Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

PM says Canada can be carbon capture world leader; announces clean coal project

WABAMUN, Alta. - The federal and Alberta governments have promised $779 million to help a large private-sector company build a project that could eventually see one million tonnes of greenhouse gases injected underground.

WABAMUN, Alta. - The federal and Alberta governments have promised $779 million to help a large private-sector company build a project that could eventually see one million tonnes of greenhouse gases injected underground.

"Carbon capture and storage has the potential to help us balance our need for energy with our duty to protect the environment," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday as he announced the $1.4-billion project at TransAlta Corp.'s (TSX:TA) 400-megawatt coal-fired generating station just west of Edmonton.

The Alberta government has promised $436 million, the majority coming over 15 years, to TransAlta while $343 million is to come from Ottawa. TransAlta will pay for the rest.

TransAlta president Steve Snyder said the company will make a final decision on the project's feasibility in about a year and, if it's approved, expects it to start sending carbon dioxide underground for long-term storage in 2015.

"We'll do an engineering study just to be sure we believe this will be a good investment," Snyder said. "Everything we've seen today says this is a go.

"By 2015, we should be capturing and sequestering one million tonnes of carbon (annually)."

It's the second such announcement in as many weeks for the two governments. Last week, they announced $865 million for a $1.35-billion carbon capture and storage project at Shell's Scotford oilsands upgrader near Edmonton.

Carbon capture and storage is an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial sources by separating carbon dioxide from other gases, collecting it and then transporting it through pipelines and storing it deep underground - forever, proponents hope - in saline aquifers or porous rocks.

Although all aspects of the technology have been used in smaller facilities, carbon capture and storage is largely untried at scales large enough to make a difference to climate change. If they proceed, both the Scotford and TransAlta projects would be among a handful of projects around the world that store more than a million tonnes of carbon dioxide underground a year.

Despite the amount of money spent and the scope of the plan, TransAlta's Pioneer project will apply only to one-quarter of the plant's generating capacity.

Snyder said many details remain to be worked out, such as where the carbon dioxide would be stored and whether it would be pumped into an old oilfield to extract more crude.

"We are now talking to possible partners who could use that stream and we'll try to complete those negotiations within the next 12 months."

Alberta Energy officials said using captured carbon dioxide to squeeze out more oil could add up to 15 per cent to the province's reserves.

Snyder said he expects the storage site will be located within 40 to 100 kilometres of the power plant.

Other issues still to be settled include legal liability for the carbon dioxide during transport and storage.

Critics have long pointed out that carbon capture and storage is expensive technology and will require huge public subsidies without a mandated price for carbon in the range of $70 to $80 per tonne. Alberta's current price is $15.

Harper said market signals will eventually result from ongoing talks with the United States on a cap-and-trade system for carbon.

"There will be compliance mechanisms that effectively set a price on carbon but obviously that will come into effect when we have a continental or even an international cap-and-trade regime," he said.

Other critics say that carbon capture and storage will itself consume a significant percentage of the power generated at the plant.

Still, Harper said, the technology will be in high demand around the world and pioneering it in Alberta will create jobs and exportable expertise.

At least one more such project is expected to be announced shortly in Alberta.

The province now has about $820 million left in a $2-billion fund it established to fund carbon capture and storage projects. Ottawa has spent about half of its $1-billion Clean Energy Fund.

 
 
You Might Also Like