Shell has ambitious plans to create potentially multiple carbon capture and storage (CCS) hubs in Asia, with the first such facility expected to enter operations at the end of the decade.

The UK supermajor is looking at potential locations including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China and India where depleted oil and gas reservoirs could offer storage potential.

The aim is to have carbon storage facilities available to help customers reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including from Shell’s own Energy & Chemicals Park in Singapore.

“Within Asia Pacific itself, if you look at the different countries, they all provide different attributes to support a central CCS industrial hub proposal here [in Singapore],” said Yu Li P’ing, Shell’s general manager for CCS in Asia.

“We’re certainly looking at… Malaysia where we’ve already signed a joint study agreement with Petronas to explore potential storage and also for capture of CO2 from our operations in-country as well as our operations outside of the country.”

Yu added that it is “fairly critical” for Shell to capture the company’s own emissions from its Energy & Chemicals Park in the Lion City and then to look for a storage solution either by pipeline or shipping.

“We are also exploring a number of other countries to look at their very high, promising storage potential in Southeast Asia,” he said.

CCS is vital for Asia Pacific to decarbonise, however, unlocking the potential of CCS in Asia will require cross-border public-private partnerships, such as governments providing incentives or tax breaks, Shell noted.

Shell aims to have at least 25 million tonnes of storage capacity by 2035 and CCS is a key pillar of its climate target to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050.

Ultimately, Shell envisages as much as 15 million tonnes per annum CO2 storage capacity in Southeast Asia.

“You have certain countries that are potential customers of the [carbon] sinks and you have other countries that are the providers of the sinks,” said Syrie Crouch, Shell’s CCS vice president.

“Countries such as Japan, Korea and Singapore are potentially drivers of change” in the regional CCS arena, Crouch said.

Yu added: “What is very important is not just capturing our emissions but capturing the emissions of our customers — so ensuring that we provide a solution.

“A lot of our customers… around Asia are looking for a storage solution for their emissions. [This] also enables them to start producing low-carbon products.”

Reverse FPSO

Shell envisages transporting the CO2 to an onshore location from where volumes will be sent via a pipeline to an offshore reservoir for storage, but it is evaluating the potential for offshore storage that would not require pipeline infrastructure from shore.

“What I can see in the future — and this is something I am challenging people to look at — is a sea hub or effectively a reverse of an FPSO [floating production, storage and offloading vessel] where you actually put a tanker and you can just do ship-to-ship transfer,” Crouch told Upstream.

“That’s partly because once you’ve compressed CO2 it acts like a liquid, so you can just pump it. Once you’ve got it compressed then all you need is a pump, you don’t need more compressors on a floating installation.

“There’s something very exciting about [this scenario] because it would allow you to potentially reutilise depleted fields anywhere and — once [the reservoir] is full, then just move it [the reverse FPSO] along. [It’s] a work in progress,” she added.

Shell today is involved in two operational CCS projects — the operated Quest project in Canada and as a partner in the Chevron-operated Gorgon project in Australia.

The Quest project has achieved 98.5% uptime since starting up in 2015, however, Gorgon CCS has yet to live up to its nameplate capacity.

Crouch attributes the success of the 1 million tpa Quest CCS project to the carbon being injected into a basalt Cambrian sandstone reservoir.

“It’s a really clean sandstone, it’s right on granite basement, and it goes for thousands of kilometres in all directions, so it’s very unconstrained. It covers most of Alberta and goes into Saskatchewan, so injecting into that you don’t have to worry about managing pressure regimes,” she said.

Gorgon CCS woes

Meanwhile, Gorgon’s woes relate to the water production and reinjection of the water.

“Australia is a more constrained system, it’s a more complex system — the design was to manage pressure,” Crouch said.

“The CCS part and the CO2 injection is working fine but it’s the water production and water management system that is challenging at the moment.

“It’s managing it holistically, as a whole [that is proving difficult].”

Gorgon’s system is also larger than that at Quest, with nameplate capacity of 4 million tpa, but this project has only managed to store just above 6 million tonnes since coming into operation in 2019.

Shell is a co-venturer in the Equinor-led Northern Lights CCS project under development in Norway, for which the keel-laying was recently held for two maiden CO2 transportation vessels, which should be built in the next couple of years.

Shell is also involved in the R&D of a new generation of vessels to transport CO2 from its future projects.

“The reason we’re looking at shipping is that it allows us… at the scale to which we’re looking to move to… to combine multiple sources [of CO2] potentially to one [carbon] sink,” Crouch said.

“Shipping breaks that link between pipeline, store and sink and enables you to say ‘no, I can take [CO2] from multiple sources and store in a suitable geographical or geological location’.”

About 40 million tpa of CO2 is currently captured globally while some agencies forecast this could increase to 3 gigatonnes per annum at the end of decade and to 5.635 GT by 2050.

In the 1970s, Shell had a CCS-enhanced oil recovery project on the US Gulf coast but today has no CCS-EOR developments in its portfolio.