Friday, March 7, 2014

Trailblazing Saskatchewan power plant is first to bury its carbon... and biomass news

Saskatchewan's Boundary Dam CCS project is getting some attention - I think deserved - as it nears completion.

Trailblazing power plant is first to bury its carbon - environment - 05 March 2014 - New Scientist:
RISING above the endless plains of Saskatchewan, Canada's Boundary Dam power plant looks like any other: giant boxes, tall red-and-white striped chimneys, and a mess of pipes and power lines.

But appearances can be deceptive. In the coming months, it will become the first power plant to suck the carbon dioxide out of its flue before the gas reaches the air. It is blazing the trail for carbon capture and storage (CCS) around the world. Not bad for Canada's largest coal power plant.

Each year, Unit 3 of SaskPower's Boundary Dam plant emits 1.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. But from this summer, 90 per cent of that CO2 will never see the light of day. Instead, the gas will be piped to the nearby Weyburn oilfield and Deadwater saline aquifer, and pumped several kilometres underground.

"The resulting 110 megawatts of power produced will be some of the world's most environmentally clean power from fossil fuels," says SaskPower'sRobert Watson.
Reading the entire article at New Scientist is worth the time.  It was referenced to me in exchanging comments on Facebook.

My understanding of the current CCS projects, which are few, is that they have in common local coal supply and a fairly local client for the the CO2 with a high value business that seems to be raising other fossil fuels to the surface (the Boundary Dam project also has clients committed for the ash).  In the U.S.A. this has lead to one power executive noting his CCS project doesn't demonstrate anything for locations that lack these attributes.

While the Environmental Protection Agency has pointed to Southern Company’s Kemper County pre-combustion carbon capture and storage facility in Mississippi as a model for new rules that would essentially mandate CCS for new coal-fired power plants, Kemper should not be used as a primary basis for the rules, Southern Company CEO, President and Chairman Tom Fanning said late last week. “When we think about a standard that EPA should use for the United States, it should be a technology and a set of circumstances that are replicable across the rest of the United States,” Fanning said during an appearance on Platts Energy Week. “Recall that what we have in Mississippi is mine mouth lignite. We have an industry that lends itself to enhanced oil recovery. Those unique circumstances are not replicable widespread across the United States.”
Despite the cost, and siting, problems of CCS, it's possible to see this generation as preferable to what is often seen as an alternative to fossil fuels; biomass.

Parker Gallant recently noted some the issues with biomass in Biomass is carbon neutral, and the world is flat!, as has Bjorn Lomberg.  In the U.K. rumours that carbon taxation plans are about to be curtailed is ending some plans based entirely on the questionable treatment of biomass as carbon neutral.

Plans for £300m biomass power plant in Northumberland go up in smoke | The Telegraph
Plans for a £300m biomass power plant that could have powered every home in Northumberland have been axed because of uncertain and inconsistent government policy, its developer said on Thursday.
Renewable company RES took aim at energy ministers for “critically undermining the investment case” for the proposed North Blyth biomass power station, which could have been running in late 2016 - just as Britain’s spare power capacity drops to dangerously low levels...
The 100-megawatt capacity plant is the latest in a long line of proposed biomass projects to be axed because of insufficient subsidies for the technology, which is deemed to be ‘green’ because it burns fuels derived from wood or crops.
...several much larger coal-to-biomass conversion projects have also now been scrapped or are in doubt - such as the planned conversion of the 2,000MW Eggborough coal plant in Yorkshire - raising questions about the future of the technology.
In Australia at least one state is taking a tepid step towards generating electricity with biomass, and meeting some stiff resistance, or at least strong language.

'Devastating' changes allow forests to be burned for power | the Sydney Morning Herald
Anthony Roberts, the Minister for Resources and Energy, said on Friday that modifications to environmental protection regulations would allow trees otherwise destined for pulp and paper production to be burnt in power stations. Invasive native species and offcuts of sawlogs could also be burnt for power.
Mr Roberts said the move would be monitored by the Environment Protection Authority “to ensure there is no increase in the intensity of clearing or logging”.
Maree McCaskill, managing director of the NSW Forest Products Association, welcomed the decision saying it would ‘‘allow better use of a by-product that’s currently not being used’’.
Some of the waste material was now being left on the forest floor, adding to fuel loads that raised fire risks, she said. ‘‘Finally, we’ll able to link up the full renewable cycle.’’
However, upper house Greens MP John Kaye said ...“The one chance we had of saving those forests has now been lost, into the furnaces of power stations,” Mr Kaye said, adding that carbon emissions are likely to be as high as six times that of burning coal.
Not certain that particular Green meant coal without CCS

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