World’s first major power plant with carbon capture opens in Canada

IEA hails major breakthrough as one unit of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam plant starts sucking up CO2

A third of global CO2 emissions come from burning coal (Pic: Bigstock)

A third of global CO2 emissions come from burning coal (Pic: Bigstock)

By Ed King

The world’s first commercial scale coal power plant with carbon capture and storage technology is launching in Canada this week.

A four-year retrofit costing $1.35 billion means CO2 from unit 3 of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam plant will be sucked from its emissions before it hits the atmosphere.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says this will prevent the release of 1 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Around 90% of the carbon from the 110MW unit will instead be injected into nearby oilfields to enhance oil recovery, with the excess directed to a saline aquifer seven kilometres underground.

“Getting Boundary Dam up and running is a great example of how Canada is a leader in CCS,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.

“The experience from this project will be critically important. I wish the plant operator every success in showing the world that large-scale capture of CO2 from a power station is indeed not science fiction, but today’s reality.”

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The development comes at a critical juncture in global efforts to curb carbon emissions, and 14 months before a UN climate treaty is expected to be signed off in Paris.

While CCS could be a game changer for many oil, gas and coal producers, high development costs have led to many leading oil, gas and coal companies steering clear or calling for greater government funding.

But the IEA says that without CCS, nearly 70% of fossil-fuel reserves cannot be exploited if rises in global temperatures are to be
kept below 2C, above which extreme weather could be expected to be more severe.

Analysts at the Carbon Tracker Initiative warned that planned global investments of US$122 billion into coal projects were “madness”, citing falling demand.

Last week at a UN climate summit in New York, UK prime minister David Cameron was among a number of leaders who promised not to back new coal plants without technology to capture CO2.

Chris Littlecott, a CCS analyst at environmental thinktank E3G said the news should prompt European leaders to speed up plans for CCS projects.

“Utilities and fossil fuel interests are continuing to obstruct the kinds of proactive policies and regulations that have made Boundary Dam possible,” he said.

“Governments need to open their eyes to this opposition, and must put in place stronger policies to drive CCS deployment and accelerate the phase out of unabated fossil fuels.”

The IEA says another commercial scale project will come online in Kemper County, Mississippi, in early 2015.

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