Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies (CCS) is a technological method that is used to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from a variety of sources including industries and fossil fuels production and power sources. This type of technology involves the capture of dioxide either after burning or before burning and then transporting via ships or pipelines and then directing it into the deep underground for storage purposes. This type of technology has been in existence since the 1970’s and has rapidly evolved over time. In fact, the increased impact of the greenhouse effect due to increased amounts of carbon dioxide emissions has prompted many fossil fuel production and power companies to re-evaluate their production methods especially in terms of carbon emissions. The Carbon Capture and Storage Technology has emerged as one of the most viable ways through which the total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere can be mitigated. In Canada, the global oil firm, Shell has initiated the “Quest Carbon Capture and Storage Project” in Alberta. This project is part of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) and is, in fact, the first commercial scale CCS project to be implemented for an operation related to oil sands in the world. This essay will perform a risk analysis of this Carbon Capture and Storage Project as well as a disaster management or emergency response plan to an unforeseen disaster, specifically the leakage of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
Shell Quest Carbon Capture and Storage Project-Map
A. Risk Analysis: Quest Carbon Capture and Storage Project
This is a very sensitive project, and there is no doubt that there are some risks will emerge. Perhaps it would be wise to first understand the definition of a risk. A risk refers to the potential of harm or huge adverse effects after exposure to a hazard (Blaikie et al., 2004). A hazard is itself defined as a source of potential harm, or damage (Blaikie et al., 2004). A hazard can lead to great harm as well as adverse effects to a project. Proper strategies of identifying and mitigating these risks are required. In addition, there needs to be adequate plans to mitigate the potential of hazards. A proper risk management agenda will help in the identification, qualification and quantification of various risks and will pave way enable mitigating or preventive strategies to be effected (Blaikie et al., 2004).
Risk Identification and Qualification
The analysis below describes the various hazards associated with the Quest and the associated risks of these hazards. The major hazards in the case of this project are natural.
- Reservoir related hazards
Overpressure in the particular reservoirs to the storage and injection and storage of Carbon Dioxide. In the case of occurrence, overpressure leads to high hydrostatic pressure in the reservoir which will ultimately result in the displacement of brine and other fluids. Elevation of hydrostatic pressure can also lead to the activation of faults or micro fractures on the walls of the reservoirs.
- Geological features hazards
Nearby geological features also pose a great hazard. The realization of the potential of this hazard would have humongous impacts. The carbon dioxide stored in the reservoir (in Quest’s case, there are three reservoirs or injection wells) could migrate into neighboring geological formations causing them to break up or degrade slowly.
- Aquifers Related hazards
The carbon dioxide could immigrate into neighboring aquifers. This hazard is accompanied by the dissolution of carbon dioxide into the water being held by the aquifers that will then lead to water acidification and a rise in the Ph (Blackford et al., 2009). The Carbon dioxide might also react with dissolved substances and may in the long run de-contaminate water (Herzog & Golomb, 2004). Portable water might be contaminated with impurities from the carbon dioxide stream.
- Atmospheric Hazard
This is also another hazard that cannot be ignored in spite of the fact that the Quest project has taken preventive measures. This risk is the leakage of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the storage reservoir. Leakage can occur through three primary means; injection well bores, caprock and abandoned well bores (Barros et al., n.p).
- Ground Water and Soil Hazard
The other hazard whose potential and risk might be realized in the long-term ground water and soil disruption after storage has taken place after a long time (Blackford et al., 2009). This is risk whose probability of occurrence has not yet been determined mainly due to a limitation in terms of data form filed experience and test form already existing CCS projects. There are several impacts that the realization or occurrence of this risk might have. It could lead to ground fractures or movements as a result of induced stress and micro seismicity (Barros et al., n.p). There could also be a disturbance in the circulation of ground water because of expansion and fracturing (Blackford et al., 2009).
