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$1 Billion Carbon Capture for Alberta Oil Sands

Shell has approved a $1.36-billion carbon capture project for Canada’s Alberta oil sands. This project supposedly will capture one million tons of CO2 each year, which will be stored about one mile below the Earth’s surface. The carbon capture project has been named Quest, and $874 million dollars in funding for it is coming from the governments of Alberta and Canada. (The bulk of the funds is coming from the Alberta government.)

The New York Times reports that the companies involved in the project (Shell, Chevron, and Marathon) have not stated how much they have invested in it.

The Shell press release says its project will reduce emissions at the Scotford upgrader, where bitumen is processed, by up to 35 percent. They also say this reduction is the equivalent of removing 175,000 cars from operation, each year.

Joe Oliver, Canada’s energy minister said: “Our government is committed to exploring and demonstrating CCS technology as a critical opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our environment.”

A representative of Greenpeace said they would rather see the money go towards clean energy production, such as the development of solar and wind farms. They also mentioned fuel-efficient vehicles as a potential alternative.

It seems more than a little odd that the companies managing the carbon capture and storage project have not divulged how much they are pitching in. Certainly many people would probably like to know if the governments involved are paying the bulk of the cost. (Shell’s 2012 first quarter profits were $7 billion, according to Think Progress.)

“It’s a lot of taxpayer money spent on greenwashing. The truth is there is an environmental Armageddon happening in northern Alberta. There are also questions about whether these gases can be safely stored underground,” said Kate Colarulli, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign.

Certain questions arise, such as where exactly will the liquified CO2 be pumped, and how secure will it be underground? How can it be monitored for leakage?

Will independent testers be allowed to measure the amounts of CO2 that are being captured and stored? Allowing a Big Oil corporation to manage it’s own environmental accountability, and helping it fund the emissions reduction project sounds more than a little questionable. Equally important is the suggestion the greenlighting or greenwashing of the oil sands carbon capture may help get the Keystone pipeline project approved by U.S. officials after all.

Image Credit: NASA, Public Domain

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