Sask. premier, Montana governor seek millions for CO2 capture

Premier Brad Wall and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer are calling on Ottawa and Washington to come through on their commitment to fund carbon-capture technology.

Premier Brad Wall and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer are calling on Ottawa and Washington to come through on their commitment to fund carbon-capture technology.

Wall and Schweitzer want to build a pipeline that would carry carbon dioxide from a coal-fired plant in Saskatchewan and bury it underground in Montana.

The research project would cost an estimated $250 million.

The price tag has the two leaders looking for financial partners such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama.

Schweitzer told CBC News he hoped to tap into the recently approved federal stimulus package.

"In the Reinvestment Act in Washington, D.C., there's about $3 billion for carbon capture and storage demonstration projects," Schweitzer said.

"This would be about $100 million, a very small percentage of the total. You may remember that when President Barack Obama was in Ottawa, he mentioned how important it was for Canada and the United States to work cross-border in capturing carbon dioxide."

On his recent travels to Ottawa and Washington, Wall has been a booster for carbon sequestration technology, but amid an economic crisis the expensive technology could be a tough sell.

Even in Saskatchewan it could be controversial, because any wide application of green technology is likely to drive up power costs.

Malcolm Wilson, who leads the Regina-based International Test Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage, accompanied Wall to Montana last month to discuss the proposed project with Schweitzer.

Capture has a cost

Wilson said the information scientists have now suggests that if all of the CO2 emissions were captured from coal-fired plants in Saskatchewan, monthly power bills would go up somewhere between 20 per cent and 100 per cent."

Wilson said he believes and hopes it will be at the low end of that scale.

"What we really need to do is fully understand the actual cost of what it's going to cost the consumer, what it's going to cost the power utility. What is that tonne of CO2 actually worth?" Wilson said. "We need to understand those factors and the more information we have the better off we are."

Wall said that if power rate hikes are the result, his government is prepared to help.

"Maybe that means more direct income tax relief or property tax relief. There's different tools government can use," he said.

Saskatchewan is already home to one of the biggest carbon sequestration projects in North America.

CO2 from North Dakota is being pumped into the oilfields near Weyburn to squeeze extra production out of nearly depleted reservoirs.

What scientists, engineers and politicians are now looking at is storing the gas permanently underground in caverns and aquifers.

The expensive process is designed to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere. CO2 is the main greenhouse gas that scientists say is causing global warming and climate change.