REGINA – Much of the debate over SaskPower’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility has been about the “business case” for the project.
Despite the poor performance revealed in the past week, the Sask. Party government is still boasting about the plant.
Premier Brad Wall called it “groundbreaking and transformational” in an interview on Global’s The West Block this weekend and says he’ll also be boasting about the initiative at a conference focused on North American competitiveness in Texas in the coming days.
Part of the CCS project’s promise was that SaskPower could make money off sharing experiences with other utilities and countries around the world. In addition, the province would make money off selling carbon to oil companies.
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The goal is to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by one million tonnes annually. The facility has removed 400,000 tonnes so far this year.
But is the $1.5 billion investment into the project money well-spent? University of Regina economist Samuel Gamtessa isn’t convinced.
“There is no interest to do it by the private sector. There is no economic case for it,” he said.
Gamtessa believes the plant has its environmental merits, because in order to continue tapping Saskatchewan’s vast reserve of coal, something had to be done to meet new emissions standards.
“You wouldn’t consider this technology because it’s profitable,” he said. “The consideration is an environmental requirement. If by accident or by luck, we make profit, that’s good.”
But trying to sell the world on what’s being done at Boundary Dam could be difficult, Gamtessa says.
“They’ll learn from our failures (and) might do it better. But, obviously, if the argument is about profit, they don’t see it.”
Selling the experience
Following two months of repairs, the CCS unit is back up and running. According to SaskPower CEO Mike Marsh, successful operation of the facility may begin to pay off.
“In the next 20 years, coal is going to be 25 per cent of the generating capacity in North America and going to be much larger than that around the world,” Marsh said Tuesday.
“It may appear right now that it’s very early in the game, but unless you get out there and establish your position in that community, the opportunities won’t present themselves.”
Exactly what can be sold, though, is still unclear.
The Crown doesn’t own the carbon capture technology, so other countries would only be interested in how it pairs with a power plant.
Even with the money spent on promotion, however, there are yet to be any buyers.
With files from The Canadian Press