Saskatchewan

$1.4B carbon capture mega-project officially launches

The eyes of the world are on a huge industrial project in southeast Saskatchewan today — the official opening of the Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage facility.

SaskPower says up to 1M tonnes of CO2 will be captured annually

A TV crew from France is among those in Estevan, Sask., today for the grand opening of the carbon capture and storage facility. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

The eyes of the world are on a huge industrial project in southeast Saskatchewan today — the official opening of the Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage facility.

Some 250 people from 20 countries were in Estevan for the launch Thursday.

Launched by SaskPower, it is the world's first large-scale clean-coal power plant cost. The price of the mega-project is $1.4 billion. 

It works by capturing carbon dioxide gas that is emitted from burning coal, converting it into liquid, and then either injecting it for storage underground or selling it to the oil industry.

Premier Brad Wall said this technology is the way forward.

"Maybe what we've done sends a message that we should focus on technological solutions, that we should invest in this kind of technology," Wall said. "That's the environmental solution we seek to avoid that very impossible choice between coal and the environment."

Sask Power said the plant is capturing emissions equivalent to taking a quarter of a million cars off the road. But experts say the technology could cost consumers 80 per cent more on their power bills.

Canada's federal minister of Natural Resources, Greg Rickford, lightly taunted the United States before helping to cut the ribbon.

"Sorry President Obama, we're leading the way on this file," Rickford said. "The Boundary Dam project is the first carbon capture and storage project in a coal-fired power plant to be brought into operation. This project represents a major, a major step forward for Saskatchewan and for Canada in the development of world-class, in fact world-leading clean technology."

Morten Bertelsen, a reporter for Norway Business Daily, said Norwegian politicians were eager to build a carbon-capturing coal plant, a project considered so ambitious the government hoped it would be as  the modern-day moon landing. However, they failed where Canada has now succeeded.

"Norway has been trying to build a CCS plant for several years," Bertelsen said. "It has failed spectacularly. It went belly up. They pulled the plug after cost over-runs and delays. Now we're here to learn how you managed to do what we didn't do."

After touring the new state-of-the-art carbon capture and storage facility, Premier Wall joked that he couldn't possibly give a technical briefing but knew what mattered most: "It works!"

Wall told more than 200 people huddled inside a white tent in the Boundary Dam parking lot that he can finally brag about clean coal without getting admonished.

"I was told not long ago by some officials not to use the term 'clean coal' because it's an oxymoron," Wall said. "Well, they can believe it today."

At the Boundary Dam power station, several stacks still spew smoke into the air filled with harmful greenhouse gases. However, atop the new carbon capture facility, the stack now pumps steam that has been cleaned of 90 per cent of its carbon dioxide.

The CBC's Bonnie Allen tweeted her impressions throughout the day.

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