Despite rumors to the contrary, the fate of carbon capture technology has not been sealed. President of SaskPower, Mike Marsh came out last week stating that SaskPower was 'unlikely to recommend further carbon capture projects.' However, that report may have been a little premature.
"The decision certainly isn't made," explained Jonathon Tremblay, a spokesperson with SaskPower. "We did make some comments on the price of natural gas and how that doesn't look as good as when we first made the decision in 2010 but certainly, decisions aren't made."
"BD3 is up and running and there is no change there. It's keeping that unit productive for the next 30 years potentially since it meets federal emissions regulations now that CCS is on it, it burns cleaner than any natural gas or coal units in North America."
"There's no issue there, it's more on the other regulations so when our coal units reach 50 years of age, we have to make that decision because regulations won't let them operate as they always have. So it's either CCS or shut down."
"And we're also working on an equivalency agreement with the federal government that may give us more options. There's a lot of variables and we need to make decisions in the coming three to six months."
Estevan Mayor, Roy Ludwig also threw his support behind the efficacy of the carbon capture facility at Boundary Dam.
"As you know, between the federal government and the provincial government, we've spent $1.5 billion on our first unit. It's successful. I do understand according to President March that perhaps it's not as competitive as natural gas right now, but remember, natural gas in the past has tripled. So I hope the SPC is not looking at moving everything to natural gas and then when the price triples, then we'll really be held ransom."
"I hope they realize and appreciate the fact that it's important to have many different sources of power. Not only wind, solar but clean coal as well as natural gas."
Ludwig adds that the announcement came as a surprise to City Council.
"I think what we would like to see instead of announcements like this, without any prior discussion, that we would have proper discussion with the community moving forward. We've already talked to our MLA, Lori Carr. We're getting a meeting set up with hopefully the Minister of the SPC and we would like to get the stakeholders involved, not only the employers of the coal mine, the employees as well and have a good round table discussion."
Ludwig hopes that with the clean coal technology, the need to phase out coal as a power source could be pushed back another 30 years.
"In the interim, I would like to see them maintain the jobs. And because we have the grid in place, that we look at other alternatives that would be here i.e. wind. We could set the turbines to hook in the grid here in the Estevan area. We're one of the leading sources of sunshine so we would look favourably upon solar. Again, with the intention of hooking that to the grid that we already have in place."
"We would like to see long term solutions and start talking about them now so we can get things in place and keep the valuable employees that we have."
"We need a dialogue within our community between ministry, between SPC and we have to put a long-term plan in place which may mean down the road, after we're done the coal and I would suggest that would be 25-30 year window, that perhaps we could look at other alternative moving forward."
When asked about the reactions of workers at the mine, Mayor Ludwig shared that many are cautiously optimistic.
"After we saw our neighbours in Alberta come out and say that there would probably be no more coal used after 2030, it causes a lot of concern. It absolutely does. And in our community where coal and power production is one of the main economic drivers, it absolutely causes a lot of concern. We were hoping for the next two successive units to be clean coal because every successive unit is cheaper."
"We've got other areas throughout the world looking at this technology. Is it competitive with natural gas right now, today? It's more expensive, yes. But we all know what can happen with natural gas and has happened in the past. History has a way of repeating itself. I think we have to be very careful about making decisions moving forward without having all of the stakeholders involved and having a good discussion."
Mike Marsh, President and CEO released the following statement clarifying his earlier remarks:
"My comments to CBC regarding what option SaskPower may recommend to government were simply based on the economics of the generation options available to us as a utility today. I also stated that other socioeconomic factors such as oil royalties, taxes, etc. would need to be factored into any final recommendation that government would ultimately consider. To rule out a possible CCS recommendation at this point is premature."
"SaskPower has captured more than 1.75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide at Boundary Dam 3. The project has been heralded around the world as a major breakthrough in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BD 3 was the first commercial power plant in the world to have a fully integrated post-combustion carbon capture system."
"SaskPower continues to evaluate the feasibility of expanding carbon capture at Boundary Dam. It is important that the company complete its due diligence and considers all factors before making a recommendation to its Board of Directors and ultimately to the government."