in a slate of leading CCS projects worldwide. Shell is a 25 per-cent partner in Australia’s Gorgon natural gas liquefaction project, operated by Chevron, that includes the world’s largest CCS project.

The facility is expected to start storing CO2 in 2015 and will capture between three to four million tonnes of CO2 per year. In Norway, Shell is a partner in the world’s largest CO2 capture research facility, Test Centre Mongstad (TCM), and at Boundary Dam, in Saskatchewan, Shell’s Cansolv subsidiary has provided carbon capture technology which will recover 90 per-cent of the CO2 from flue gases of a new 150-MW turbine at the existing coal-fired power plant.

In 2010, Quest was one of the projects worldwide recognized by the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) contributing to global research and collaboration in CCS advancement. It’s also one of eight projects the consulting group Bloomberg New Energy Finance has said place North America in the lead of the international “Race to First” for CCS technology development.

Shell aims to be a technology leader within the energy industry and CCS development is an important part of that effort. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently named Shell as the only energy company in its list of the world’s top 50 corporate innovators. “Much of the engineering expertise needed to progress CCS already exists within Shell,” noted Shell CO2 Executive Vice President Graham van’t Hoff.

“We have decades of experience in understanding subsurface reservoirs, rock properties and the ways in which gases are transported and stored,” van’t Hoff added. “This is one of the reasons we are well placed to progress CCS projects.”

Globally, Shell is working with governments and other CCS interests - both political and technical - to develop and deploy CCS on a wider scale.

CCS technologies

key to addressing climate change

“Most of these technologies have already been separately tested and proven over many years of reliable use in the energy industry,” said Len Heckel, Shell Canada’s Quest Venture Manager.

The three component technologies of CCS are:

carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction from process gas streams;
pipeline transportation, and;
injection of CO2 into a deep geological formation.

“We’re confident Quest will demonstrate that these components will work just as safely and reliably within an integrated CCS system as they have in other applications,” Heckel said.

Shell will construct the Quest CCS project on behalf of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project joint venture owners, which are Shell Canada Energy (60 per cent), Chevron Canada Limited (20 per cent) and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation (20 per cent). The project has also received funding from the governments of Alberta and Canada.

Beginning in 2015, Quest will capture more than one million tonnes per year of CO2 from Shell’s Scotford oil sands upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta -- the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road annually. The CO2 will be sent by an 80-km pipeline to a suitable storage site where it will be injected and permanently stored more than two km underground.

Quest uses Shell technologies

Shell’s patented ADIP-X amine-based capture technology has been a worldwide gas processing industry standard for extracting hydrogen sulphide and CO2 from natural gas for more than 40 years. Fine-tuning the amine process to preferentially recover 98-per-cent-pure CO2 from the upgrader’s hydrogen manufacturing units is the only new aspect of the Quest carbon capture unit.

The Scotford upgrading process adds hydrogen to the heavy oil to break it down into synthetic crude oil which can then be processed into products like gasoline. Producing this hydrogen produces one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions from the upgrader.

Capture facilities will use an amine solvent to capture the CO2 from the process stream. The CO2 is released from the amine by heating and then dehydrated and compressed. The compression reduces its volume by about 400 times turning it into a very dense fluid. The “liquid” CO2 will be transported by an underground pipeline to between three to eight injection wells located north of the upgrader.

CO2 has been transported by pipelines in large volumes since 1972, for use in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) from declining oil fields, mostly in Texas. The longest, largest-capacity pipeline in the world was originally built in 1983 and was operated by Shell, moving CO2 800 km from the naturally-occurring McElmo Dome reservoir in Colorado to the Wassan oilfield in Texas. Today, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says 105 projects in that country safely inject more than 50 million tonnes of CO2 per year into oil formations to produce 90 million barrels of oil per year.

The natural gas industry also has decades of experience in injecting into underground geological formations. Although underground geological formations were first proposed by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1909 as the safest and most secure way to temporarily store large volumes of natural gas, the first commercial gas storage facility was opened in Welland County, Ontario in 1915.

Demonstrating storage capacity

Shell’s Quest CO2 storage formation is not connected to an oil or gas reservoir. Rather, Quest is designed to prove the storage capabilities of the very deep Basal Cambrian Sandstone (BCS) formation that underlies large parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northern Plains in the U.S. The BCS is considered ideal for CO2 storage at the chosen location because of its more than 2-km depth and multiple overlying layers of impermeable rock formations that act as regional seals.

