The Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project, officially launched today, is SaskPower’s flagship CCS initiative and a world first. Through the development of the world’s first and largest commercial-scale CCS project of its kind, SaskPower is making a viable technical, environmental and economic case for the continued use of coal.
The $1.4 billion Project is the integration of a rebuilt coal-fired generation unit with carbon capture technology, resulting in low-emission power generation. Ut is the World’s First Post-Combustion Coal-Fired CCS project.
This project saw the transformation of the aging Unit #3 at Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan into a reliable, long-term producer of 110 megawatts (MW) of base-load electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. That’s equivalent to taking more than 250,000 cars off Saskatchewan roads annually.
The captured CO2 will be transported by pipeline to nearby oil fields in southern Saskatchewan where it will be used for enhanced oil recovery. CO2 not used for enhanced oil recovery will be stored in the Aquistore Project.
In addition to CO2, there are opportunities for the sale of other byproducts from the Project. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) will be captured, converted to sulphuric acid and sold for industrial use. Fly ash, a by-product of coal combustion, will also be sold for use in ready-mix concrete, pre-cast structures and concrete products.
This could be a global game changer, combining post-combustion CCS with coal-fired power generation making one of the world’s most abundant and affordable sources of energy more environmentally friendly.
Saskatchewan has a 300 year supply of coal available and the transformation of this coal fired power station into a low-carbon producer of base-load electricity will be a decided economic advantage. It also promises to capture world attention, particularly from contries with abundant coal resources and high demands for low cost energy.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) welcomed the launch of the Boundary Dam facility, calling it a historic milestone along the road to a low-carbon energy future.
IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said the launch represents “a momentous point” in the history of the development of CCS, the family of technologies and techniques that enable the capture of CO2 from fuel combustion or industrial processes, its transport via ships or pipelines, and its storage underground.
She added: “CCS is the only known technology that will enable us to continue to use fossil fuels and also de-carbonise the energy sector. As fossil fuel consumption is expected to continue for decades, deployment of CCS is essential.”
The IEA Executive Director also commended Canada’s role in making the project a reality: “Getting Boundary Dam up and running is a great example of how Canada is a leader in CCS,” she said. “The experience from this project will be critically important. I wish the plant operator every success in showing the world that large-scale capture of CO2 from a power station is indeed not science fiction, but today’s reality.”
“Saskatchewan is number one in the world,” said Brad Page, the chief executive of the Global CCS Institute, quoted in a Guardian article. “This is an incredibly important event from our perspective.”
However the particular circumstances that make the Boundary Dam project economically viable – a ready local supply of coal and a paying customer in the oil sector may not be available to other energy utilities seeking to harness the advantages of low cost coal and reduced CO2 emissions. There is intense competition from lower cost and less carbon intense natural gas in many other markets.
As well, coal – even combined with emission reducing CCS technologies – has not found favour with environmentalist.
Ron Pernick, founder and managing director of research and advisory firm Clean Edge and a GLOBE 2014 speaker noted in an earlier GLOBE-Net article “if you believe that fossil fuel power plants (along with other large-source emitters like steel and cement producers) will remain a part of our industrial ecosystem for some time to come, then capturing and utilizing C02 from these emitters is an important and critical piece of the carbon-management equation.” See GLOBE-Net article Turning Carbon Emissions Into A Revenue Stream.
Luke Warren, CEO of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, said, “The launch today goes beyond a single project. SaskPower has made significant progress in making a valuable contribution to demonstrating a viable technical, environmental and economic case for the application of CCS to power plants.”
SaskPower believes it can bring future projects on line at a much lower cost Research underway at the Shand Carbon Capture Test Facility (CCTF) provides technology developers with an opportunity to test new and emerging carbon capture systems for controlling carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Developed in collaboration with Hitachi, Ltd., SaskPower’s CCTF enables clients to evaluate the performance of their technologies in a commercial setting.