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Quest consultation — four years and counting
Shell began its community consultation program for its Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project in 2008 — three years ahead of filing a project application and one year before any pipeline rights-of-way were sought.
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.”