All’s well on SaskPower project

On time and on budget, Monea says

After more than a decade of study, over a billion dollars of investment, a few missteps and a couple of surprises, SaskPower’s $1.24-billion Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage project at Boundary Dam’s Unit 3 is on schedule and on budget, a CCS symposium was told here Tuesday.

And SaskPower wants to share the lessons learned from the world’s first commercial-scale clean coal project through a global consortium of businesses, government agencies, research groups, educational institutions and environmental organizations with an interest in CCS.

“It is the world’s first commercially based carbon capture facility for a power (generating) unit,” SaskPower president and CEO Robert Watson said. “What we want to do (with the consortium) is bring Boundary Dam to the world.”

To that end, about 100 delegates from a dozen countries are attending the three-day Carbon Capture and Storage Information and Planning Symposium, which includes a tour of the Boundary Dam Unit 3 project in Estevan on Wednesday.

Following completion of the construction phase, testing of BD3 will begin this fall, Watson said. When fully operational in April 2014, BD3 will reduce 90 per cent of the CO2 emissions from Unit 3, or one million tonnes of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to taking 250,000 vehicles off the road for a year.

The million tonnes of CO2 captured by BD3 will be sold to Cenovus and shipped by pipeline to the Weyburn area, where it will be used in the Alberta-based company’s CO2 enhanced oil recovery project.

Mike Monea, president of carbon capture and storage initiatives for SaskPower, said the CCS project, which is about 70 per cent complete, should meet its capital budget of $1.24 billion.

“I want to hit that target,” Monea said after his presentation to the symposium. “I’d like to be below if I can.”

But, like any renovation project, there are always a few “surprises,” he added.

“For example,” he said, “where the turbine sat, we hoped that the mounts would work quite nicely (with the new carbon capture-ready turbine built by Hitachi). This turbine is different – it’s got a different speed and higher tolerances, so that had to be fixed.”

Even the paint used on some of the components had to be removed because of environmental concerns over lead content.

“Who knew six months ago that all of the sudden the (paint) would have to be changed and we had to have someone in an isolated environment chipping away at this lead paint?” Monea said.

In fact, this particular clean coal project – post-combustion CCS technology attached to an existing power unit – was only decided upon after looking at several other options, said Doug Daverne, director of carbon capture and storage initiatives for SaskPower.

Back in 2000, Daverne said SaskPower even considered replacing its fleet of coal-fired generating stations, which provide 50 to 60 per cent of the province’s electricity generating capacity, but decided that Saskatchewan’s 300 years of low-cost coal reserves could be cleaned up to meet modern environmental standards.

The corporation also looked at several sites, including the nearby Shand power station, for the CCS project, as well as new technology, such as OxyFuel, which would integrate carbon capture into the combustion process. But the cost savings from using an existing facility, like BD3, which was built in 1969 and would have to be replaced by 2013, tilted the scales in favour of post-combustion retro-fit CCS technology, Daverne said.

With financial assistance from the federal government of $240 million and the sale of CO2 to Cenovus, the BD3 project should generate electricity at $90 to $100 per megawatt hour, which would be competitive with combined-cycle natural gas, the company says.

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