SaskPower has expanded one of its services at the Boundary Dam Power Station, and that should enhance operations at the coal-fired generating facility south of Estevan.
The official opening of a new fly ash load out and storage facility was celebrated August 21. The building, which has been open for about two months, is expected to carry significant economic and environmental benefits for Boundary Dam.
Fly ash is a fine powder by-product of coal combustion, and is used in ready-mix concrete operations, pre-cast structures such as bridge decks and pipes, and concrete products like bricks and paving stones. Prior to the new building's opening, SaskPower was able to store and sell about 100,000 tonnes of fly ash from Boundary Dam each year, and another 10,000 to 25,000 tonnes from the Shand Power Station.
"Right now, we sell about 110,000 tonnes, with a net income of about $6 million," said SaskPower president and CEO Robert Watson. "With this facility, we can sell all of the 275,000 (tonnes of fly ash generated from the two power plants), and we'll be able to double our net income. So there's a direct payback of putting the facility in."
Construction of the Boundary Dam load out and storage facility, which began last year, more than triples the fly ash storage capacity to 5,000 tonnes.
"Capturing and recycling fly ash from our coal-fired power stations in the area means SaskPower is using the province's abundant coal reserves in a more sustainable manner," Watson said. "(With) each tonne of fly ash captured and sold, that replaces cement, (it) prevents roughly one tonne of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere."
The cost to construct the expanded fly ash facility was over $21 million, but with net income projected to double from the fly ash sales, Watson expects that the storage building will pay for itself in just over three years.
Everything within the plant is all automated, according to vice-president of power production John Lebersback, so the new structure won't directly create any more jobs. The machines are capable of loading a truck within 90 to 120 seconds.
SaskPower has reached a 10-year agreement with an Edmonton-based company, Lehigh Hanson Materials Limited, which gives Lehigh the exclusive rights to market fly ash from Boundary Dam. SaskPower wanted a company that could help maximize fly ash sales, given the increased storage capacity and the steady demand for the high quality of fly ash that comes from Boundary Dam.
Lehigh has previously marketed the fly ash that was generated at Boundary Dam and Shand.
"Lehigh Hanson is excited to be part of Saskatchewan's economic growth by selling and distributing fly ash from Boundary Dam Power Station to markets across Canada and into the United States," said Lehigh president and CEO Jim M. Derkatch. "Saskatchewan has taken its rightful place as part of Canada's economic engine and we are proud to support it by investing in the construction of a world-class storage facility in southern Saskatchewan."
In addition to technical expertise, Derkatch said Lehigh brings their knowledge of how to use fly ash to reduce the cement content in concrete.
"In that regard, we're going to be a good partner, and we're going to work really hard to make this a huge success for everyone," said Derkatch.
Watson said that after a conversation with Lehigh, SaskPower realized there was an opportunity to do more business with that company if SaskPower had a larger storage facility.
"We've already done business with them," said Watson. "They're a very good company. They're a western Canada company, and based out of Edmonton. However, they do a lot of business throughout western Canada and the northeastern United States. The transportation of that fly ash to all the cement manufacturers in this area was a good fit for them."
The money SaskPower makes from the fly ash sales will carry a significant fiscal benefit for SaskPower, and it could help them avoid future rate increases. SaskPower has applied for a five per cent increase, after two years of rate stability.
Watson said the fly ash storage facility is part of SaskPower's effort to make Boundary Dam a global centre of excellence for coal-fired electrical generation. A carbon capture and storage project is under construction and Boundary Dam, and new technologies are also in the offing for Shand and at Coronach's Poplar River Power Station.