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CCS test facility at Shand Power Station vacant since July 2021

Test facility has been used by companies and by SaskPower for carbon capture and storage technologies.
The carbon capture and test facility at SaskPower's Shand Power Station.

ESTEVAN - The carbon capture and storage test facility at SaskPower’s Shand Power Station has been sitting empty since July 2021, but SaskPower says it isn’t giving up one the structure that allows companies to advance their CCS advancements.

“We’re discussing opportunities with any interested companies or parties that want to use that facility,” said Joel Cherry, a media relations and issues management consultant for SaskPower. “We have had some active discussions, so we’re open to the possibility of having another tenant in there.”

The test facility opened in the spring of 2015 with a large celebration. Since that time, two companies have used it to test out their CCS technologies. Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems was the first occupant, as they were partners with SaskPower on the test facility.

The other was Shell CanSolv in 2018.

SaskPower has also made use of the test facility to see how it can benefit its CCS facility at the Boundary Dam Power Station.

Cherry pointed out that the strong year for the CCS facility in 2022 is due in part to the test facility. The CCS project at Boundary Dam had its second-best year on record, capturing 749,035 tonnes of CO2, and it’s on track for its best fiscal year since opening in 2014. That fiscal year runs from April 1-March 30.

“There is valuable work that can be done there [at the test facility],” said Cherry.

In the case of SaskPower’s research, improvements were made with amine degradation, which has been a recurring issue at Boundary Dam.  

“As I understand it, the amine is … as a metaphor, it’s kind of like the oil in a car that needs to be changed once in a while,” said Cherry. “We had to change out that amine more frequently than we initially expected.”

While he wouldn’t say they have reached a breakthrough on the amine front, they have seen improvements through the CCS facility.

He could not get into details on who would be looking at the CCS facility due to confidentiality reasons.

Cherry stressed SaskPower does not have any plans to close the facility despite the lack of a tenant, and an end date for the facility has not been established.

Meanwhile, a decision has not been made on the future of Unit 4 at the Boundary Dam Power Station. The unit was taken offline on Dec. 1, 2021, and was expected to be permanently retired. But the unit has been kept on standby in case it was still needed, and it has been brought back online several times during the past 14 months.

SaskPower announced last year that Unit 4 would remain an option until Apirl 1, 2023.

“It has proved useful for us during the past year, periods when demand was high or when we’ve had either planned or unplanned outages at other facilities,” said Cherry. “Right now, we’re still assessing and deciding what the next steps are for that facility.”

Unit 4 was last online a few weeks ago, he said.

It has been needed during the winter months, which would be peak power usage time in Saskatchewan, but it would also be brought back online in the summer when there are heat waves that cause peak power usage.

“We plan our outages in such a way that we can always meet our operating reserves, but occasionally we have had an unplanned outage that coincides with the planned outages, and have been able to fill a gap,” said Cherry.