Quest CCS plant in Canada

Can this technology tackle climate change?

The world faces a challenge. It needs to meet its growing energy needs, reduce carbon emissions and ultimately tackle climate change. One technology is often billed as being part of the solution: carbon capture and storage (CCS). But what exactly is it? How much of an impact can it have? And why is there only a handful of working projects around the world? Inside Energy investigates.

By Anita Rani on Dec 10, 2018

Watch: The Inside Energy film on CCS

Title: CCS Master

Duration: 10:46 minutes

Description:

CCS, carbon capture and storage, is the name given to a combination of technologies which capture and store carbon dioxide deep underground, preventing its release into the atmosphere. It is key in the transition to a low-carbon future and the fight against climate change.
In a series of interviews, we talk to David Hone about CCS, to Stuart Haszeldine who explains how nature has been storing CO2 beneath the earth’s surface for millions of years, to Anne Halladay who demonstrates the CCS process at Shell’s Quest project in Canada, and to Anne-Berit Hjorth Viken at the Technology Centre Mongstad, Norway, about the testing of different capture technologies.

CCS Master Transcript

[Background music plays]
Instrumental music with synthesised effects
[Video footage]
Time-lapse footage of the city of London as the sun breaks through the clouds. Change to view of our host walking down a busy London street addressing the camera.
Host
There are 7.5 billion people on the planet right now and by the end of the century there could be 11 billion of us.

[Video footage]
Time-lapse footage of Westminster Bridge over River Thames, red London busses and pedestrians, and part of the London eye to the right. Zoom in and fade to white.

[Host Voiceover]
That’s more homes to heat, light and cool, more devices to build, more factories to power, more cars to run, more planes to fly. It all takes energy.
[Animation]
Animation of cars on a road at night, rows of houses on both sides as the lights come on, a boy and girl looking at their smartphone under a streetlight, and other pedestrians. Animation of conveyer belts inside a factory; the top one with laptops, the bottom one with a series of coloured boxes. At the bottom, animation of a row of individuals sat at an office desk working on a computer. Zoom out to animation of a mountain range with trees. Appearing in front of the mountain in sequence: a factory, vehicles on a busy road, an airport tower, a row of houses, a train, more factories, a petrol station, more roads and vehicles, further homes, and planes flying overhead. Fade to white.
[Video footage]
Change back to view of our host addressing the camera set against a London street.
Host
Which leaves society with a bit of a challenge. How does it meet the growing demand whilst reducing carbon dioxide emissions?
[Video footage]
Time-lapse footage of a busy inner-city road and rail network.
Interview with David Hone Part One

[Video footage]
Footage of host interviewing David Hone, the London Eye, River Thames and city in the background.
Host
So, David, have I got this right; more energy means more carbon dioxide emissions, which ultimately leads to climate change?
[Text displays]
David Hone
Chief Climate Change Advisor
SHELL
David Hone
Everything around is a result of our use of coal, oil and gas.
[Video footage]
Footage of a passing train, then time-lapse footage of a train driving over a bridge over the Thames. Time-lapse footage of a city skyline with riverboat traffic on a sunny day.
[David Hone Voiceover]
When we use them, you get carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere and that’s leading to warming of the overall climate system. But the energy system is changing. We’re starting to adopt more technologies such as solar and wind, but that’s not going to be good enough.

[Animation]
Animation of a spinning globe circled by a yellow line set against a light blue background. Zoom in on the globe as wind turbines and solar panels emanate from all sides.

[David Hone Voiceover]
We’re still emitting collectively 35 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum from our use of energy.

[Video footage]
Time-lapse footage of London busses, cabs and other vehicles driving on a road. Footage of a passing inner-city train. Change back to interview footage of host and David Hone.

Host
We need energy to live the lives that we’ve grown accustomed to, so what is the world going to do about it?

David Hone
In 2015 we arrived with the Paris agreement. Now, this sets out a framework for nations to begin to reduce emissions, to limit warming of the climate system to well below 2°C and ideally to limit that to as little as 1.5°C

[Video footage]
Time-lapse footage of pedestrians on Westminster bridge as a boat passes by underneath, then vehicles, cyclists and motorbikes on a busy road, then a plane flying over a city in dark clouds. Pan down to a high-rise building under construction.

[David Hone Voiceover]
But the Paris agreement recognises that we’re very likely to be still using oil and coal and gas in a number of applications. For instance, in aviation, in big industrial processes, coal in iron ore smelting.

[Animation]
Animation of lots of pump jacks on green grass set against a light blue sky as an airplane proceeds to fly overhead. Pan right following the plane as a mountain of coal pops up followed by a factory and tractor. Two further factories pop up to the right, in front of them a pallet loaded with cement bags and two large pipes.

