SaskPower to launch carbon capture project near ND

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ESTEVAN, SASKATCHEWAN (AP) - Billed as the world’s first commercial-scale carbon capture undertaking, the $1.35 billion Boundary Dam Project near Estevan, Saskatchewan, is only a few months away from startup.

SaskPower expects to reduce carbon dioxide by 90 percent at its rebuilt Boundary Dam Power Station’s Unit 3 when the system becomes operational mid-year. The plant is located in southeastern Saskatchewan, near the North Dakota border.

Although initiated as a way to meet stringent federal emissions restrictions coming in 2015 for coal-fired plants in Canada, the project means more than fulfilling a mandate for SaskPower. Envisioning itself as a leader in the power industry, SaskPower hopes to capture not just carbon but also world attention. No other carbon capture venture compares with the Boundary Dam Project in size.

“It’s absolutely pioneering,” SaskPower President Robert Watson told The Minot Daily News (http://bit.ly/1rERHXk). “It’s the first in the world. It will be a definite model that any company, government or region in the world who is burning fossil fuels at all for power production should be looking at, all the way from design phase through the construction and operation. They should be having serious looks at it to see if it fits their profiles at all.”

However, it could be two years before the system reaches peak efficiency and SaskPower has a firm grasp on the advantages associated with its system.

“What we will do is run the Boundary Dam facility for a couple of years, test the technology and see what the economies are of running a plant in full production, and go from there,” Watson said.

Unit 3 is to begin producing in May. SaskPower plans to sync it with the carbon capture facility a couple of months later.

“The capture facility is done. It’s constructed. We are just doing the commissioning and inspection testing. We are taking our time doing that,” Watson said.

Employees are being trained in the new technology and in operating a chemical plant, which is the classification for the carbon capture facility.

“It’s long-term employment for families in the area,” Watson said. “It helps the economy in the southeastern part of the province, not that the economy needs helping. It’s robust now.”

Construction started in April 2011 but getting the new system into operation has been delayed, mostly by surprises uncovered in the rebuild on the power plant. The unexpected, additional work meant extra time and money.

“We will be a bit over budget, but in the whole scheme of things, it will be quite modest,” Watson said.

Starting in July 2015, the Canadian government is requiring that coal-burning units more than 50 years old either shut down or reduce carbon dioxide emissions to less than 420 tons per gigawatt hour. SaskPower has decommissioned Units 1 and 2 at its Boundary Dam station. Both were more than 50 years old.

In the next two to three years, SaskPower will have to decide whether to convert Boundary Dam Units 4 and 5 to carbon capture, Watson said. They reach 50 years in the early 2020s.

Abandoning coal as a fuel isn’t realistic in southern Saskatchewan, Watson said.

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