* Boundary Dam power plant to trap carbon from 2014
* First commercial-scale CCS project at a coal-fired plant
* SaskPower seeks to limit power output loss to 25 pct
By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle
OSLO, Jan 28 A technology that holds the hope
for cleaner use of coal will be tested on a commercial scale for
the first time in Canada next year, aiming to resolve big
uncertainties about the vast amount of power it will need.
Saskatchewan Power Corp. (SaskPower) hopes that a
$1.24 billion refit of its 45-year-old Boundary Dam power plant
to capture carbon dioxide emissions will make investors think
twice about shifting to gas-fired plants from dirtier coal.
"This will come in on time and on budget," Michael Monea,
head of SaskPower's carbon capture and storage (CCS)
initiatives, told Reuters in an interview.
The company hopes that its carbon capture technology will
reduce Boundary Dam's power output by only a quarter or
thereabouts, making it the world's first commercially viable
large-scale CCS project at a coal-fired power plant.
Success could spur interest in CCS technology from China to
the United States as an effective way to fight climate change.
"We need this as an example of carbon capture and storage
actually happening," said Camilla Svendsen Skriung, of the
Norwegian environmental group Zero.
The plant is designed to capture one million tonnes a year
of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from April 2014. It will
also trap the pollutant sulphur dioxide.
SaskPower agreed last month to sell the carbon dioxide it
captures to Canadian oil company Cenovus Energy - when
injected into an oil well, the gas raises the pressure and
forces more oil to the surface. Monea did not reveal the price
Monea said that the key to proving that clean coal is
possible is to limit the "parasitic load" - the amount of power
needed to capture the carbon and sulphur.
"The big deal for us is parasitic load. The old 140 megawatt
plant will be new again, so will probably generate 150 to 155
megawatts. Then the capture plant may mean we lose 40 megawatts
of power," he said.
"I am hoping that we will net higher than 110 megawatts
(after the carbon has been captured)."
COSTS AND PENALTIES
There are a few other commercial carbon capture projects,
such as the one at the Sleipner natural gas field off Norway run
by Statoil, which re-injects a million tonnes of carbon
dioxide a year beneath the seabed.
However, high costs and low penalties for emitting carbon
mean that such projects have failed to catch on for coal-fired
plants as part of efforts to slow climate change.
"Once people hear that the economics are very good, maybe
we won't have everybody dash to gas and throw out coal," Monea
said. "We hope the rest of the world can learn from our plant."
SaskPower says that the plant will reduce carbon emissions
by about 90 percent - the equivalent, it says, of taking 250,000
cars off the roads in the province every year.
Almost 200 nations have set themselves a deadline of
end-2015 to agree a United Nations-led pact to combat climate
change, with its implementation set for the start of 2020. But
after past failures, there is little prospect of a global price
on carbon emissions that would help to make carbon capture more
Monea said that lessons from the Boundary Dam refit, aided
by a federal government subsidy of $240 million, will cut costs
and mean that future refits can be completed without state aid.
The costs of the Boundary Dam refit were comparable to those
for replacing it with a new natural gas plant, Monea said. The
plant has ready access to water, which might otherwise be a
The cost of the refit means that power prices paid by
SaskPower's clients will rise by a few cents from the 10 to 11
cents per kilowatt that they pay now, he said.
The European Commission last month said that it failed to
find a winner in a contest to fund EU carbon capture and storage
projects, deepening doubts that the technology can soon emerge
to help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.