Boundary Dam carbon capture-storage (CCS) project heads toward startup in Saskatchewan

Boundary Dam power facility in Estevan, Saskatchewan, undergoing upgrade for CCS. Photo via GAP Inspection Services, Ltd.

Boundary Dam power facility in Estevan, Saskatchewan, undergoing upgrade for CCS. Photo via GAP Inspection Services, Ltd.

A major new installation of carbon capture-storage (CCS) technology is heading for startup in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration Project, located at its coal-fired power plant in Estevan, involves rebuilding the plant’s Unit #3 with a fully-integrated carbon capture and storage (CCS) system. According to the website of GAP Inspection Services, Ltd., which has been selected as Owners Inspector for SaskPower, “It will be the first commercial-scale power plant equipped with a fully-integrated CCS system.”

The project, also featured in a New York Times article focused on “Corralling Carbon Before It Belches From Stack“, represents another important step forward toward a sustainable source of electric power that minimizes carbon-rich greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As the Times reports, “a gleaming new maze of pipes and tanks — topped with what looks like the Tin Man’s hat — will suck up 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from one of the boilers so it can be shipped out for burial, deep underground.”

The Boundary Dam power project comes in the context of recent restrictions placed by the Canadian government on both old and new coal plants. While CCS “is no magic bullet” says the article, the technology is seen as particularly crucial.

Carbon capture and storage is increasingly a component of global efforts to utilize fossil fuel resources prudently and reduce GHG emissions, while providing sufficient electric power on a sustainable basis to maintain modern civilization and improve living standards. As the article emphasizes,

If there is any hope of staving off the worst effects of climate change, many scientists say, this must be part of it — capturing the carbon that spews from power plants and locking it away, permanently. For now, they contend, the world is too dependent on fossil fuels to do anything less.

Currently, as the Times also notes, CCS technology has its drawbacks. Carbon extraction requires extra energy, and this reduces a facility’s net electricity production — “the whole point of its existence.”

Plus, CSS is currently a quite expensive technology. “Updating the Saskatchewan plant alone cost $1.2 billion — two-thirds of which went for the equipment to remove the gas” reports the Times.

And while the article warns that “There are basic questions of whether carbon dioxide can be safely stored underground”, it’s worth noting that considerable research and innovation efforts are focused on improving the competence of storage methods and developing efficient technology recycling the captured carbon effectively. ■


Decatur ethanol production project showing success for carbon capture-storage (CCS) technology

CO2 compressor at ADM's Decatur, Illinois ethanol CCS facility. Photo: ADM.

CO2 compressor at ADM’s Decatur, Illinois ethanol CCS facility. Photo: ADM.

Decatur, Illinois — Efforts to demonstrate the effectiveness of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as a means of reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions seem to be achieving success in an Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) ethanol production project based in Decatur.

According to a March 21st report in the Decatur Herald-Review, the project seems to be on target, with the “process is going as planned” and CCS first phase described as “75 percent complete”.

Barring unforeseen drawbacks, the Decatur project could provide a strong boost for CCS applications in coal-fueled power generation facilities.

As recounted in a May 2012 report on the Ethanol Producer website, ADM’s project is part of the Illinois Basin-Decatur Project, an effort launch in 2007 and led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, the U.S. DOE, Schlumberger Carbon Services, and ADM. In fact, it’s the first of two CCS projects under way in the program, with the goal of proving that “large amounts of CO2 from industrial sources can be compressed and injected into deep geological formations for storage, thus reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lessening their effects on the environment.”

There has been has significant federal investment in both CCS projects. Funding for the first project has been channeled through the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium under the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The DOE’s interest in CCS stems from its belief that “the process offers a way to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change…” notes Ethanol Producer. “But in order to advance the use of this technology, the economics of the operations first need to be proven.”

The technology itself seems to be working. Several years after launch, reports the Ethanol Producer article, in November 2012, CO2 from ADM’s Decatur ethanol plant at last “began being captured, transported via pipeline and injected for permanent storage into a nearby geologic formation known as the Mount Simon Sandstone….”

With CO2 capture and storage running smoothly, injection of the gas has continued, averaging 1,000 metric tons per day. The project is slated to conclude in the fall of this year (2014); at that point, project leaders hope to have injected as much as one million metric tons of CO2 into permanent storage in the deep underground reservoir.

