| CALGARY, Alberta
CALGARY, Alberta Oct 1 Canada will launch the
world's first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage
project at a coal-fired power plant on Thursday, a closely
watched experiment designed to cut 90 percent of the plant's
The carbon-capture unit at the Boundary Dam power plant in
Estevan, Saskatchewan, will be formally commissioned after a
four-year C$1.35 billion ($1.21 billion) retrofit. Governments
and industry around the world will be watching to see if the
plant's operator, SaskPower, can turn large-scale carbon capture
and storage (CCS) into a commercial success.
SaskPower, owned by the Prairie province of Saskatchewan,
installed the CCS unit to prevent about 1 million tonnes, or 90
percent, of Boundary Dam's annual carbon dioxide emissions from
entering the atmosphere once the unit reaches full operating
capacity later this year.
Most of that carbon will be bought by Canada's No. 2 oil and
gas producer, Cenovus Energy Inc, and used for enhanced
Concerns about greenhouse gas emissions have prompted
several countries to pledge support to CCS projects and spurred
companies to explore new technology. However, progress on the
handful of CCS projects that have been approved has been slow
Seven years ago, the European Union declared it wanted up to
12 CCS demonstration projects to be running by 2015 but none
have yet been authorized.
Some environmental groups lauded the opening of the Boundary
Dam project and said it should encourage governments and
companies that have recently cut investment in CCS to
"Finally, people cannot say that this is unproven
technology," said Frederic Hauge, head of Norwegian
environmental group Bellona.
"It will be much harder to reach climate targets without
CCS. We shouldn't take the chance that we can combat global
warming without CCS."
The Sierra Club of Canada, however, criticized the CCS
project for boosting crude oil production by providing carbon
for enhanced oil recovery.
"It's a propaganda move to appear to be taking action on
climate change when in reality it is actually furthering the
interests of oil," Sierra Club Canada Executive Director John
SaskPower Chief Executive Robert Watson said the project's
next step is to assess the economics to see if the CCS
technology can be applied to other power stations.
"We want to see how much per kilowatt hour it is to produce
the power with carbon capture and compare that against possible
future designs, so others in future have something to benchmark
against," Watson said.
"Other countries have tried this but their costs went up
dramatically. We really spent a lot of time on the design (of
the CCS unit)."
COSTS AND SUBSIDIES
The total cost of the Boundary Dam project is not yet
finalized but it has overrun initial estimates of $1.24 billion.
Some critics of CSS say it can only succeed through
Boundary Dam received $240 million in funding from Canada's
federal government, while Shell Canada's Quest CCS project, due
to be the first in Alberta's oil sands, has received $865
million in federal and provincial government funding.
Boundary Dam sits on top of 300 years worth of coal deposits
just north of the U.S. border, but the plant would have been
phased out under Canadian government regulations coming into
effect next year that limit its carbon dioxide output to less
than 420 tonnes per gigawatt hour of electricity, Watson said.
The Boundary Dam CCS unit will reduce the power station's
carbon dioxide output to 150 tonnes per gigawatt hour.
SaskPower retrofitted an existing unit within the power
station and connected it via pipes to the adjacent, newly built,
carbon capture building. There, gases go through a process of
filtering, compression and liquefaction to remove 90 percent of
the carbon and all of the sulphur dioxide.
It is the first post-combustion CCS project of its kind.
Another CCS project under construction at a coal-fired power
plant in Kemper County, Mississippi, will be pre-combustion and
only capture around 65 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.
Watson declined to say how much Cenovus will pay for its
10-year deal to take about 1 million tonnes of carbon per year,
but he said that without that sale the economics of the project
would be very different.
SaskPower will also sell the captured pollutant sulphur
Cenovus spokeswoman Jessica Wilkinson said the carbon would
be shipped 66 kilometres (41 miles) by pipeline to the mature
Weyburn oilfield, which produces 25,000 barrels per day thanks
to carbon dioxide being pumped underground to increase reservoir
Without carbon dioxide Weyburn would be producing about
8,000 bpd, Wilkinson said.
(Additional reporting by Alister Doyle in Oslo and Barbara
Lewis in Brussels; Editing by Peter Galloway)