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CSS project marks its one-year anniversary

It’s been a little more than a year since the attention of the global energy community was turned to Estevan for the opening of a project that is the first of its kind in the world.

It’s been a little more than a year since the attention of the global energy community was turned to Estevan for the opening of a project that is the first of its kind in the world. 

SaskPower celebrated the official launch of its integrated carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant on Oct. 2, 2014, with about 250 people in attendance, including delegates from around the world. They were able to tour the capture island that was constructed as part of the project, and Unit 3 at Boundary Dam, which was retrofitted with clean coal technologies.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who was among those at the launch, said the project should be a source of hope for other countries that rely on coal for power.

“Maybe coal, affordable coal, can continue to be part of a more sustainable energy mix here, and around the world,” said Wall.

Since that time, SaskPower has been busy promoting the plant and the technology. They have received visits from global leaders, and has been recognized by numerous publications and organizations.

The first group of visitors came just a couple weeks after the grand opening, when a group of diplomats visiting the province travelled to Estevan. Veselko Grubišić, the Croatian ambassador to Canada, called the CCS project “the Mount Everest of technology.”

But the most high-profile tour came in late August, when Boundary Dam received a U.S. congressional visit. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is vying for the Republican presidential ticket, and Rhode Island Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse were joined by South Carolina Republican Congressman Tom Rice.

They were impressed with the project.

“I would argue we need to rid our system of coal if we’re going to have the kind of life that human-kind has had for hundreds of generations … unless … technology like this can make coal clean. If it can, then we have a whole new set of opportunities and a much easier political solution,” Whitehouse said at the time.

The first award came late last year, when Boundary Dam was named Project of the Year in the coal category by two magazines, Power Engineering and Renewable Energy World. The award is given annually to projects that reflect the electrical generating industry’s search for cleaner, more efficient sources of power generation and demonstrate new technologies that will help achieve those goals.

Then in June, it was revealed Boundary Dam and a project in Australia would share the Edison Electric Institute’s 2015 Edison Award. The award is the international electrical industry’s top honour.

“SaskPower’s Boundary Dam CCS Project is a great example of the electric power industry’s commitment to using cutting-edge technologies to provide affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy to customers,” Edison Energy Institute president Tom Kuhn said at the time. 

“The talented team at SaskPower is deserving of the Edison Award for its groundbreaking work on this innovative project that will benefit customers
and reduce emissions.”

SaskPower also released figures in February that showed Unit 3 at Boundary Dam was exceeding their expectations. It is generating 120 megawatts of power, compared to their hope of 110 megawatts. And the carbon dioxide purity was 99.9 per cent, compared to the projection of 95.5 per cent.

There have been challenges. The capture island has been shut down multiple times while SaskPower continues to work out the bugs associated with the technology. And a large cylinder inside the capture island was recently replaced, although it was under warranty with an outside supplier.

The CCS project is expected to capture one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, greatly reducing the emissions that enter the atmosphere.  

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