Federal funding totaling $141 million for the second CCS project has been provided via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“stimulus”) of 2009.

Success of the ADM’s Decatur ethanol CCS operation has been attracting political attention and support, according to the Herald-News coverage. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, affirmed his belief that CCS “is part of the solution” to the problem solving the confluence of energy needs, of GHG emissions, and global warming.

Durbin sees the ADM CCS project as just a beginning, and he’s eyeing further efforts to test and advance CCS technology. These include launching FutureGen, planned to start at a site about 60 miles to west of Decatur. According to the Herald-News, Sen. Durbin sees FutureGen, focused on capturing emissions from coal-fired power plants, as”an even more ambitious project” and “a dramatic next step.”

In any case, ADM’s ethanol CCS venture at Decatur is garnering attention “from around the country and world” which “will continue to be focused on the site in Decatur to see if the project continues to be successful.” And, if this implementation of CCS technology “proves to be as worthwhile as anticipated”, reports the paper, “ADM has ambitious business aspirations” for it.

China and Australia collaborating on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology

CCS pilot plant at Shenhua Group coal mining site in Ordos, China. Photo: Wu-Hong.

CCS pilot plant at Shenhua Group coal mining site in Ordos, China. Photo: Wu-Hong.

Collaboration between Australia and China on carbon capture and storage (CCS) is highlighted in a 19 November 2013 article on the Geoscience Australia website, focusing on the China Australia Geological Storage (CAGS) Project.

As this article explains, beginning in 2009 and concluding in mid-2012, CAGS Phase I was developed and supported with an allocation of A$2.86 million by the Australian government in accordance with the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. “The project focused on capacity building in the area of geological storage of CO2 in both China and Australia.”

The article notes that many of the materials generated through the CAGS project, “including educational material, are available for download through the CAGS website.”

According to this report, in addition to a variety of research studies and academic activities, CAGS Phase 1 also completed “Three successful research projects within China focusing on storage site characterisation, storage with enhanced oil recovery, and risk management for storage which have produced outputs such as criteria for storage site evaluation and advice regarding the development of a risk assessment and regulatory regime for CO2 storage in China”.

In mid-2012 a second phase of the project (CAGS Phase II) began, via funding approved under the Australia-China Joint Co-ordination Group on Clean Coal Technology. This phase will conclude sometime in 2014 “building on the relationships and work completed in the project’s first phase.”

Altogether, this cooperative project seems an encouraging step toward advancing the development of CCS technology, particularly in China and Australia.

Welcome to Future Power Now


Geothermal power plant, venting steam. Photo via Navigant Research.

Finding innovative ways to improve the production of energy — particularly for electric power generation — that are more efficient, sustainable, and environmentally sensitive, is crucial for the future of our planet.

Future Power Now intends to provide information, news, and analysis of this issue, especially by focusing on emerging technologies such as:

Carbon capture and storage (also called carbon sequestration) — Technology to capture and sequester, and hopefully re-use, carbon emissions from combustion of coal and other fossil fuels.

Environmentally compatible extraction of shale oil and natural gas — Technology to significantly upgrade and ensure the full protection of ground water and other resources in procedures such as hydraulic fracturing.

Environmentally secure protection in deep-water drilling — Technology to effectively prevent leakage and disastrous ruptures from deep-water petroleum extraction facilities.

Geothermal energy — Developments in electric power production from thermal energy extracted from deep within the earth.

Solar power — Developments in improving the efficiency of photovoltaic cells and ameliorating the environmental impact of solar arrays.


Stillwater hybrid solar-geothermal power plant in Nevada. Photo via

Concentrating thermal power (CSP) — This innovative form of energy production deploys mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large amount of sunlight (solar thermal energy) onto a small area, producing high heat. This can then be used to generate electrical power by channeling the converted heat to drive a steam turbine or similar device geared to an electrical power generator.

Wind turbine power — Developments in improving the efficiency of wind turbine power generation facilities and ameliorating their environmental impact.

Nuclear fusion — Developments in efforts to make this promising form of nuclear energy extraction (with insignificant residual waste) a reality.

Future Power Now (FPN) will focus both on citations and links to news and information from other sources, as well as the results of FPN‘s own original research and analysis. We hope you’ll continue to follow us!