The Current

SaskPower's Carbon Capture system a success, critics warn unproductive

Sask Power is proudly burning coal and capturing its emissions with the world's first Carbon Capture and Storage operation, surpassing expectations. But while some celebrate what they say is an environmentally responsible way to use this fossil fuel, critics argue it merely enables bad energy policy.
Carbon capture and storage "is the worst possible idea...except for all the others" - Journalist Charles Mann on why carbon capture and storage is a necessary technology. (REUTERS)

"Each barge delivers 1,500 tons of coal - enough to keep the plant running for a couple of hours. The plant uses about 21,000 tons of coal each day, so over a million tons of coal is stockpiled next to the plant" - SaskPower CSS Plant 

That's a lot of coal! All that burning coal is a major source of concern because of the huge amount of carbon it emits into the atmosphere.

When we first started hearing about carbon capture and storage technologies a few years ago, the idea sounded closer to science fiction than industrial reality. Filtering out the carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant's emissions, and keeping it out of the atmosphere for good, held out the promise of making power from coal a whole lot greener.

The technology was put to the test last October, when Saskatchewan's provincial electrical utility SaskPower, flicked the switch to turn on what it called the world's first commercial carbon capture operation. And last week, the utility released its first performance review.

Mike Monea is the President of Carbon Capture and Storage initiatives at SaskPower.

Inspired by the wit of Winston Churchill, Charles C. Mann has referred to Carbon Capture and Storage technolgy as, "the worst possible idea...except for all the others." Charles C. Mann writes about energy issues for Wired Magazine and The Atlantic Monthly. He was in Amherst, Massachusetts.

John Bennett heads the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. He spoke to us from Ottawa. 

What do you think?  Is carbon capture and storage a good way to reduce emissions?

Tweet us @thecurrentcbc or find us on Facebook.  You can always send us an email through our website. Or download the podcast to listen later. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio. 

Related Links

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CCS performance data exceeding expectations