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CCS facility at Boundary Dam remains offline due to outage in compressor motor

CCS is expected to be back online next month, after a failure in the compressor’s motor forced the capture island to shut down.
Boundary Dam pic
CCS facility at Boundary Dam has been offline since July.

ESTEVAN - The carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station is expected to be back online next month, after a failure in the compressor’s motor forced the capture island to shut down.

Howard Matthews, the vice-president of power production at SaskPower, said the issue arose on July 19. Since then, SaskPower has been working to get this motor off to be repaired, and returned to service as quickly as possible. 

Those repairs are ongoing, and SaskPower hopes to have the CCS facility back online in mid-October. 

“This is a very large motor, one of the largest in the province. It’s about a 20,000-horsepower electric motor. There’s only a few places that can repair this in the first place.” 

A company in Regina partnered with a company in Houston to repair the motor.

“We shipped down, dismantled and inspected to understand the extent of the damage. Parts were ordered, and we’re really working around the clock to get this motor repaired and back in service as quickly we can. That’s just how long it takes to have parts manufactured and put back into place, and have it returned back to Estevan,” said Matthews. 

Once the motor does return, it will have to be installed and reconnected again, both mechanically and electrically, and then recommissioned. That will take time as well.  

“It’s certainly more sophisticated than replacing a motor on our home furnace, for instance,” said Matthews.  

The motor is original equipment, and there haven’t been any issues in the past. The cause of the failure has not been determined.

“We would expect many, many years out of a motor of this type. You normally wouldn’t do an inspection, an internal inspection, on a motor like this for at least 10 years,” said Matthews. “These are long-service, electric motors. They’re not outdoors; they’re indoors.” 

To have an internal component fail like this was unexpected.  

Matthews couldn’t comment on who would be paying for the cost of this repair, and whether it’s an insurance issue or a warranty claim. 

Unit 3 at Boundary Dam can operate when the CCS facility is offline. According to SaskPower’s monthly Boundary Dam blog, the unit produced an average of 112 megawatts of power in August.  

The issues with the compressor motor are not related to the planned shutdown that occurred in June and early July. The CCS facility and BD3 were offline starting June 5 for a planned outage, which SaskPower said was necessary to perform routine inspections and repairs, equipment life cycle rebuilds, as well as reliability and performance work including packing change-outs from its two absorber towers.  

Matthews pointed out the CCS facility was working well after it returned to service. In July, it captured 13,470 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The average daily capture when CCS was online was 2,573 tonnes per day with a peak one-day capture of 2,631 tonnes.  

“The facility started up very, very well. We were quite pleased with how it started up, and ran for some time. And then this totally unexpected internal failure of the compressor motor (happened),” said Matthews.

There had been no indications or an advanced warning that the failure was coming. 

The CCS facility had been online 81.7 per cent of the time from June 2020 to May 2021, and from February to May, it was operating more than 90 per cent of the time.

On March 30, the CCS facility eclipsed four million tonnes of CO2 captured – the latest milestone for the facility.  

The current outage is the longest unscheduled shutdown for the CCS facility since 2018, when a severe thunderstorm caused significant damage to Unit 3 at Boundary Dam. While Unit 3 can operate without the capture island, the island needs Unit 3 to be online.