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An encouraging sign for our world-leading technology

An editorial on the latest announcement made by the provincial government on carbon capture utilization and storage
Bronwyn Eyre
The government talking about CCUS and the vast potential it possesses is encouraging for the region

It was nice to hear an announcement made by the provincial government the day after Labour Day.

The provincial government held a press conference at the Whitecap Resources enhanced oil recovery site outside of Weyburn, and outlined the priorities for carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) moving forward. 

It was encouraging because the government was talking about CCUS and the vast potential it possesses. We’re hearing more and more about governments elsewhere who are jumping on board with CCUS, and we’ve heard claims that the world won’t be able to meet its climate targets without CCUS.

The Government of Saskatchewan has been touting CCUS for some time, since we’re world leaders in the technology and with enhanced oil recovery (EOR), and CCUS is certainly an innovation that we’ve been promoting for a number of years. We’ll continue to do so.

But it’s good to hear the government dedicating a press conference to talk about it and their priorities moving forward, especially with a federal election wrapping up. We haven’t heard a lot of specific talk from the government on this front for a while. Typically CCUS has been mentioned as among the options for Saskatchewan to reduce its carbon footprint, whether it is through power generation or other avenues.  

It’s encouraging to see the government lay out five priorities for CCS technology, which covers everything from pipelines to a greenhouse gas credit generation program.

It’s also worth noting that the province has asked the federal government for further investment into CCS technology in the Estevan area. Those with keen memories will recall that the federal government, under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the CCS facility at Boundary Dam. You’ll also recall that the Harper Conservatives also said there wouldn’t be further investment into CCS technology in Saskatchewan, because they had made their contribution.  

We don’t know what the federal government, whoever that government might be, will say in response to the province’s request. And we don’t know with absolute certainty what the province will do if the feds say no, although we have suspicions. 

What we do know is there is a greater awareness of the benefits of CCUS technology, that we’ve seen it work, that it reduces emissions and there is a greater reliability in that technology. 

When innovation champion and entrepreneur Elon Musk offers $100 million in a contest for the top carbon capture technology, you know people are paying attention.

Saskatchewan has been a world leader in CCUS technology. Much of that leadership is due to what has happened in our own backyard at the Boundary Dam Power Station.  

We’ve dedicated much time and space over the last few years to call on the province to commit to further investment in carbon capture and storage technology at Boundary Dam Power Station and Shand Power Station. They opted not to do so for Units 4 and 5 at Boundary Dam, going with natural gas instead, despite the wildly unpredictable fluctuations in natural gas prices.  

The province still has a few years to make a decision on Shand and Unit 6 at Boundary Dam. 

We’ve seen the reports on how the price has come down to retrofit a facility like Shand. We hope it will help with the government’s decision. 

CCUS isn’t always a popular concept. Its critics will be opposed to it in principle; they won’t want anything to do with a concept that is beneficial for the oil and gas sector or coal mining, even if it’s the right idea.

But these people tend not to be accused of being pragmatic.

CCUS and EOR have long been great for Saskatchewan. They have allowed us to take positive steps on the environment, while balancing the needs of the economy.

Retrofits of Boundary Dam and Shand would certainly help, and be a win on both fronts.