In the middle of Canada’s windswept Alberta flatlands, the symbolic opening of a steel valve signalled the latest step in the development of a technology that many see as critical in the fight against climate change.
In September 2015, as political, business and community leaders watched on, compressed carbon dioxide (CO2) in liquid form flowed through a pipeline that carried it 65 kilometres (kms) north beneath farmland and forests.
At the end of the pipeline, the CO2 was injected more than two kms underground into a porous rock formation. Natural layers of impermeable rock sealed it in, while a network of sophisticated sensors continuously monitored the containment of the stored CO2 in the years ahead.
It may not have looked dramatic or exciting. But this was carbon capture and storage, or CCS, in action. By September 2016, Quest, as the Shell project is called, had captured and stored more than a million tonnes of CO2 deep underground, roughly equal to the emissions from 250,000 cars.
Quest is one of a number of projects around the world that, it is hoped, will accelerate the wider adoption of CCS as a technique to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, the main greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes CCS should play a key role in the transition to a lower-carbon world.