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Carbon capture project inches closer to construction

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by Richard Gilbert

A proposed Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project in Alberta took another step toward being the first facility of its type in the province, while the public input process for the federal environmental assessment wraps up.

A proposed Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project in Alberta took another step toward being the first facility of its type in the province, while the public input process for the federal environmental assessment wraps up.

A screening report recently released by Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency concluded that the proposed Shell Quest CCS Project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects, with the implementation of the appropriate mitigation measures.

Shell Canada Limited is proposing the construction of the project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its existing Scotford Upgrader, located northeast of Edmonton, Alberta.

The project components include: CO2 capture infrastructure, which involves a process modification to the existing Scotford Upgrader; an 80 km CO2 pipeline that will transport the CO2 from the Scotford Upgrader to injection wells for CO2 storage; and the injection of the CO2 through three to eight injection wells into a deep saline geological formation.

The capture infrastructure will be located at the site of Scotford Upgrader.

The pipeline will extend from the Scotford Upgrader, north across the North Saskatchewan River and terminate near Thorhild.

The screening report details federal conclusions regarding the potential for adverse environmental effects from the project.

The report includes the significance of those effects and the appropriate measures to mitigate any significant adverse environmental impacts.

For example, Shell plans to mitigate noise by limiting timing of construction to daylight hours between 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Construction will also employ equipment with noise suppression systems and barriers will block sound.

Construction activities may interact with groundwater resources, primarily if dewatering is required to manage any locally high water tables.

However, dewatering would occur only during construction and would be at a local scale, of short duration and low magnitude.

Shell predicts the CO2 pipeline and well pads have the greatest potential to interact with the aquatic environment, especially during the construction phase, as watercourses are crossed.

Potential impacts on fish and fish habitat in the North Saskatchewan River will be avoided by using horizontal directional drilling.

Changes to groundwater flow near a horizontal directional drill crossing will be localized to the area immediately adjacent to the CO2 pipeline, and at a regional scale would not be measurable.

All remaining watercourses will be crossed using various methods such as: open cut when dry or frozen, trenchless and isolated trenching.

Fording of watercourses may be required.

Shell will employ sediment control measures until all disturbed ground has been permanently stabilized, so that suspended soil particles in the river and surface runoff water are limited or trapped to reduce turbidity in the aquatic environment.

Construction of the pipeline and well pads will temporarily remove lands from agricultural use during construction and will cause a disruption to agricultural, transportation and industrial activities.

However, the loss of land from the agriculture land base will be reclaimed during operations.

After reclamation, there will actually be more agricultural land in the assessment area, due to some cleared or burned areas being converted to agricultural land.

During construction of the pipeline and injection wells, activities such as topsoil stripping, grading, trenching and backfilling may cause an adverse environmental effect on soil capability and terrain stability by altering the morphological and physical properties of terrain and soils.

The period for public comments on the screening report must be received by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency by April 13, 2012.

Assuming all required regulatory and internal management approvals are received by the first quarter of 2012, construction of facilities for the capture of CO2 would begin later this year and pipeline construction would start in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Drilling of the injection wells would start soon and could continue through to 2015.

The project will create about 500 construction jobs per year.

Shell filed an application to the Energy Resources Conservation Board in August 2011 for the $1.35 billion project, which is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The provincial government has committed to funding Quest with $745 million spread over a 15-year period.

The federal government made a similar pledge of $120 million.

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