[Video footage]
Change back to interview footage of host and David Hone.

David Hone
And so what the Paris agreement says is to achieve a balance between emissions that are remaining and the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

[Background music plays]
Dramatic music

[Video footage]
Wide-angled view peering through reeds of a bridge over water.

[Male Voiceover]
So how does society go about removing vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? I’m on a beach in Scotland to find out.

[Video footage]
Drone footage of host walking over moss-covered rocks, the bridge in the background. Drone footage of host walking on a beach.

Interview with Stuart Haszeldine

[Video footage]
Footage of host interviewing Stuart Haszeldine on a Scottish beach.
Host
Hello, Stuart.

Stuart Haszeldine
Hi, welcome.

Host
Why am I here?


[Text displays]
Stuart Haszeldine
Professor of CCS
UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Stuart Haszeldine
Well, this is a good place to see what nature can do to help mop up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. So we’ve got a dark rock here above and below and that’s an oil shale. It’s very rich in organic carbon. But in between we’ve got a white one, a volcanic rock, and it’s baked above and below and it’s driven off lots of carbon dioxide from that organic rock, and that carbon dioxide’s reacted with the minerals in this rock.

Host
So this has captured the carbon dioxide? It’s like it’s in the rock?

Stuart Haszeldine
That’s correct. It’s stayed there for millions of years now in there, safely locked away.

[Video footage]
Stuart Haszeldine shows host the layered rocks on the beach. The top and bottom layers are dark, whilst the middle layer is much lighter in colour. Wide-angled drone footage of host and Stuart talking by the rocks. Back to footage of Stuart explaining to host.

Host
So the earth has a natural way of dealing with carbon dioxide?

Stuart Haszeldine
It’s what we call the carbon cycle. So that carbon dioxide from the centre of the earth is emitted through volcanoes erupting.

[Animation]
Animation of a river with trees and forest on both sides, a volcano in the background. A series of green lines rise up from the volcano representing carbon dioxide going up into the atmosphere. More green lines rise up from the trees. Blue lines come down from the clouds representing rain.

[Stuart Haszeldine Voiceover]
Carbon dioxide transpires through plants and goes up into the atmosphere so it can be recaptured in plants as well, and carbon dioxide gets dissolved in the oceans and gets dissolved in the rain which comes down.

[Video footage]
Change back to interview footage of host and Stuart Haszeldine.

Stuart Haszeldine
But what’s been happening over the past 250 years since the Industrial Revolution is the balance of the earth has changed. So we’re putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any time ever in the history of the earth, and so that’s overwhelmed the natural system of recovering the carbon.

[Video footage]
Wide-angled view of a train on a bridge over water. Drone footage of three different bridges in close proximity over the same body of water.

[Host voiceover]
So since the Industrial Revolution, because we need energy, we have caused an imbalance, basically?

[Stuart Haszeldine Voiceover]
Exactly.

[Video footage]
Change back to interview footage of host and David Hone.

Host
So, is there anything that technology can do to help deal with carbon dioxide?

Stuart Haszeldine
Yes. So right now there’s a company in Switzerland that’s built one of the first machines which sucks lots and lots of normal air through the fan, carbon dioxide plus air goes in, and air minus carbon dioxide comes out and that can be purified and injected deep underground for permanent storage.

[Video footage]
Stuart gesticulates as he explains.

Host
So this sounds fantastic, but how much CO2 can it deal with?

Stuart Haszeldine
Well, each one of those machines can handle about 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

[Video footage with superimposed animation]
Wide-angled view of host and Stuart on the beach. On-screen animation appears of the machine Stuart was talking about with lots of little spinning fans. More and more of machines pop up all over the screen.

[Stuart Haszeldine Voiceover]
And you need really one of those machines for every household, so you’re going to need thousands and thousands and thousands of those machines.

[Video footage]
Time-lapse footage of a rail bridge over water at a city location. Time-lapse footage of pedestrians crossing the bridge. Time-lapse footage of cars waiting in traffic. Time-lapse footage of London busses and other vehicles on a bridge entering the city.

[Male Voiceover]
The world clearly needs to come up with better solutions to capture and permanently store all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as well as stopping more from getting up there. And at Shell’s Scotford Refinery in Canada, they’ve made a start, catching waste carbon dioxide before it’s emitted, and then storing it on an industrial scale.

[Video footage]
Series of wide-angled views panning over the Scotford site.

Interview with Anne Halladay

[Text displays]
Anne Halladay
CCS Advisor
QUEST
Anne Halladay
This is Quest, a carbon capture and storage facility, or CCS.

