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Clear policy drives significant CCS project in Canada

03 May 2011
Clear policy drives significant CCS project in Canada

By Rupert Posner, Global Director of Energy, The Climate Group

First published on Global CCS Institute

Last week the Government of Saskatchewan, part of Canada’s Western Provinces, announced it had approved construction of one of the world's early commercial-scale carbon capture and storage facilities.

This was a result of a massive $1 billion contribution by the province as well as a not insubstantial contribution of $240 million by the Canadian Federal Government.

While geographically Saskatchewan is a reasonable size, its 650,000 square kilometers makes it about the same size as France; it is not a big state economically or by population. It's home to just over one million people, representing about three per cent of Canada’s almost 35 million inhabitants, and its Gross State Product in 2009 was about C$56 billion, or around four per cent of Canada’s C$1.5 trillion.

So this is a big project.

Construction on the Saskatchewan's Boundary Dam project will begin immediately, with operations commencing in 2014. The new generating unit at will have the capacity to generate 110 MW of electricity and aims to capture 1 million tons of CO2 a year.

The project will pump CO2 into older oil reservoirs to boost the productivity, providing a financial boost to the project.

What is interesting is what appears to be the motivation for such a significant project from such a small province.

Canadian Federal guidelines require coal-fired power plants that are more than 45 years old to be shut down by 2015 if they are not upgraded with technology that ensures they don’t emit more CO2 than gas-fired power stations.

In the words of the government minister responsible for SaskPower, Rob Norris: "Essentially, in 2014 we were going to have to go offline or clean up coal."

The province says it will look to upgrade other sections of the 834 MW Boundary Dam plant by 2020.

Canada has 51 coal-fired units producing 19 percent of the country's electricity and 13 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty three of those plants will reach the end of their economic lives by 2025.

This announcement demonstrates pretty clearly that clear long term policies are critical for ensuring construction of at-scale CCS projects sooner rather than later.

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