Saturday, January 22, 2022

Shell’s Massive Carbon Capture Plant Is Emitting More Than It’s Capturing

A first-of-its-kind “green” Shell facility in Alberta is emitting more greenhouse gases than it’s capturing, throwing into question whether taxpayers should be funding it, a new report has found.

Shell’s Quest carbon capture and storage facility captured 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the hydrogen produced at its Scotford complex between 2015 and 2019. Scotford refines oil from the Alberta tar sands.

But a new report from human rights organization Global Witness found the hydrogen plant emitted 7.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in the same timeframe—including methane, which has 80 times the warming power of carbon during its first 20 years in the atmosphere, and accounts for about a quarter of man-made warming today. 

To put that in perspective, the “climate-forward” part of the Scotford plant alone has the same carbon footprint per year as 1.2 million fuel-powered cars, Global Witness said. 

“We do think Shell is misleading the public in that sense and only giving us one side of the story,” said Dominic Eagleton, who wrote the report. He said industry’s been pushing for governments to subsidize the production of fossil hydrogen (hydrogen produced from natural gas) that’s supplemented with carbon capture technology as a “climate-friendly” way forward, but the new report shows that’s not the case. 

In an email, Shell said the facility was introduced to display the merits of carbon capture technology, but didn’t directly respond to the allegation that its hydrogen component emitted 7.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. 

“Quest was originally designed as a demonstration project to prove (carbon capture) technology and overall has met or exceeded our expectations,” said Shell Canada spokesperson Stephen Doolan. 

Doolan also said that as of today, Quest has captured 6 million tonnes of carbon, but Global Witness noted that as time passes and the facility captures more carbon, it will also emit more. 

Quest is the world's first commercial-scale carbon capture facility and one of few like it around the world today. But Global Witness’ findings throw into question whether carbon capture and storage technologies are as green as oil companies claim, or whether they amount to “greenwashing.” Lately, industry players have been saying that carbon capture technology is a key component in reaching net-zero.

“Shell has described the carbon capture facility at its Alberta plant as showing that carbon capture technology is an effective way of reducing carbon emissions, whereas our investigation shows that’s clearly not the case,” Eagleton said. “This should be a wake-up call for governments, not just in Canada, but across the world.”

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