How vision made CCS on power a reality at Boundary Dam

Premier Brad Wall

How vision made CCS on power a reality at Boundary Dam

Organisation: SaskPower

SaskPower’s Boundary Dam, the world’s first post-combustion carbon capture and storage (CCS) project on a coal-fired power plant, began operation on October 2, 2014. The Boundary Dam project is of global significance as it shows CCS operating at commercial scale in the power sector. This Insight by The Honourable Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan, highlights how the province’s strong leadership and shared vision has made CCS technology in the power sector a reality.

The Province of Saskatchewan was once defined by its status as one of the world’s leading producers of wheat.

We were known as the breadbasket of Canada.

While we are still proud of our agrarian roots, and continue to grow and export massive quantities of wheat and other commodities, our resource lineup is much more diversified today.

We are the world’s leading producer of potash, the second leading producer of uranium, and the second largest producer of oil in Canada.

Saskatchewan is also blessed with an abundance of coal.

In the southeast corner of the province, there is a 300-year supply of lignite which fuels three power plants operated by SaskPower, our government-owned electric utility.

Today, coal-fired power accounts for about 47 per cent of SaskPower’s generating capacity.

A few years ago, SaskPower and our government had a decision to make. It was the same decision many governments and utilities throughout the world are facing today.

The Government of Canada was preparing to introduce legislation calling for tougher emission regulations for coal-fired power plants. Under the new regulations, coal-fired power plants without a carbon capture system would eventually be shut down.

The choice for the government, as owner of SaskPower, was to replace our coal-fired stations with natural gas plants or invest heavily in carbon capture technology that would allow us to maintain coal in the company’s generating mix.

Opting for natural gas was the path of least resistance. The technology was proven and we would be joining many other jurisdictions in North America making the switch from coal to gas.

However, we were reluctant to give up on coal, because of its abundance, accessibility and relative affordability.

The challenge for SaskPower was to integrate carbon capture technology in a commercial power plant in a way that was technically and economically feasible.

This had never been done anywhere in the world.

After much analysis, we opted to proceed with the construction of the SaskPower Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage Project, the world’s first commercial-scale power plant with a fully integrated carbon capture system.

That was in April 2011.

On Oct 2nd, we will officially open the CAN$1.35 billion project, which is known as Boundary Dam 3.

SaskPower has retrofitted a 43-year-old generating unit at the Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan.

The plant will generate 110 megawatts of electricity and capture and safely store up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), or 90 per cent of its CO2 emissions, the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road annually.

The CO2 will be sold to Cenovus Energy for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations at a nearby oil field, or stored in SaskPower’s Carbon Storage and Research Centre.

The revenues generated from the EOR sales help make the project financially viable.

But even more pivotal was a $240 million contribution from the Government of Canada.

Leading the way in CCS

Boundary Dam 3 builds on Saskatchewan’s reputation as a world leader in carbon capture and storage technology.

Cenovus has invested more than $1.1 billion in Saskatchewan’s first commercial-scale CO2 enhanced oil recovery project.

Apache Canada’s investment in a project in the Midale reservoir will produce 67 million barrels of incremental oil and store eight million tonnes of CO2.

Together, the projects make an impressive contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by storing more than 25 million tonnes of CO2 safely underground.

The most significant global research project ever undertaken on CO2 storage took place in the same reservoirs. The International Energy Agency (IEA) Greenhouse Gas Weyburn-Midale Carbon Dioxide Monitoring and Storage Project was the world’s largest monitored CO2 geological storage project.

These projects demonstrated to us that CCS was safe.

A global issue with a local solution

Boundary Dam 3 is important because we will be using coal to generate electricity for many years to come.

The World Resources Institute estimates nearly 1,200 new coal-fired power plants have been proposed. Three-quarters of these plants would be built in China and India.

If the world is to reduce CO2 emissions in a meaningful way, CCS technology will have to be adopted on a massive scale.

Saskatchewan’s CCS experience will contribute to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

SaskPower has established a consortium to share knowledge and provide access to some of the world’s most advanced policy, research and technical expertise.

SaskPower is also building a $60 million carbon capture test facility in partnership with Hitachi Ltd. at Shand Power Station near Estevan. The facility will provide a venue for international researchers and companies to test their technologies.

Saskatchewan is also home to Aquistore, an independent research and monitoring project that demonstrates the safe storage of CO2 deep underground.

The world needs to come together on CCS to ensure a sustainable energy future.

Saskatchewan is ready to facilitate that conversation.

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