Canada launches world's largest commercial carbon-capture project

Wed Oct 1, 2014 4:41pm EDT
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By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta Oct 1 (Reuters) - Canada will launch the world's first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project at a coal-fired power plant on Thursday, a closely watched experiment designed to cut 90 percent of the plant's carbon emissions.

The carbon-capture unit at the Boundary Dam power plant in Estevan, Saskatchewan, will be formally commissioned after a four-year C$1.35 billion ($1.21 billion) retrofit. Governments and industry around the world will be watching to see if the plant's operator, SaskPower, can turn large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) into a commercial success.

SaskPower, owned by the Prairie province of Saskatchewan, installed the CCS unit to prevent about 1 million tonnes, or 90 percent, of Boundary Dam's annual carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere once the unit reaches full operating capacity later this year.

Most of that carbon will be bought by Canada's No. 2 oil and gas producer, Cenovus Energy Inc, and used for enhanced oil recovery.

Concerns about greenhouse gas emissions have prompted several countries to pledge support to CCS projects and spurred companies to explore new technology. However, progress on the handful of CCS projects that have been approved has been slow and costly.

Seven years ago, the European Union declared it wanted up to 12 CCS demonstration projects to be running by 2015 but none have yet been authorized.

Some environmental groups lauded the opening of the Boundary Dam project and said it should encourage governments and companies that have recently cut investment in CCS to reconsider.

"Finally, people cannot say that this is unproven technology," said Frederic Hauge, head of Norwegian environmental group Bellona.   Continued...