[Video footage]
Anne Halladay walks around the Scotford site and explains to the camera. Wide-angled views of the facility.
Anne Halladay
So this is the start of our carbon capture process. Raw hydrogen travels through these pipes, across over our heads, and into the absorption tower.
[Video footage with superimposed animation]
Anne Halladay walks and explains, then points upwards to the pipes through which raw hydrogen is carried across to the absorption tower. Wide-angled view of the absorption tower.

[Male Voiceover]
Raw hydrogen contains hydrogen and the waste carbon dioxide. These gasses enter the bottom of the tower and flow upwards.

[Video footage with superimposed animation]
Wide-angled view of the absorption tower and pipes. Animated white lines appear along the tower, while green arrows flow through the pipes and up into the tower, representing the gasses. Aerial view of the tower.

[Host Voiceover]
At the same time, a liquid solvent called ammine, a relative of ammonia, trickles down through an intricate set of 25 metal trays. The ammine’s task is to capture the carbon dioxide and absorb it into solution.

[Video footage with superimposed animation]
Wide-angled view of the absorption tower and pipes panning downwards. Animated white lines appear along the tower, while orange lines appear on the pipes. Then a series of blue and green lines move upwards through the tower. Continue panning down to ground level as the tower is filled with green lines.

Anne Halladay
So once the rich ammine, which is ammine containing the carbon dioxide, comes out of the bottom of the absorption tower, it travels along these pipes to the top of the stripping tower.


[Video footage]
Back to Anne Halladay walking and explaining the process to the camera. Drone footage following the pipes to the stripping tower. Wide-angled view of the stripping tower.

[Host Voiceover]
The ammine now containing the carbon dioxide drips slowly down the tower. At the same time, steam is injected into the base of the stripping tower. The steam heats the ammine solution and strips the carbon dioxide from it. This carbon dioxide gas then rises up and out of the tower.

[Video footage with superimposed animation]
Wide-angled view of the stripping tower as animated white lines appear onscreen around the pipes. Green lines appear in the tower and slowly turn orange as they flow downwards. A series of animated white lines flow upwards through the tower representing steam. Green lines representing the carbon dioxide gas rise up to the top of the tower and into a pipe away from it.

Anne Halladay
The wet carbon dioxide goes through a series of processes to knock all that water out. At the same time, it’s compressed from gas to liquid phase in order to make it easier for transport.

[Video footage]
Back to Anne Halladay walking and explaining. Drone footage panning over the site, then back to Anne. Close-up of a section of pipe with yellow labelling and black text reading CO2 TO PIPELINE.

Anne Halladay
This is the end of the carbon capture part of the process. We’re now at the start of the pipeline which transports the carbon dioxide in liquid phase to our permanent storage site.

[Video footage]
Anne Halladay explains as she walks past the CO2 pipeline and descends some stairs. Aerial footage of a white pick-up truck driving on a road.

[Host Voiceover]
The pipeline snakes underground for 65 kilometres to three injection wells.

[Video footage]
Shot of an injection well. Anne Halladay explains as she walks away from the pick-up truck and ascends some stairs and walks onto a platform with lots of valves. Wide-angled view of the structure Anne is walking on.

Anne Halladay
It’s then injected two kilometres deep underground into a saline reservoir. What makes this particular storage site so safe is that there are multiple layers of rocks called salts and shales that lie above our saline reservoir that will prevent that carbon dioxide from ever escaping.

[Animation]
Animation of the layers of rock underneath the structure Anne was walking on. The top layer is blue, the middle layers shades of brown with shales, and the final layer is blue again. On the right of the animation, a pipe flows down from the structure into the ground to the bottom blue layer while animated green lines flow through the pipe. Animated green lines then zig-zag across the bottom layer.


Anne Halladay
We’re going to be injecting carbon dioxide here for over 25 years. That’s over 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide going down there and not up there into the atmosphere.

[Video footage]
Back to Anne walking and explaining. Time-lapse footage of a city as trains arrive and depart from a station. Change back to interview footage of host and David Hone.

Interview with David Hone Part Two

Host
So, David, how much of this CCS technology needs rolling out?
David Hone
You need something like 10,000 CCS plants equivalent to the one that we have in Canada today.
Host
10,000? David, it seems like a huge amount. I mean, the cost implications will be huge. Is it viable?
David Hone
We’re testing various ways in which the carbon dioxide can be removed at the lowest cost.
[Video footage]
Drone footage of the approach to the Technology Centre Mongstad. Wide-angled shot panning across the test facility site.

[Male Voiceover]
Here, in Norway, at Technology Centre Mongstad, the world’s largest CCS test facility, they’re developing ways to make CCS far more cost effective.

[Video footage]
Drone footage of the test site. Change to Anne-Berit wearing safety gear talking into the camera.

