Carbon capture and storage an international affair

REGINA — While there may be a sense of protectionism emanating from south of the border when it comes to manufactured goods, the environment is one area where it seems we can all get along.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to work together on the development of one of the largest international carbon capture and storage demonstration projects in the world.

Saskatchewan signed a similar deal with Alberta last fall, and while Alberta’s plan may focus more on reducing the carbon footprint of oil and natural gas production, Saskatchewan’s MoU with Montana will focus more on coal production.

"Both of our countries rely on coal as a low cost fuel for the majority of our power generation, but burning coal comes at a significant cost to our environment," Wall said. "This project will help us to meet our needs for power while developing new clean energy technologies to address the challenge of climate change."

Coal fired power generation results in significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the form of carbon dioxide. Wall hopes the project will help Saskatchewan to meet the federal government’s target to reduce GHG emissions by 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2020.

"CO2 is a global concern and it is time to work together to address this pressing issue," Schweitzer said. "Montana has 30 percent of the coal in America and in order to use our coal we need a solution to CO2."

The technologies allow carbon to be captured from coal and gas fired power generation, then store it deep underground.

Under the MOU, the Saskatchewan-Montana partnership will work to achieve the following four goals:

– Construction of a technology-neutral CO2 capture plant (reference plant) at an existing coal-fired electrical generating station in Saskatchewan that would have the flexibility to rest a range of post-combustion carbon capture technologies;
– construction of a North American CO2 storage facility in eastern Montana including injection infrastructure with the option of using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery;
– construction of pipeline infrastructure for the transportation of CO2 from the reference plant in Saskatchewan to the storage facility in Montana; and
– development of a North American training facility to meet the needs of a growing CCS industry and regulators, based primarily at the University of Regina and Montana State University.

The estimated of the total cost of the project is $270 million. On the Canadian side, it is approximately $150 million to design and build the CO2 reference plant, related CO2 pipeline infrastructure and a North American training facility for CCS technicians.

The Government of Saskatchewan will provide up to $50 million through Crown Investments Corporation and has requested funding of $100 million from the federal government through its Clean Energy Fund.

The State of Montana has requested $100 million (US) from their federal government through the Department of Energy to support construction of a CO2 pipeline on the U.S. side of the border and development of the underground CO2 storage and research in the infrastructure in Montana.

Governor Schweitzer and Premier Wall agreed that the international carbon capture and storage demonstration project will also help address national policy priorities in both countries including the development of near zero, sustainable energy technologies; continental energy security and economic stimulus to support the North American economy.

A steering committee plans to complete work on the development phase by August 31, including a full project plan, engineering design, business plan, detailed budget and construction timeline.

With the financial support of both federal governments, construction of the plant could begin as early as this September and the plant could be operational as early as the summer of 2011. The goal for the reference plant is to test a range of technologies in the capture of up to one million tonnes of CO2 over a four-year period.
 

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