Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell has unveiled plans for a carbon capture and storage (CCS) scheme in Alberta, Canada, that could store as much as 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the project life.

Shell revealed the proposal for the large-scale Polaris CCS project this week, which would capture CO2 from the company’s Scotford refinery and chemicals plant and store it more than two kilometres underground.

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The initial phase of the development would see the Polaris project capture and store 750,000 tonnes per annum if CO2, resulting in a reduction of Shell’s direct and indirect emissions from the refinery by up to 40% and up to 30% from the chemicals plant.

The captured emissions would then be transported via a 12-kilometre pipeline to storage wells near Josephburg, Alberta, where they will then be stored underground in the Basal Cambrian Sands, the same formation used to store CO2 from the Quest CCS facility.

Shell holds a 10% stake in the Quest CCS facility at Scotford, which it claims has, so far, stored more than 6 million tonnes of CO2 in its six years of operation.

Expansion plans

Shell’s vision for a second phase expansion of the proposed Polaris CCS project involves the creation of a CO2 storage hub in Alberta that would also see it offer to store emissions on behalf of other industry sources.

The ultimate capacity of the second phase development would be dependent on acquiring pore space leases from the Province of Alberta, but Shell believes, once fully built, Polaris could serve as a storage hub for more than 10 million tpa of CO2.

Shell Canada president Susannah Pierce stated the proposed Polaris project was the latest example of the supermajor’s efforts to decarbonise its operations.

“Our plans for Scotford are in line with Shell’s target to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society,” she said.

“We are creating a world-class site that will provide customers with lower-carbon fuels, products and CO2 storage. Polaris would also make a significant contribution to Shell’s aim to have access to an additional 25 million tonnes a year of CCS capacity by 2035.”

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Hydrogen hub

Shell is also exploring the potential for hydrogen production from Polaris, with the first phase capturing CO2 from Scotford refinery’s hydrogen plants, which will create blue hydrogen for use in the refining process.

Shell claims 90% of the CO2 emissions related to hydrogen production in the refinery's hydrogen plants would be captured, adding that the project was designed in a way that no additional freshwater resources would be needed for the operation of the facility.

The company said it was also exploring the potential for large-scale blue hydrogen production in subsequent phases, while it is also considering options for zero emission green hydrogen production from renewable energy sources.

Blue hydrogen can be produced with steam-reforming processes using fossil fuels combined with CCS, while green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy to power electrolysis — splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

Strathcona County Mayor Rod Frank said the proposed Polaris project would help move the region closer to becoming a hydrogen hub.

“Polaris CCS will create new jobs, support our local economy, enhance business certainty, investment attractiveness, and aid in recovery from Covid-19,” he said.

“It will also reduce carbon emissions and move our region closer to becoming North America’s hydrogen hub, the fuel of the future.”

The initial phase of Polaris, which is expected to create up to 2000 jobs, could start operations as early as the mid-2020s, subject to a final investment decision being made in 2023.