A large crowd at the Estevan Chamber of Commerce's monthly meeting on April 11 learned more about the carbon capture and storage project that is under construction at the Boundary Dam Power Station.
Doug Nixon from SaskPower provided an update on the project. He explained to the audience how it would work, what it would do for SaskPower and power generation in the province, and the technological and environmental benefits.
As part of the project, Unit 3 at Boundary Dam is being rebuilt with carbon capture technology. Once it is finished, it will be the largest project of its scale in the world.
Coal currently provides more than 50 per cent of Saskatchewan's electricity, Nixon said. SaskPower has made inroads on emissions, including particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, but carbon dioxide remains a challenge.
Natural gas prices can be volatile, Nixon said, and that's part of the reason why SaskPower is investing in clean coal as a means to reduce greenhouse gases. The start-up and the capital costs for a clean coal plant are much higher than for a natural gas plant, but the expenses associated with clean coal, once the plant is operating, will be lower than natural gas, and coal won't suffer from price fluctuations like natural gas does.
Nixon also showed photographs from the construction, giving the audience a look at how construction is progressing on the different components.
The project is on schedule, he said. There have been some delays, such as the arrival of the carbon dioxide stripper in December, which happened a little later than expected. But while some aspects are behind schedule, others have been ahead of schedule.
When scheduling for the project, SaskPower did account for some delays.
Nixon expects that it will be operational by early March in 2014.
Dr. Malcolm Wilson from the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC), who was at the luncheon to promote the PTRC's Aquistore project, said that the PTRC is eagerly awaiting the completion of the CCS project at Boundary Dam.
"In 2014, we hope to be getting, of course, a much larger supply of CO2 to the (Aquistore) injection well, so that we can start to see what happens to the CO2 in the sub-surface," said Wilson.
Wilson firmly believes that Estevan is going to become "a household name" around the world when it comes to carbon capture and storage. The project at Boundary Dam is creating optimism for other countries that are looking at clean coal as an option for their power supply needs.
Just as Weyburn has seen its profile rise in the energy sector because of the carbon sequestration projects that happen near that city, Estevan's reputation will grow for what is happening at Boundary Dam.
Nixon also addressed the $60 million carbon capture test facility that was recently announced by SaskPower for the Shand Power Station. SaskPower and Hitachi will share the price tag for the project.
Hitachi will supply their skilled process development team, as well as core process equipment from their Saskatoon manufacturing facility.
SaskPower will establish technical support capacity for post-combustion capture technologies using the CCTF platform, Nixon said, with laboratory capacity, engineering capacity and generalization of operational methods.
The CCTF will also enable clients to evaluate performance of their technologies in a commercial setting, and make commercial offers accordingly.
Construction is expected to begin late this year, or early next year, with a scheduled completion date of 2014.