Canada's $779 million carbon capture plan

Oct. 16, 2009 at 4:19 PM
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EDMONTON, Alberta, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- The governments of Canada and Alberta have promised $779 million to build a carbon capture and storage facility for TransAlta, Canada's largest investor-owned power producer.

In announcing the $1.4 billion project at TransAlta's 400-megawatt coal-fired generating station near Edmonton Wednesday, Canada's Prime Minster Stephen Harper said carbon capture and storage, or CCS, "has the potential to help us balance our need for energy with our duty to protect the environment."

The Canadian government is contributing $343 million to the project, with Alberta investing a total of $431 million over the next 15 years and an additional $5 million for initial engineering and design.

Steve Snyder, President and chief executive officer of TransAlta, said: "This public-private partnership will move us a step closer toward the maturation of CCS technology, vital to the continued development of our energy resources in an environmentally sustainable way."

TransAlta said it plans to make a final decision on the project's feasibility in about a year. But "everything we've seen today says this is a go," Snyder said, the Canadian Press reports. "By 2015, we should be capturing and sequestering 1 million tons of carbon (annually)," he said.

Snyder said where the carbon dioxide would be stored has not yet been determined, or whether pumping it into an old oilfield to extract additional crude might be a possibility.

Linda Duncan, member of Parliament for Edmonton-Strathcona, said: "There is no way in the world we should be allowing somebody to be experimenting with injecting a substance into our underground regimes until we know where the aquifers are and know where the abandoned wells are," the Edmonton Journal reports.

Duncan said Canada's and Alberta's governments are dumping cash into "untested, unaffordable technology," noting the money would be better spent on renewable energy projects.

This is the second CCS project announced this month by the federal and provincial governments. Last week they pledged $865 million for a CCS demonstration project at Shell's Scotford oil sands upgrader near Edmonton.

According to a recent Canadian federal-provincial study, CCS could allow the country to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly three-quarters of Canada's current output.

But in attaining that goal, both governments would need to impose a high price on carbon, more than either has pledged.

"The first few projects are going to require government to pay most of the freight," said Robert Page, University of Calgary energy expert and chairman of the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy. Most analysts, he said, believe carbon needs to be $80 to $100 a ton to encourage companies to adopt CCS on their own.

Topics: Steve Snyder
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