Strategies to Manage Various Types of Risk
- Reservoir- Putting limitations on the infectivity of carbon dioxide and controlling its flow pressure (Barros et al., n.p)
- Geological – Careful selection of site to ensure that it is not close to vulnerable geological formation
- Aquifer- The primary mitigation would be to refine the selection criteria for the injection site to ensure that the site is not near any aquifer (Barros et al., n.p).
- Atmospheric - Continuous monitoring of the injection wells both during the operation as well as during the post closure-phases. At this point, any points of weakness should be identified and immediately rectified (Sacuta, 2013). For instance, this risk can emerge as a result of improper sealing of the injection well or a failure of well integrity. In addition, in spite of a good well casing, degradation of the casing can take place after a long time of storage and the carbon dioxide might seep through it to be released to the ground, the earths subsurface and even worse to the atmosphere
- Ground water- Constant monitoring of the reservoir overpressure. Constant monitoring of the integrity of the injection wall.
Mapping the Situation in terms of hazard, vulnerability and impact
Emergency Response planning is of crucial importance in such a sensitive project. The Quest CCS, which will be dealing with a high amount of carbon dioxide, inadvertently faces additional hazards that many be brought about by the high volumes of Carbon Dioxide
Leakage of carbon dioxide into localized atmosphere poses the greatest hazard. The risk of this hazard is further accentuated by the fact that there is a great likelihood of interaction with people or individual’s .The greatest problem that is associated with carbon dioxide is that neither large nor small leaks can be dispersed in the same manner as natural gas. Natural gas is usually buoyant and this greatly helps in its dispersion (IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme, 2009). However, carbon dioxide that has been captured is in actual sense heavier than air. Consequently, if a disaster were to occur, due to the fact that the carbon dioxide has been captured, it would accumulate in depressions once released into the atmosphere (IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme, 2009). This carbon dioxide can remain in such a place without detection for a long time and people within the locality may start perishing. In many CCS stations, these accumulations are very common in low lying areas, and before plant operators can venture into such areas, they should be required to conduct testing for carbon dioxide and other hydrocarbon accumulations.
Inn such an emergency, it is advisable to utilize cartographic methods. GIS integrated cartographic maps can go a long way in determining the zone of impact by the leaked Carbon Dioxide. Other tools that are of crucial importance in emergency response include aerial photography, satellite imagery, vulnerability maps, hazard maps and impact maps.
A disaster will without a doubt lead to the loss of crucial resources. The seepage of carbon dioxide between plant machinery parts may lead to corrosion and ultimate breakdown. Large amounts of carbon dioxide translates to massive cooling within the plant, and this will also massively interfere with the functioning of some of the major equipment in the plant (IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme, 2009). If the materials have been constructed with material that can withstand cooling, then the potential overall resources loss might not be that huge. Failure of the materials will translate to humongous loss of resources. After a disaster, a complete assessment of all plant resources including machinery should be conducted to provide an estimate of the total loss
Breathing apparatus, monitors and indicators for carbon dioxide, risk identification machinery, power and fuel back up, communication devices (such as radios).
Emergency response station, nearby hospitals to cater for the injured, nearby fire station
Communication with the parties involved in the plan
Effective emergency response and disaster management can only occur if there is effective communication between the involved parties. In case of an emergency director should be notified first. The emergency director should then immediately communicate with members of the Emergency response Team whose would then assemble in the emergency response station. The director will delegate various duties related to emergency response to the various involved parties.
Commutation should be made immediately to employees and workers to evacuate the site immediately.
The Emergency response director should also facilitate the dissemination of communication to immediately to the people living adjacent to the site where the leak has been detected (Sacuta, 2013). This information should be passed to the members of the public no more than one hour after the leak has been detected. This is because if more than one hour passes, the damage done might have already been too much.
The best way to disseminate information should be through public communication means with radio and television being on top of the list (Sacuta, 2013). In addition, the management should also make arrangements with local mobile phone service providers so that when the disaster strikes, short text messages can be sent to warn people to stay away from certain areas or if they are already in those areas to take cover.
