Shell’s Quest blue hydrogen plant in Alberta, Canada, emits more carbon than it captures, according to research from human rights and environment non-profit Global Witness.
According to the research, Quest captured five million tonnes of carbon across a five-year period, but emitted a further 7.5 million tonnes at the same time – meaning, each year, the plant had the same carbon footprint as 1.2 million petrol cars.
Just 48% of the plant’s carbon emissions were captured, Global Witness found, falling far short of the 90% carbon capture rate promised by the industry. Some $654m of the $1bn cost of Quest came from Canadian government subsidies.
A Shell spokesperson tells Energy Monitor: “This analysis is simply wrong. Our Quest facility was designed some years ago as a demonstration project to prove the underlying CCS concept, while capturing around a third of CO2 emissions. It is not a hydrogen production facility. The hydrogen projects we are planning – like Polaris – will use a new technology that captures more than 90% of emissions. Global Witness are comparing apples with pears.”
The greenhouse gas footprint of blue hydrogen is 20% worse than burning natural gas or coal for heat, concluded a study from researchers at Cornell and Stanford Universities in August. Total CO2-equivalent emissions from the production of blue hydrogen are only 9–12% less than for grey hydrogen, which is produced from natural gas without CCS, they concluded.