Carbon project not dead; Boyd

A proposed $270-million Saskatchewan-Montana joint carbon capture project isn’t dead yet despite reports to the contrary, Saskatchewan Party Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd said Monday.

The project depends on $100 million from the Canadian government and $100 million US from the American government.

At the signing of the memorandum of understanding with Premier Brad Wall 14 months ago, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer was confident the state would get dollars from the U.S. stimulus package earmarked for carbon capture projects.

But The Associated Press reported during the weekend that Montana officials have shelved plans for the project and had not ever formally applied for a stimulus grant.

The director of the six-state Big Sky Sequestration Carbon Project, Montana’s sponsor of the proposal, told The Associated Press that it had applied for $65 million US in funding from the federal Department of Energy in January but had given up on the project because it was unable to come up with the additional $35 million needed.

However, Boyd said Monday the province had spoken with officials in Schweitzer’s office that afternoon.

"They’re indicating that they believe the project is still in the running for funding. Now, they’re saying that Big Sky may be looking for alternative funding and that’s fine, that’s probably a responsible thing for them to do. However, they’re still…working towards a positive conclusion of the process," he said in a telephone interview.

Boyd said the province had been given no timeline from the Montana government and was prepared to be patient.

"If we are prepared to just simply say, ‘We want to know an answer today,’ the answer would probably be no. If we are prepared to be patient and accept the governor’s office indication that we received this afternoon…we’ll be patient," he said.

He would not comment on the Montana government not applying for stimulus funding.

The state of Montana was not one of the funding partners in the original project because it does not collect resource royalties. Saskatchewan, which has put in $50 million, is the only jurisdiction to have actually committed money to the project as the Canadian government has so far not anted up.

Both Wall and Boyd have suggested the project — which would involve carbon produced at a SaskPower plant set up as a test site pumped into Montana for storage — may be able to proceed without American involvement if the Canadian government is prepared to fund the proposal.

NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter said he was more concerned by the lack of a commitment from the federal Conservative government, with which the Sask. Party has cultivated a close relationship, than the lack of American dollars.

But the lack of progress suggests the government isn’t doing the work that’s necessary, he said.

After hyping the project, the Sask. Party government has failed to deliver and the province is in danger of losing the competitive advantage it once had with carbon capture projects such as the international Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage Project, he said.

"When you’re dealing with international boundaries…you can’t just make an announcement and walk away and expect it to happen, and that’s what I fear is happening here, that the premier has just dropped the ball on this," said Lingenfelter.

The project is intended to test different methods of post-combustion carbon capture with an eye to commercializing the technology for sale to produce coal-fired electricity with zero or low emissions.


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