Kenney’s Conundrum, Capturing Carbon.

It was in the business news recently. It was about the success of Shell Oil’s $1.3 billion carbon-capture plant, Quest, near Edmonton. The Quest plant is designed to capture and store carbon from the Scotford upgrader, a refinery that upgrades tar sands bitumen into synthetic crude oil. The Scotford upgrader plant output of about 200,000 barrels per day has provided the carbon-capture facility with 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the past three-and-a-half years.

It is particularly impressive that the Quest plant appears to bypass the bitumen slag by-product of bitumen processing by converting the excessive amounts of carbon in bitumen directly to CO². It also seems to make it obvious that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has been down-playing the amount of carbon in the tar sands bitumen from day one.

But what do you do with that much carbon dioxide? The Shell people refer to it as being sequestered, hence the name Quest for the plant.

Now if only there was a market for so much CO²? Eventually, we hear, scientists will figure out how to use CO² for fuel. As it is, this CO² is being pumped underground, where it is sequestered.

Canadian and Alberta taxpayers contributed more than $800 million to this project. While I do not know the cost of operating the $1.3 billion Quest plant, I will assume that Shell would save the federal carbon tax that will soon be levied on the ersatz crude oil produced at upgrading plants in Alberta. This will start at the current federal rate of $20 per tonne and raise to $50 per tonne by 2022.

Since the new premier, Jason Kenney of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, is committed to throwing out the provincial carbon tax, the province will be foregoing the money needed to help build more carbon-capture plants, such as Quest and other innovations for Albertans. Whatever premier Jason Kenney might be, he is obviously not much of a mathematician.


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