Analysts Question Efficacy, Cost Of Saskatchewan Boundary Dam CCS Project

Analysts Question Efficacy, Cost Of Saskatchewan Boundary Dam CCS Project - Carbon Herald
Boundary Dam Power Station, Estevan, Saskatchewan. Image: TheStuffz/Shutterstock


A recent analysis indicates that the signature Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Saskatchewan, Western Canada, is falling short of its emissions reduction targets, casting doubt on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the technology, the Journal of Commerce by ConstructConnect said Monday.

David Schissel, an analyst from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), suggests that carbon capture may not be as effective as claimed by industry proponents, questioning the wisdom of investing in maintaining coal-fired power plants.

The project, launched in 2014 at the Boundary Dam coal-fired power plant in southeast Saskatchewan, aimed to capture up to 90% of the plant’s carbon emissions.

However, it has consistently failed to meet this target, achieving only a 57% capture rate on average, according to Schissel’s analysis.

Despite improvements, the project has not reached its intended goals, as confirmed by a 2022 paper from the International CCS Knowledge Centre.

Technical challenges and the demand for captured carbon dioxide (CO2) by the energy industry, particularly for enhanced oil recovery, have constrained the project’s performance.

Although almost six million tons of CO2 have been kept from the atmosphere, the facility has not operated at full capacity due to various factors, including technical and economic considerations.

Relevant: New Study Will Explore Carbon Capture And Storage Hubs In Saskatchewan

While SaskPower, which owns the Boundary Dam power plant, and other proponents emphasize the project’s contributions and ongoing improvements, Schissel remains skeptical.

He argues that for carbon capture to fulfill its promises, it must operate flawlessly for extended periods, which has not been the case thus far.

Similar challenges have been encountered in other carbon capture projects, such as Shell’s Quest project and Capital Power’s Genesee initiative, which was shelved just last week, highlighting broader concerns about the viability and economic feasibility of the technology.

Despite potential benefits, doubts persist about whether carbon capture represents the most efficient approach to emission reduction, particularly considering its significant costs and uncertain long-term effectiveness.

Schissel suggests that while carbon capture may have merits in certain contexts, its widespread adoption and reliance on large-scale operations require careful scrutiny.

Without substantial improvements in efficacy and cost, the investment in carbon capture technology may not yield the desired outcomes in addressing climate change.

“We may find out in 20 years that we didn’t capture as much CO2 as we needed to and we wasted a lot of money that could have been better spent,” Schissel concluded.

Read more: Capital Power Cancels $2.4B Carbon Capture Project In Canada

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