Problems with SaskPower's $1.4 billion carbon capture plant near Estevan, Sask., were the focus of heated debate at the Legislature Wednesday.

"When exactly did the premier learn his government is paying Cenovus instead of earning money?" asked NDP Opposition leader Cam Broten during Question Period. Broten was referring to a company that SaskPower, a provincial Crown corporation, had promised to supply with carbon dioxide from its carbon capture facility.

However, it was revealed this week that the facility is running at 40 per cent capacity and SaskPower is paying millions of dollars in penalties for failing to deliver expected amounts of CO2.

The Opposition also noted a news release, issued by SaskPower February, which said the plant was "on target" to capture one million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall defended the facility, noting it is working the way it's supposed to when it's running. He added that shutdowns could throw off numbers.

"We've got to get to the point where it's running all the time," Wall explained.

Officials from SaskPower were also confident with the technology, and they are working out the bugs

"Everybody thinks these plants come from Walmart and if it doesn't work you take it back to Walmart. That's not the way life is, especially on the world's first plant," said Mike Monea, president of SaskPower's carbon capture and storage initiatives division.

Broten said the province and SaskPower need to provide more information.

"This government is not being clear about what is going on, what has gone on, what needs to happen [and] what the costs are," he said.

Monea said, upon reflection, SaskPower could have done better.

"Looking back in hindsight, there could have been more transparency about how well (or not) the project was operating," he said.

The much-touted carbon-capture facility was designed to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from the coal-fired Boundary Dam power plant near Estevan by one million tonnes annually.

The $1.4 billion facility opened with much fanfare last October.

Background notes prepared for the government show that officials knew about issues at the facility when the grand opening was held. The notes, obtained by the Opposition NDP, were provided to media Tuesday.

SaskPower has a deal to sell the captured CO2 to Cenovus Energy to be used for enhanced oil recovery.


  • An earlier version of this story identified Mike Monea as president of SaskPower. In fact, he's president of SaskPower's carbon capture and storage initiatives division.
    Oct 29, 2015 7:56 AM CT
With files from The Canadian Press