Bellona visits canada’s boundary dam and quest ccs
Bellona Visits Canada’s BoundaryDam and Quest CCS projects
Boundary DamIn 2011, construction began on a full scale integrated carbon capture andstorage demonstration project at the SaskPower Boundary Dam lignite powerplant, in Saskatchewan. Two years later and the facility is nearing completion.Boundary Dam is on course to being among the first low carbon fossil powerplants in the world. The facility will capture one million tonnes of CO2 perannum from a 110 MW pulverised coal unit when it begins operation nextyear. The CO2 will becompressed and transported 60km for use in EnhancedOil Recovery (EOR).Construction of the CO2 capture facility is taking place in parallel to anoverhaul of unit three in the coal power plant. The upgrades include boilermodifications and replacement of the steam turbine. As a result, even withthe parasitic energy loss due to CO2 removal the thermal efficacy of the unitwill decrease.The current upgrades will provide two services for the power plant: theremoval of both SO2 and CO2, in a two stage process. In the first stage anoptimised amine sorbent washes and binds with SO2 in the flue gas. This amineis then regenerated in a stripper column, releasing a pure stream of SO2. TheSO2 is further reprocessed on site to produce sulphuric acid, a saleablecommodity valuable in many industrial processes.
The CO2 removal process takes place after the flue gas has been sufficientlycleaned of SO2. The decalcified flue gas passes through a significantly largerabsorber column where a different amine again washes the gas, this timebinding and removing CO2. The CO2 rich amine is regenerated in a largestripper column, providing a high purity CO2 stream to the compressor room.The scale of the facility, with the capacity to capture one million tonnes of CO2per annum, is equivalent to a typical combined cycle gas power plant. Inreality, if the process were employed at a gas power plant, the footprint andcomplexity would be smaller still as the SO2 removal and sulphuric acidconversion process would not be necessary, and lower volumes of CO2 wouldbe produced.Saskatchewan has significant coal reserves and a long-established coalmining industry. However, coal-fired generating units are responsible for 77%of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector in Canada. TheFederal Government of Canada therefore introduced a strict CO2 emissionsperformance standard of 420 t/GWh for new coal-fired electricity generationunits, and units that have reached the end of their useful life. The legislationwill effectively outlaw unabated lignite and coal electricity generation fromthese plants when it comes into force in 2015.
SaskPower - an enterprise owned by the provincial state ofSaskatchewan - has worked in close partnership with theProvincial government and local coal suppliers to make theBoundary Dam CCS project a reality. Several revenuestreams helped make the business case for the project. Theregulated electricity market in Saskatchewan providedvaluable electricity price stability and predictability, assuringthe plant of baseload dispatch. The Weyburn oil fieldsnearby meant that a sales contract for the CO2 producedhas already been concluded: The purchaser - CenovusEnergy - will assume liability for storage. A supply contract isnearing agreement for the sulphuric acid the plant willproduce. And finally, Federal Government support in theform of a Cdn$240 million grant with few strings attachedhelped the first movers involved in the project to fill afunding gap without compromising the commercial valueof their learnings or their intellectual property.
QuestThe Quest CCS project is a joint venture between Shell, Chevron, andMarathon that aims to demonstrate the role of CCS in reducingindustrial CO2 emissions from oil sands production. It has the strongbacking of the Federal Government of Canada and the Province ofAlberta, who will provide up to Cdn$865 million of funding towards theCdn$1.4 billion project.The Quest facility will capture one million tonnes of CO2 per annumfrom the hydrogen production unit at Shell’s Scotford Upgrader,located near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. The upgrading processadds hydrogen to lower quality bitumen extracted from oil sands toproduce a higher quality ‘synthetic crude’ feedstock for use in the co-located refinery at the Scotford site. As the hydrogen is producedfrom natural gas, significant CO2emissions result. The post combustionCO2 capture plant receives a high pressure, moderately highconcentration CO2 stream from a hydrogen production facility. Aswith Boundary Dam, amine sorbents are used to in the captureprocess.
One major distinguishing factor of the Quest CCS project lies with theCO2 storage. Although there is oil production nearby, Quest does not relyon EOR for supplementary revenue. Instead, CO2 will be transported via a100km pipeline to a saline formation storage site. This part of the projectincludes a near exhaustive Measurement, Monitoring and Verification planthat will allow for a systematic development and comparison of differentCO2 monitoring technologies and methods. The CO2 injection willtherefore provide the joint venture partners with valuable learnings movingforward.The role played by the Province of Alberta has also been key to realizingQuest. The province has systematically identified and acted to removeCCS ‘show stoppers’, tabling a number of laws to provide regulatorypredictability for prospective operators. For example, storage in Albertawas identified early on as a constraint, so the province boldly nationalizedpore space in its Carbon Capture and Storage Statutes Amendment Act,2010. This gave authorities control over, and responsibility for, all thepotential CO2 storage space in the province.And Alberta is striving to fine tune its regulatory framework for CCS furtherwith an 18-month review involving an expert panel. This will shortly resultin a further 73 suggestions for improvement, making Alberta a regulatoryposter child for CCS.
ObservationsAlberta and Saskatchewan are now world leaders in CCS.Both the Boundary Dam and Quest projects are almostcomplete, being scheduled to come into operation in 2014 and2015 respectively. They prove again the large-scale viabilityand versatility of CO2 capture technologies, and suggest thenecessary degree of regulatory clarity and stakeholderengagement needed to make CCS deployment a realityelsewhere in the world.But this raises the broader question of what has allowed CCSto succeed in Canada when it faces seemingly insurmountablehurdles elsewhere. How is Canada different?The regulated electricity market in Saskatchewan has helpedto reduce the investment risk of the Boundary Dam project.And public confidence with the oil and gas industry hascertainly facilitated effective stakeholder engagement.
But what is most notable is that the broad drive to developCCS in Canada stems from its position as a large resourceholder. Put simply, following increasing regulatory pressure toreduce CO2 emissions, provincial authorities and Industry haveworked together to keep coal and oil sands resourcesrelevant in the future. This has led to bold action to realizeCCS on both their parts, even though action is not driven byimmediate profit but by the long-term benefits of learning.The challenge that the EU faces is to find a way to unlock thesame sense of urgency. CCS is more than just a way forresource-holders to de-risk their assets. It will play an essentialpart in making the EU’s vast fossil fuel consumption lessharmful for future generations in the long-term transition toaffordable renewable energy sources and cleaner industrialprocesses.