Demonstrating the capacity and capability of this formation for high-volume permanent CO2 storage is important for the CCS projects that will be required in future to help governments achieve their CO2 reduction targets.

According to Dr. Stefan Bachu, a Distinguished Scientist with Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures*, the BCS is the best formation for permanent storage of CO2 in Alberta and Western Canada based on its large storage capacity; lack of hydrocarbons or other resources that would conflict with its use as a CO2 storage reservoir; and the fact that historically it has been penetrated by very few wells.

“Developing CCS as a technology to address climate change is vital,” says Dr. Bachu. “Shell's Quest project is important because it will help to demonstrate the integrated technology and the suitability of the BCS for CO2 storage.”

Quest will be the first CCS project in North America to inject commercial-scale volumes of CO2 into the BCS – after being the first project in Alberta to receive the rights to inject CO2 into “pore space” under new provincial CCS legislation enacted in 2011.

Modeling the subsurface

Shell has made a competitive advantage of its ability to model subsurface formations and this expertise has been used to ascertain the containment integrity of the underground area selected for storage.

“Our confidence in ability to safely and permanently store CO2 underground is partly based on experience with natural gas storage, which our industry has done with an excellent safety record for nearly 100 years,” said Project Subsurface Manager, Sean McFadden.

“We’ve taken extensive measures to be sure that the Quest storage formation is located in an area where there are multiple layers of impermeable sealing formations,” McFadden said.

Careful site selection

“Three sealing layers immediately overlying the Quest storage reservoir located deep underground include rock salt layers and a shale layer, totaling some 150 metres (485 feet) of impermeable rock. Chemical comparisons of salt water content in the BCS, with formations just above it show that there has been no communication between the two zones and that the salt water in this formation has been securely isolated for hundreds of millions of years.

“We’ve selected a storage site in the Basal Cambrian Sands because leading independent geologists rate it an excellent reservoir for large-scale carbon storage,” says McFadden.

According to McFadden, as a further precaution Shell selected a site that would avoid proximity to any legacy wells drilled into the BCS or its sealing formations.

“We’ve also designed the Shell injection wells with safety in mind,” McFadden said. “To protect shallow groundwater we’ve designed our CO2 injection wells with three layers of steel casing, each cemented in place to the surface,” McFadden said.

To avoid corrosion in either the pipeline or the injection wells that can be caused by water associated with the CO2, Shell has included a dehydration unit at Scotford to remove free water content from the CO2 stream. As further protection against corrosion, the bottom sections of tubing within CO2 injection wells will be chrome steel.

The materials selected for the pipeline were also based on their suitability for CO2 transport, and the pipeline will be made from low-temperature carbon steel material with specific toughness requirements.

Sophisticated monitoring technology

“As a new project type we recognize the onus is on Shell to do more, rather than less, in the area of safety assurance,” says McFadden.

“That’s why we will install a comprehensive suite of very sophisticated monitoring equipment at the Quest storage site to maintain multiple levels of measurement, monitoring and verification (MMV) over the life of our project to confirm that the CO2 remains contained. We’re conducting extensive monitoring underground – in the injection wells, the storage formation, deep monitoring wells and shallow groundwater wells - to provide the highest possible levels of assurance to area residents,” McFadden said.

Quest also underwent a comprehensive third-party expert audit of its storage development plan and is the first project in the world to have received certification of fitness for safe CO2 storage by DNV (Det Norske Veritas) of Norway.

Cost reduction vital

Quest is intended to demonstrate that all the components of CCS work reliably together in an integrated system for safe and effective capture, transport and storage of CO2 from an oil sands upgrader — but Heckel said the real technical challenge is to identify ways to reduce the costs of commercial-scale CCS projects.

“CCS is something we need to do in order to reduce the carbon profile of industry in general and the oil sands in particular,” he said.

“A functioning industrial economy will need hydrocarbon energy for decades to come. By 2050, global energy demand is expected to double and, while hydrocarbons will be a smaller portion of energy totals, their use will increase in absolute terms. At the same time that energy demand increases, we must cut total CO2 emissions and CCS will be essential to that effort.

