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SaskPower Pushes Reset on Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage Plant

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SaskPower says that an extended maintenance shut down at Boundary Dam’s power station this fall was just what the doctor ordered for its ailing carbon capture and storage plant.

The shut down enabled SaskPower to fix a number of problem areas in the $1.5-billion project, including replacing a leaky vessel that holds the main chemical solution used in the carbon capture process.

Since bringing the carbon capture unit back online on Nov. 2, the Crown corporation claims to have achieved the plant’s nameplate capacity of 3,240 tonnes of CO2 per day from Nov. 14-16.

Now the utility wants to operate at about 85 per cent capacity, aiming to capture 800,000 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide reliably and cost-effectively.

“Since we’ve come back from our overhaul, our total delivery for November was around 60,000 tonnes,” the best month to date, said Howard Matthews, vice-president of power production for SaskPower.

“I won’t kid you, there are still problems and issues, but … we’ve really made some good progress. One of the key things was hitting that nameplate capacity. We made our full nameplate production over a three-day period.’’

Now that SaskPower has shown it can capture carbon dioxide at 90 per cent of the one-million-tonne-per- year rate, the objective is to operate the plant at a consistent basis at 85 per cent capacity for the next year.

“We’ve proven we can hit our capacity. Now we’ll dial it back a bit and work on becoming very reliable for a number of months, boost our production a bit and keep working our way through the list of outstanding issues to deal with.’’

“Our goal for next year is 800,000 tonnes,’’ Matthews said, adding that would enable SaskPower to meet its regulatory requirements, plus supply sufficient carbon dioxide to meet Cenovus’s contractual needs and Aquistore, the geological CO2 storage project run by SaskPower and the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC).

“What we strive for is to first meet regulatory requirements,…meet our Cenovus contract and then keep something for Aquistore,’’ which can take up to 1,000 tonnes of CO2, Matthews said.

Of course, there will be more outages, planned and unplanned, in the months and years ahead as the plant requires cleaning and maintenance. The planned outages will occur every six to 10 weeks and last five or six days.

In addition, the completion and commissioning of the acid plant, which was delayed by problems with the carbon capture plant, will take place sometime in the new year.

Aside from carbon dioxide for use by Cenovus’s enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project at Weyburn, the plant also captures sulphur dioxide and processes it into sulphuric acid.

Despite its problems and birth pangs, Matthews is proud of what the Boundary Dam CCS project has achieved in just over a year of operation. “Half a million tonnes of CO2 sequestered in the ground. That’s half a million tonnes that otherwise would have been emitted into the atmosphere.’’

“Another 800,000 tonnes will be captured next year that would have been in the atmosphere.’’

More importantly, the plant will help SaskPower and other power utilities make decisions to reduce their carbon emissions. With more than 40 per cent of world’s electricity generated from coal-fired plants, reliable, cost-effective CCS is needed more than ever, he said. (Regina Leader-Post)

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