Despite two-million tonnes, milestone carbon capture hasn’t won over critics
Four-years after it launched an innovative new technology, SaskPower has captured two-million tonnes of carbon.
It’s the equivalent of taking half-a-million cars off the road.
“If you look at when carbon capture is running, along with the power plant, it’s the cleanest fossil fuel plant, certainly in Canada,” Howard Matthews, the Vice President of Power Production at SaskPower said.
The carbon capture and storage (CSS) system at Estevan’s Boundary Dam Power Station captures an impressive two-thirds of the carbon emitted, bringing emissions down below federal levels.
“When the facility is operating as it is today, we can exceed the federal regulations of carbon emissions for high-efficiency combine cycle plant. With CCS attached to a coal-fired unit, we’re actually able to do even better than what you’d see at a state of the art natural gas plant,” Matthews noted.
Federal regulations stipulate that coal-fired electricity generation plant’s carbon emissions cannot exceed 420 tonnes per gigawatt hour. Matthews says a standard coal-fired plant, like the two others in the province, emits roughly 1,100-1,200 tonnes of carbon emissions per gigawatt hour.
While CSS systems may be as carbon friendly as a natural gas plant, they are astronomically more expensive.
“Over the lifetime of a plant, natural gas would come in at least 2.5-times cheaper than carbon capture and storage,” explained Peter Prebble, a board member for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society.
The exorbitant cost is a bone of contention for environmental activists who claim the money invested in the CSS would have been better served elsewhere.
“We have a 75-million tonne-a-year problem, we just spent $1.5 billion dealing with less than 1/75th of that problem,” Prebble remarked.
SaskPower wouldn’t say if they planned on adding more carbon capture systems in the future.
“What this does is give the decision-makers more options, available to us, to meet the climate change plan here in Saskatchewan,” Matthews added. “We have wind, we have solar, we have hydro here in the province, we have natural gas, and now coal with CCS is also another option for us as well.”
The technology is highlighted in Saskatchewan’s Prairie Resilience climate strategy and was one of the reasons the province felt they should be exempt from a national carbon tax.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna acknowledged the technology in a response to the province on March 12 but repeated that the province would need to mandate a carbon tax.
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