The owners of a pioneering carbon capture and storage project in Canada says the technology is working despite recent criticism.

SaskPower unveiled the world’s first large-scale coal-fired power plant with carbon capture and storage at Boundary Dam Power Station late last year and Saskatchewan‘s power utility says its flagship, $1.4-billion carbon capture and storage project is proving the controversial technology works.

But critics of the Boundary Dam project argue that it doesn’t effectively address environmental concerns because it justifies the burning of fossil fuels. They are also calling for more transparency on the financial associated with the project.
Boundary Dam power plant
SaskPower executive Mike Monea told Regina CTV news that the plant will produce affordable coal power for more than 100,000 homes and businesses for the next three decades.

“We don’t have to abandon coal plants or lay off people. It looks very encouraging to see the performance, not only on the power side, but on the capture side of the whole plant,” he said.

The aim is to capture one million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually to be pumped underground — 90 per cent of the emissions the plant produces. The plant is on target to meet that goal, Monea said.

His comments came in response to a report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests the financial costs of the project are high and the environmental rewards remain unproven.

Co-author Mark Bigland-Pritchard said the project is substantially more expensive than if wind technology were used to produce the same amount of power.

“It’s about the same cost as from solar (power), but the cost of solar is coming down, so that equality won’t (last) long,” he said. “And it’s a lot more expensive than hydro even.”

The report also argues that SaskPower could see up to $1 billion in operating losses over the next 20 years.

Some of the carbon dioxide released at Boundary Dam is liquefied and sold to oil companies to help extract more crude from the ground. The utility has a 10-year contract with Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE), a Calgary-based oil company, to buy the captured gas.

The power station also captures sulphur dioxide, which can be converted to sulphuric acid and sold for industrial use. A by-product of coal combustion called fly ash is captured and sold for use in concrete products. The carbon dioxide that isn’t used for oil recovery is stored permanently by injecting the gas more than three kilometres underground.

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