An agreement to send gas by-products from Shell Canada’s Scotford refinery near Edmonton to Aux Sable’s new Heartland Offgas Plant has cut refinery carbon emissions and helped provide the building blocks for more valuable products such as hydrogen.

In the first year of the agreement, CO2 emissions from Shell’s Scotford Refinery have dropped by approximately 125,000 tonnes. “That’s equal to taking about 25,000 cars off the road,” said Barry Klein, Scotford Manufacturing general manager, adding the deal between Shell and Aux Sable will see that kind of positive environmental impact annually.

Offgas is a waste by-product of the refining process that has little commercial value.

Refineries often use these gasses to fuel their furnaces in the refinery’s processing units. By sending the offgas to Aux Sable’s plant and replacing it with cleaner burning natural gas, Shell is able to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The process used by Aux Sable breaks down the offgas into a number of more valuable product streams. One of these products - hydrogen - is then returned to Shell for use in its refinery process.

"We're very proud to be the first in Alberta to do this," said Tim Stauft, president of Aux Sable Canada. "We're both removing valuable liquids from the offgas and reducing the greenhouse gases that were previously emitted."

"This is an innovative approach that not only helped us to considerably reduce our CO2 footprint, but it's also a big competitive advantage for Shell," said Klein. “This project made a lot of sense from an environmental perspective, but it actually makes money for the companies involved and provides employment in the region. It’s an example of how the Industrial Heartland can extend its competitive advantage.”

Alberta’s Industrial Heartland near Edmonton offers companies many opportunities for this type of integration. In fact, Shell also purchases a hydrogen stream from the neighbouring Dow facility – a by-product from their production process. These types of partnerships provide opportunities for petrochemical companies to become more energy efficient. Given that energy demand will increase over the coming years, finding new and innovative solutions to reduce emissions is an important part of Shell’s CO2 strategy.

“This is what makes this type of partnership so important,” said Klein. “We are always looking to make improvements to our operations, and this project only inspires us to look for new ways to become more efficient.”

More recently, Shell announced it will proceed with its Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, which will reduce CO2 emissions from its Scotford Upgrader near the refinery by one million tonnes annually. That project is scheduled to inject CO2 for permanent storage by late 2015.


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