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Diagram depicting upgrading process

Shell’s Upgrading Operations

 

In 2003, Shell opened the Scotford Upgrader, to process bitumen from Shell Albian Sands. It is integrated with Shell Canada's Scotford Refinery – near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta – making it one of the most energy efficient facilities of its kind. Shell operates the Upgrader on behalf of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project.

Shell is the operator and majority share holder of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP), a joint venture between Shell Canada (60%), Chevron Canada Limited (20%) and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation (20%), which consists of Shell Albian Sands mining and extraction operations, north of Fort McMurray, the Scotford Upgrader and the proposed Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project located north of Edmonton.

The synthetic crude is shipped to refineries, where it is further processed into fuel products like gasoline. A significant portion of Shell’s share from the Scotford Upgrader is sold to the Scotford Refinery, as well as Shell's Sarnia Refinery in Ontario. The remainder is sold to the general marketplace.

The Scotford Upgrader has the design capacity to processes 255,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of diluted bitumen from Shell’s Muskeg River Mine and Jackpine Mine. Shell currently holds regulatory approval to expand the processing capacity of the Scotford Upgrader to 290,000 barrels per day.

Technology: Scotford's upgrading process adds hydrogen to the bitumen, breaking up the large hydrocarbon molecules to create synthetic crude oil. This process is called hydrogen-addition or hydro-conversion. Hydrogen addition technology results in a slight volume gain, meaning the Upgrader yields approximately 103 barrels of synthetic crude from every 100 barrels of bitumen processed.

The Scotford Upgrader offers significant environmental advantages:

  • Adding hydrogen rather than removing “coke” (through a process called coking) means there is no coke-byproduct to dispose of.
  • Synthetic crude oil enables refiners to produce clean, high-quality refined products, such as gasoline and diesel fuel, with low levels of aromatics, particulates and sulphur.
  • Integration across Scotford’s processing facilities (Upgrader, Refinery and Chemicals), as well proximity to neighbouring industry sites, provides efficiency benefits.
  • Scotford Upgrader was designed with heat integration and energy efficiency in mind. Based on external benchmarking, Scotford Upgrader is world-class in energy intensity performance and nearly two times as energy efficient as the average conventional refinery.
  • Scotford will be the site of the proposed Quest Carbon Capture and Storage project. Quest would capture one million tonnes of CO2 from the Upgrader’s operations per year.

For more information on Shell’s environmental performance, see our 2012 Oil Sands Performance Report.

Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

 

Shell Canada, on behalf of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project, has gained conditional regulatory approval for the Quest CCS Project -- a fully integrated project that would capture, transport, and store more than one million tonnes of CO2 per year from Shell’s Scotford Upgrader.

In 2011 Shell signed agreements with the governments of Alberta and Canada, securing $865 million in funding for Quest.

Shell is involved in a number of demonstrations of CCS projects globally as well as full-scale deployment projects to advance a range of different CCS technologies and so reduce costs and optimise efficiency.

The Quest Project was awarded the world’s first certificate of fitness for the safe underground storage of CO2 from the international risk management firm Det Norske Veritas. It will also be the world’s first CCS application developed for the oil sands industry.

The final investment decision to proceed with Quest will depend on a number of factors including regulatory and permitting approvals, final project economics and consultation with stakeholders. Pending a final investment decision, injection of CO2 would begin in 2015.

Introducing CCS in Alberta will create more jobs, stimulate economic activity, establish initial infrastructure and, most importantly, support Alberta and Canada’s drive to address climate change as part of a global effort. The experience gained locally through the early implementation of CCS demonstration projects such as Quest will prove invaluable in developing the capability and the capacity to enable industrial facilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Quest will provide significant benefits to the environment, the regional economy and the local communities near the project facilities.

Why CCS?

CCS is a proven, technically viable and safe means of reducing greenhouse gases. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that CCS is one of most promising technologies to achieve the rapid reduction of CO2 needed this century. The technology could achieve a 55 per cent reduction in the world’s green house gas emissions by the year 2100.

The Quest project would help both Canada and Alberta meet their CO2 reduction goals.


The federal government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 to 2020. Alberta’s Climate Change strategy calls for a reduction of 200 million tonnes of CO2 by the year 2050. CCS is expected to account for about 70 per cent of that reduction.
 

People: Currently, about 850 people work full time at the Scotford Upgrader.
Introducing CCS in Alberta will create more jobs, stimulate economic activity, establish initial infrastructure and, most importantly, support Alberta and Canada’s drive to address climate change as part of a global effort. The experience gained locally through the early implementation of CCS demonstration projects such as Quest will prove invaluable in developing the capability and the capacity to enable industrial facilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Quest will provide significant benefits to the environment, the regional economy and the local communities near the project facilities.

Approximately 500 construction jobs per year will be associated with Quest. Full-time operations and maintenance positions will also be added at Shell Scotford.

Shell has operated in the Scotford area for almost 30 years and has a long history of being a good neighbour to the local communities.

Shell consults with the community on all aspects of its operations and will continue to talk with and listen to communities, landowners, governments and other stakeholders.

Social Investment: While the most significant opportunities we bring to the communities in which we operate are directly related to our operations, Shell also contributes to the general well being of the communities around our in situ operations.

In 2011, the AOSP contributed over $3 Million to the communities around its operations, through our Shell Community Service Fund, FuellingChange and the United Way. Projects included a donation of $3,000 to the Fort Saskatchewan Rebels Lacrosse Association through our Community Service Fund, $10,000 to the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters' Society through FuelingChange and a $750,000 donation to the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital for a CT Scanner and Suite, and the Shell Healing Garden. For more information of Shell’s Social investment initiatives, visit www.shell.ca/community.

Related Links

Scotford Manufacturing Centre is one of North America’s most modern and efficient refineries. The Scotford Refinery was the first to exclusively process synthetic crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands and produces 100,000 barrels per day of products such as diesel, gasoline, jet fuel and propane.

Shell Jobs & Internships

 

 

Together, the Scotford Refinery and Upgrader employ about 750 full-time and contract employees.

For information on Shell’s new graduate recruitment program, please visit our Campus Recruiting pages.

For more information on employment opportunities at Shell’s Scotford Refinery and with Shell across Canada, see our Jobs & Careers page.