Sept/Oct 2008

Greening coal

Clean coal and carbon capture and storage projects

By B. Sundararajan

Boundary Dam

Canada’s Clean Coal Technology Roadmap has helped to draw much-needed attention and support from the coal industry, its supply-chain, academic and research groups as well as various government agencies to the issues of clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage (CCS). CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide from large industrial sources before it is emitted into the atmosphere, where it can contribute to climate change. The captured gas can be safely stored in mature oil and gas reservoirs or certain deep geological saline formations.

It is obvious from the significant clean coal and CCS projects underway that Canadian companies are very serious about reaching the important energy-related targets that have been set. They have evidently picked up the gauntlet and are prepared to tackle these tough issues head-on.

Impressive implementations

EPCOR Utilities Inc. raised the bar for Canadian power production with its Genesee 3 unit, deploying supercritical combustion methods and a $90 million voluntary investment in clean air technologies. The company has several new initiatives underway including the construction of water and wastewater systems, the replacement of aging infrastructure, the expansion of Canada’s renewable energy capacity and environmental remediation. Some of these projects include Keephills 3 and the E L Smith Upgrade.

In 2007, construction began on Keephills 3, a 450-megawatt, supercritical, coal-fired unit west of Edmonton, in partnership with TransAlta Corporation. The Keephills 3 plant, built on the success of the Genesee 3 facility, is an important step towards meeting Alberta’s future power needs in a reliable, cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner. Keephills 3 will use supercritical boiler technology that features higher boiler temperatures and pressures and a high-efficiency steam turbine. Because less fuel is used, carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt are lower than in conventional coal plants. The plant will emit 24 per cent less carbon dioxide in producing the same amount of power as the four obsolete Wabamun units being retired by TransAlta by 2010.

In addition to these clean coal projects, EPCOR is also involved in all four CCS initiatives that are currently underway in Alberta – the Alberta Saline Aquifer Project, the ICO2N plan, the Heartland Area Redwater Project and the Wabamun Area Storage Project. Then there is the Boundary Dam 3 clean coal/carbon capture project in Saskatchewan.

Alberta Saline Aquifer Project

ASAP is a broad-based, industry-supported carbon dioxide sequestration initiative that participants will roll out in three phases. Phase one, expected to be completed by the end of 2008, will involve identifying suitable locations for long-term sequestration in deep saline aquifers. Phase two will see the implementation of a pilot project during which sequestration sites will be designed to receive injected carbon dioxide. The third and subsequent phases will involve expanding the project to a large-scale, long-term commercial sequestration operation. The first project of its kind in Canada, ASAP will play a major role in advancing knowledge of CCS technology. Canada-based Enbridge Inc., a leading oil and gas pipeline and distribution company, is heading a group of 19 energy industry participants like EPCOR, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Canada Resources, BP Canada Energy Company and others.

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