Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A new age for carbon capture technology?

When I was on the Pan-Prairie Canadian tour in March, it was interesting to better understand the wide variety of energy sources available in Canada – not unlike the United Staes.  While in Alberta the tour discussion revolved around oil, in Saskatchewan the focus is coal and nuclear energy, and at our last stop, Manitoba, the focus was on hydropower. 

One of the most interesting stops was at the Boundary Dam coal power plant that was in the final stages of installing carbon capture technology.  When operation of this technology begins this summer, it will be the first large-scale commercial deployment of such technology in the world.  According the utility SaskPower, among the the benefits are a 1 million tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The diagram below shows how such technology works:
Source: SaskPower at
The biggest challenge facing this technology has been cost.  The board of directors of SaskPower, however, believe that due to the partnership of this technology with enhanced oil recovery, will at least break even.  Carbon dioxide (CO2) captured will go to either southern Saskatchewan oil fields for use in enhanced oil recover or stored deep underground in a brine and sandstone water formation in Aquistore, an independent research and development project in southeastern Saskatchewan managed by the Petroleum Technology Research Centre.  

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have done a great deal of work on the topic of carbon capture and sequestration including the CCSreg project that examined state regulations regarding carbon capture and which developed draft legislation.  This work resulted in a book entitled Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Removing the Legal and Regulatory Barriers by Scott Institute Director Granger Morgan, Sean McCoy, and others.   Another Scott Institute expert on coal plants and CCS is Edward Rubin whose thoughts on both the Canadian facility and an upcoming U.S. facility that uses a different CCS technology are available in articles in the April 2014 issue of National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times

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