Len Heckel talks Shell Canada Quest carbon storage effort
Construction on Quest CCS expected to wrap up in 2015
Len Heckel is the manager of the Quest CCS project, which is designed to take one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced from Shell’s Scotford oil sands upgrader each year and store it underground. Construction of the project at Shell’s 255,000-barrel-per-day upgrading facility is expected to be complete in 2015.
Alberta Oil: Why did the company decide to go ahead with this project?
Len Heckel: What’s critical for us is having a lower carbon footprint for the oil sands. Quest puts us there. We’re positioning ourselves so we can take advantage of markets in the future that either have restrictions in place or legislation around high carbon footprint crudes. We’ll be in a place where we don’t have to worry about that. We feel this is going to give these markets a better view of oil sands crudes when we sell them.
AO: How does it feel to be involved in Alberta’s first CCS project?
LH: It’s exciting. The first one out of the gate always has its challenges because it’s new territory. We look forward to that. Technically the project is very sound and we’ve looked at all the challenges that are in front of us. We feel confident we can address them.
AO: How confident are you that no CO2 will leak into the atmosphere from the site?
LH: Quest is not the first world-scale CCS project. There have been a few that have been in operation – like the Weyburn project in Saskatchewan – and those projects have been around for 15 years. There has been no evidence of any CO2 leakage from those sites. More important is the work we’ve done to categorize the storage site itself. The Basal Cambrian Sands is the deepest possible formation suitable for this. And we’ve done a lot of seismic and testing of the site to ensure there are no existing fracture points, which are potential leaking paths.
AO: What impact do you hope the Quest project will have?
LH: Quest is going to be the first project that uses a saline aquifer to store the carbon. If [other CCS proponents] look at saline aquifers as a potential storage site, they’ll be able to look at the data we’ve acquired and knowledge we’ve gained from Quest, and be able to make a good assessment of where they would put in a saline aquifer project.
AO: The Quest project is getting $865 million in government funding. Can future CCS projects be built without taxpayer dollars?
LH: It will be challenging. I think enhanced oil recovery is a natural revenue source for many projects. But I think a future marketplace that demands a lower carbon footprint, and may apply a penalty to crudes that don’t do that, will create its own economic drivers. We can foresee a future where there is an economic driver for CCS projects simply to get the oil sands barrel in line with what the world needs it to be.