“The really big challenge will lie in driving down CCS costs in order to deliver energy that’s both affordable and has lower CO2 emissions,” Heckel said. “What we learn from Quest will be very important to that effort. And it will be even more important to the oil sands because of its high-cost production profile. Reducing CCS costs will be vital to keeping the oil sands and Alberta competitive.”

* Dr. Stefan Bachu is a Distinguished Scientist, CO2 Storage, at the Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures (formerly Alberta Research Council). He has spent two decades researching carbon storage and over 30 years researching subsurface flow of fluids and heat in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. As a result of his contribution, in 2007 he shared in the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

He represents Alberta and Canada on various national and international bodies dealing with CO2 Capture and Storage such as the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, sits on various advisory panels, and, is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control.



With the oil and gas sector such an important driver of Alberta’s economy, most people are familiar with the concept of resource extraction,” says Margit Phillips, Quest’s community relations officer. “However, the idea of injecting large volumes of CO2 underground was a new concept to most people, and a large part of our early consultation efforts were focused on explaining what CCS is, and why the technology is important.

Quest is Alberta’s first integrated oil sands CCS project. It’s designed to capture and store more than one million tonnes of CO2 per year from Shell’s Scotford oil sands upgrader, located about 50 km northeast of Edmonton. Upon completion in 2015, Quest will capture up to 35 per cent of the direct CO2 emissions from the upgrader, transport the CO2 by an 80-km pipeline and inject it into secure storage more than two kilometres underground.

According to Phillips, consultation efforts were focused on landowners and residents living along the proposed pipeline route and living in close proximity to the proposed injection wells, and making sure local municipal government representatives were aware of Shell’s plans.

Responding to stakeholder input

As a result of these discussions, more than 30 adjustments were made to the pipeline route to accommodate stakeholder input.The pipeline was also routed to follow 28 km of existing pipeline right-of-way.

“We made sure we understood community expectations before we finalized the Quest project design and submitted our application,” said Margit Phillips. “Shell has integrated community consultation into its business strategy and we believe we have a better project because Quest respects community aspirations.”

Besides meeting individually with landowners along the pipeline right-of-way, Shell also held a number of sessions that were open to the public. The first open house for Quest was held in 2008, she said. Since then there have been 16 more open house information meetings in the local area and two Quest workshop sessions for invited stakeholders and community leaders. Additionally:

  • Quest information packages were sent to local residents;
  • a dedicated 1-800 number was established;
  • a public website was created for questions, answers and concerns; and,
  • a community newsletter has been created to keep the residents informed of Shell’s plans.

In addition, two community opinion surveys have been completed to gauge peoples’ awareness and support for Quest and further surveys are planned to keep Shell current with community opinion related to Quest construction and operations.

Community Advisory Panel

Shell is now in the process of establishing a community advisory panel of local leaders and stakeholders to regularly review data from the Measurement, Monitoring and Verification (MMV) program.

Shell’s MMV program involves multiple state-of-the-art technologies and is designed to provide further confidence that the CO2 will remain contained.

“We’ve gone well beyond regulatory requirements in designing our MMV program,” Phillips said. “In addition to validation of our plans by internal subsurface experts, we also sought a review of our plans by external CCS experts.”

Seven CCS experts from academia and research institutes were assembled by the international risk management firm, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), to perform a comprehensive review of Shell’s storage development plan and MMV program.

Regulatory review process

The regulatory process for the Quest project also provided a thorough and comprehensive review of all aspects of Shell’s project. A public hearing in March presided over by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the provincial regulatory authority, provided another forum for the public to provide comment or ask questions.
In the regulatory approval it issued for the Quest project in July 2012, the ERCB commented on Shell’s consultation program:

“The Board finds that the communication and public consultation program initiated by Shell exceeds the minimum Participant Involvement Program requirements of Directive 056. The Board commends Shell for its communication and consultation to date.

The Board notes Shell’s plan to consult with regulatory, scientific and public communities on how to best share its reports and data. The Board strongly supports Shell’s plan to consider forming community advisory panels to help with the communication of complex monitoring data and developments.”

more in about us

Who we are

Learn about our business and people, and how we grew from a small shop in London nearly 200 years ago.

What we do

Shell is a global group of energy and petrochemical companies. We employ around 8000 employees in Canada.

You might also like