Saskatchewan

Decisions on carbon capture future could be up to 7 years away, says SaskPower CEO

SaskPower CEO's appeared before the Crowns committee to discuss various issues within the corporation, including its 2017-18 annual report and its recently-announced decision not to retrofit Boundary Dam power station units 4 and 5 with carbon capture and storage technology.

Mike Marsh says decision to expand CCS would have to be made by 2024, 2025

In July, SaskPower publicized it would not convert these two units to use CCS as was done at unit 3 of the coal plant for $1.5 billion. (Radio-Canada)

Decisions around whether to expand carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) in Saskatchewan could be made as long as seven years from now, according to SaskPower's CEO.

Mike Marsh appeared before Monday's Crowns committee to discuss various issues within the corporation, including its 2017-18 annual report and its recently-announced decision not to retrofit Boundary Dam power station units 4 and 5 with CCS and instead shut them down. 

In July, SaskPower publicized it would not convert these two units to use CCS as was done at unit 3 of the coal plant for $1.5 billion. 

At the time, Marsh and Minister of Environment Dustin Duncan cited the lack of business case to go forward with the expansion, pointing to the low cost of natural gas and the age of the facility. 

In the same announcement, the corporation said a high level feasibility study — by the International CCS Knowledge Centre, a proponent of the technology — was underway to see if the Shand power station was a viable option to be retrofitted.

"The ultimate decision on going forward with carbon capture would have to be made mid-next decade so in the 2024, 2025 timeline. There is much, much work to be done to go through proper engineering studies and other feasibility studies," Marsh said on Monday. 

"I know some of the preliminary results are looking promising, but that has to be applied to the actual plant and the facility and detailed costing has to be developed," he said of the study. 

A spokesperson for the knowledge centre hoped for the study to be presented next month.

Marsh said SaskPower is "leaving the door open" for potentially expanding CCS to additional plants besides Shand, such as two units at Poplar River and Boundary Dam Unit 6.

"A lot those decisions will be made mid-next decade as we prepare for the final decision, if you will, on whether to retrofit with carbon capture or not."

In the fall of 2014, Boundary Dam became the first power station in the world to install CCS technology on a commercial scale.

Coal plants still make up the biggest chunk of Saskatchewan's power grid. SaskPower says as of two years ago, 40 per cent of the province's electricity came from coal. 

The provincial government pledged that up to 50 per cent of Saskatchewan's energy would come from renewable sources by 2030.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Taylor

Reporter, CBC Saskatchewan

Stephanie Taylor is a reporter based in Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC News in Regina, she covered municipal politics in her hometown of Winnipeg and in Halifax. Reach her at stephanie.taylor@cbc.ca

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