Saskatchewan carbon capture facility likely to fall short of annual target: CEO

SaskPower CEO Mike Marsh discusses the company's 2018 annual report on July 9, 2018. Adrian Raaber / Global News

The CEO of SaskPower says he doesn’t think the province’s carbon capture and storage facility will be able to meet its yearly target for trapping carbon dioxide.

Mike Marsh says the Crown corporation’s coal-fired Boundary Dam power plant in southeastern Saskatchewan has an annual goal of capturing 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

He says the facility will fall slightly below that this year, but wouldn’t say by how much.

Marsh cites a tornado last summer that caused four generating stations to go offline as well as additional equipment failures at the carbon capture site.

He also says the plant had to undergo planned maintenance in March.

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The $1.5-billion facility near Estevan opened in 2014 and takes emissions produced by burning fossil fuels and stores them.

Marsh says it has achieved its target for capturing carbon dioxide once and that was in 2016.

“We’ve had a number of years where we’ve had successive maintenance issues and other issues that affect not just the carbon capture plant, but the power station,” said Marsh.

“Engineering teams and our operations staff continue to work on the technical issues that don’t allow us to hit that 800,000 tonnes.”

Last year, SaskPower reported the facility captured about 626,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and about 507,000 tonnes in 2017.

“I think it’s a fair target,” said Marsh of the current figure.

“There’s been an inordinate amount of off-time due to other things like the tornado last summer.”

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Any future expansion of carbon capture and storage technology remains up in the air. SaskPower shelved plans to convert two additional units at the Boundary Dam due to cost.

In November 2017, Marsh said while the technology itself was still worthwhile, the low cost of natural gas made that a more viable option.

SaskPower is eyeing the possibility of retrofitting the nearby Shand Power Station to give it carbon capture and storage capacity, but Marsh said any decision is years away and will depend on an economic assessment.

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