The communication with the public should, for example, give specific guidelines on how to mitigate the potential impact of the disaster. For example, it has been shown that carbon dioxide is heavier than air and when it is released into the atmosphere it will accumulate in areas that are close to the ground. People in homes should, therefore, move upstairs, close all windows and doors and make sure that the air conditioning is off.
Parties to alert; nearby fire stations, nearby hospitals and ambulatory service providers, local police stations, Shell Company
Some of the emergency Response Activities
For people caught in the open when disaster strikes, they should immediately start looking for higher grounds. This applies to people in vehicles too. An immediate announcement of a disaster should be followed by quick movement towards higher grounds or places that have been set aside.
There should also be procedures and operations to rectify the leak. It is mandatory that special breathing material or apparatus be present all times. These will come in handy for the emergency respondents who will be sent to the site of leakage to rectify it.
For those individuals inside the plant who do not have breathing apparatus, they should not stick around to help those who have already been affected because they will be compromising their own lives. They should immediately exit the plant or move to higher grounds. In regard to casualties who have already been affected, they should be promptly moved to higher levels or grounds to promote and facilitate the probability of recovery (IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme, 2009).
The other element of the disaster response plan should include the activation of monitors and indicators for carbon dioxide (IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme, 2009). This will help to establish the particular parts or areas of the plant to avoid because of high contamination of carbon dioxide. These indicators and monitors would be provided to people to assist them as they navigate through the plant.
If the leak is small, for example, a casing of the injection well’s wall has worn off, a secondary casing can be laid on it immediately as a mitigating measure before further steps can be taken. However, if the cause of the leak cannot be mitigated immediately, a meeting of plant experts need to be convened immediately to determine how this problem is going to be solved.
Carbon Capture and Storage projects are accompanied by a lot of hazards and risks. It is crucial that steps are taken to mitigate these hazards and risks. Effective disaster management and emergency response planning is necessary. After an emergency incident has been mitigated and the loss has been estimated, reconstruction should then commence. Reconstruction should not be done anyhow. All the factors that could have contributed to the previous disaster should be taken into consideration and reconstruction should involve the augmentation of previous systems that were revealed to be weak (Sacuta, 2013). For example, if the casing used on the wall of an injection well was found to be faulty or defective, it should be replaced immediately with new material that is potentially long lasting and more corrosion poof.
Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I., & Wisner, B 2004. At risk: natural hazards, people's vulnerability and disasters, Routledge.
Sacuta, N., Gauvreau, L., & Greenberg, S. E 2013. Emergency response planning: an example of international collaboration in CCS community outreach and project development. Energy Procedia, vol. 37, pp. 7388-7394.
Blackford, J., Jones, N., Proctor, R., Holt, J., Widdicombe, S., Lowe, D., & Rees, A 2009. An initial assessment of the potential environmental impact of CO2 escape from marine carbon capture and storage systems, Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part A: Journal of Power and Energy, vol 223, no. 3, pp. 269-280.
Barros, N., Oliveira, G. M., & de Sousa, M. L. Environmental Impact Assessment of Carbon Capture and Sequestration: General overview.
IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme 2009. Safety in Carbon Dioxide Capture, Transport and Storage.
Shell Canada Limited 2010. Quest Carbon Capture and Storage Project: Measuring, Monitoring and Verification Plan, Calgary, Alberta.
Environmental Agency 2011.Environmental Risk Assessment for Carbon Capture and Storage 2011, Bristol.
Herzog, H., & Golomb, D 2004. Carbon capture and storage from fossil fuel use. Encyclopedia of energy, vol 1, pp. 1-11.
Blackford, J., Jones, N., Proctor, R., Holt, J., Widdicombe, S., Lowe, D., & Rees, A 2009. An initial assessment of the potential environmental impact of CO2 escape from marine carbon capture and storage systems. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part A: Journal of Power and Energy, vol 223, no.3, pp. 269-280.
Forbes, S. M., Benson, S. M., & Friedmann, S. J 2010. Carbon capture and storage. JAMA, vol 303, no.16, pp. 1601-1601.
APPENDIX A: Map showing the area of the Shell Quest Carbon Capture and Storage Project