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Carbon Capture and Storage Has a Future

Oct 30, 2015

A year ago this month, SaskPower officially opened its $1.3 billion carbon capture and storage (CCS) coal plant at its Boundary Dam near Estevan, Sask. The goal was to generate 110 megawatts of electricity, and capture one million tonnes of CO2 annually.

SaskPower’s plant has had some challenges – it is operating at less than half its projected total capacity and hasn’t met its contracted targets for supplying Cenovus with CO2 for their use in enhancing oil recovery. As a result, opposition critics are this week decrying the cost of the plant and taking government to task for penalties associated with the missed supply targets.

Unfortunately, lost in all the rhetoric is this fact – the technology works. When it’s at full operating levels, the plant captures CO2 at a rate of 90%. Current shortfalls were due to mechanical issues, but they are confident in future full capacity performance and this bodes well for our climate and for the coal industry.

It is not uncommon for new technology and large plants to experience start-up challenges, which is the case here, according to SaskPower. As a company spokesperson noted, they are working through design and technical issues, and performance is steadily improving.

There is a great deal of international interest in this plant, and similar carbon capture and storage technology projects globally. The fact is, some 35% of the world’s population still depends on thermal coal for basic electricity that powers their communities and their businesses. Over the past 20 years, 500 million people in rural areas have been able to get electricity thanks to the use of coal for energy production.  Until such time as countries are able to transition to renewable energy sources, investment in carbon capture and storage remains one of the most promising technologies to reduce GHGs in the near term.

And investments are occurring. As of spring 2015, the number of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects doubled in 2014 to 22 globally — 13 in operation and nine in construction — with another 14 projects in advanced planning and 18 in early development, according to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.

We recognize climate change is an important issue that requires action. SaskPower’s plant and the others around the world are clear examples of the industry and governments working together to provide the investment and expertise needed to minimize environmental impact while providing the power the world needs.



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