Interview with Anne-Berit Hjorth Viken

[Text displays]
Anne-Berit Hjorth Viken
Operation Manager
TCM
Anne-Berit Hjorth Viken
So, analysing how the different elements in the process affects cost is crucial.

[Video footage]
More drone footage panning over the site.

[Male Voiceover]
The first element the team study is the incoming waste or flue gas. Different industries in energy production processes emit varying levels of carbon dioxide in their flue gas.

[Video footage]
Anne-Berit walks across the site and explains to the camera.
Anne-Berit Hjorth Viken
At Mongstad, we have the ability to simulate these different sources to develop the best plants of ammine to handle them.
[Video footage]
Drone footage of the site. Shot of Anne-Berit and a male colleague in sort of elevator ascending a tower. Drone footage of the tower.
[Male Voiceover]
Different ammines absorb carbon dioxide at different rates. Anne-Berit’s team are searching for the most efficient blends of ammine to reduce the volume and ultimately the cost of the solvent used.
Anne-Berit Hjorth Viken
Our 60-metre absorption tower allows us to add the ammines at different heights which alters the time the ammine is in contact with the flue gas and, by that, demonstrating how effective the ammine is at absorbing carbon dioxide.
[Video footage]
Anne-Berit continues explaining as the elevator ascends the absorption tower. Further drone footage of the absorption tower.
Anne-Berit Hjorth Viken
Next, we separate the carbon dioxide from the ammine in the stripping tower.

[Video footage]
Anne-Berit walks and explains to the camera. Footage of the stripping tower.
[Male Voiceover]
This is an energy intensive process, so the team are searching for ammines that separate easily from carbon dioxide to keep the energy use and therefore costs down.

[Video footage]
Close-up of a transparent case with flat, little metal slabs in a laboratory. In the background, an out-of-focus lab technician approaches. Close-up of the lab technician’s gloved hand opening the case, then lifting out two of the slabs.

[Male Voiceover]
Finally, metal pipes are expensive, so the team look for the least corrosive ammines. They do this by testing the performance of various metals in contact with different ammines to find the best combinations.

[Video footage]
Close-up of the gloved hand putting one of the metal slabs onto a scale. The screen in front of the scale shows its weight.

Anne-Berit Hjorth Viken
All of these advances have brought cost savings of up to 30% and that could make all the difference to faster adoption of CCS globally.


[Video footage with superimposed animation]
Wide-angled view panning across the Mongstad site. Anne-Berit walks and talks into the camera. Back to time-lapse footage of the city bridge and spinning theme park attraction in the foreground.

[Background music plays]
Soft guitar music

[Video footage]
Change back to interview footage of host and David Hone.

Interview with David Hone Part Three

Host
So, David, it’s great that the cost is coming down, but it’s still a big bill to pay at the end of the day. So, who’s going to pay for it?
David Hone
Ultimately, society is going to have to pay the bill and that’s going to require governments to introduce some sort of levy on the use of fossil fuels, for example through a carbon tax, and that will encourage industry to look at ways of capturing carbon dioxide and not emitting it and so not incurring that cost.

[Video footage]
Wide-angled, blurry view of the Thames and Westminster. Time-lapse footage of a busy road. Wide-angled view of a train leaving an inner-city station. Time-lapse footage of a busy rail platform. Back to David Hone speaking. Time-lapse footage of pedestrians crossing a bridge. Time-lapse footage of boats on the Thames as the sun has set. Back to host speaking into the camera.

Host
Meeting the goals of the Paris agreement is a tough challenge for the world. There’s so much that needs to happen to get there.
[Animation]
Animation of a spinning globe circled by a yellow line set against a light blue background. Wind turbines, solar panels and vehicles pop up across the globe. Zoom in on a section of the globe as new structures appear representing CCS plants and LNG trucks drive across it.

[Host Voiceover]
Renewable energies, new technology and cleaner fuels are certainly helping.

[Video footage]
Back to host speaking into camera set against London skyline.

Host
But it seems we somehow need to incentivise the building of thousands of CCS plants around the world to really make a difference, and it needs to happen now.

[Audio]
Shell jingle
[Graphic]
Shell Pecten centred on a white background
[Text displays]
© Shell International Limited 2018

More in Inside Energy

Blockchain: hype or hope?

It is grabbing headlines and powering virtual currency. But what is blockchain and how can it change the energy industry?

Giving batteries a second life

Batteries play a crucial role in storing energy. But what happens when they wear out? Inside Energy spoke to entrepreneur Carlton Cummins who is giving dead batteries a second life.

You may also be Interested in

Sky Scenario

The Sky Scenario illustrates a technically possible, but challenging pathway for society to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

New Energies

Shell’s New Energies business builds on our experience in lower-carbon technology and explores new commercial models focused on the world’s energy transition.