The promises of blue hydrogen are proving to be over-hyped and under-delivering when it comes to combatting climate change. Many polluters pushed blue hydrogen, which is created by using methods that separate natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, because it offers carbon capture strategies that companies like Shell believe offset enough of the greenhouse gases still emitted to justify its use. Reducing emissions—even by up to 90% as Shell wants for its Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facility—is simply not enough when we must work toward sustainable long-term solutions. Even worse, Shell can’t even hit that 90% mark that many within the industry boasted was possible. According to a report released on Thursday by the human rights group Global Witness, Shell’s Alberta, Canada, facility captures just 48% of its emissions.
The Quest facility, which has been criticized for encroaching on First Nations land, is just one part of the problem of the larger Scotford Complex where it’s located. It’s worth noting that Shell has done little to address the concerns of nearby communities, as legitimate climate justice just probably doesn’t look like good PR to the polluter, nor does it help Shell continue to pump out up to 255,000 barrels of oil per day from the Scotford Complex. Since Quest CCS began operating in 2015, the facility has been used to capture emissions from the Scotford Upgrader in the Alberta tar sands, which is located in an area known as “Upgrader Alley.” Quest CCS also offers Shell one hell of a way to greenwash the Scotford Complex, which saw 7.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases that include methane and carbon emitted in the first five years of Quest CCS’ use. Quest CCS was only able to capture 5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in that same time period. Global Witness found that the substantial amount of carbon not captured by Quest per year is the equivalent of emissions from 1.2 million cars.