Big Problems At Canada’s CCS Plant
By Paul Homewood
h/t Joe Public
You may remember the glee with which the Guardian, BBC, DECC and others greeted the launch of Canada’s first CCS plant a couple of years ago. They are probably less keen to publicise all of the problems experienced with it since.
1) From the outset, the power plant’s capacity had to be reduced from 139 MW to 100 MW. But, to make matters worse, much of this power is used in actually operating the CCS unit itself. This is known as parasitic load, and it has been estimated to take away 25% of the electricity produced in the first place.
This is one of the things I always find most remarkable about arguments in favour of CCS. We are constantly told about the evils of pollution from coal plants (real pollution, not CO2), yet proponents of CCS want to burn even more coal, and thereby emit yet more pollution, just to run the CCS unit!
2) It was claimed at the outset that 90% of the CO2 produced would be captured. However, expert analysis suggests that only about half of this is permanently stored, with the rest either lost during the process, or lost during processing at the Weyburn oil field, where it is put to use.
3) Perhaps most damningly of all, internal documents from SaskPower revealed that there were "serious design issues" in the carbon capture system, resulting in regular breakdowns and maintenance problems that led the unit to only be operational 40% of the time.
SNC-Lavalin had been contracted to engineer, procure, and build the facility, and the documents asserted that it "has neither the will or the ability to fix some of these fundamental flaws.” The low productivity of the plant had in turn meant that SaskPower was only able to sell half of the 800,000 tonnes of captured carbon dioxide that it had contracted to sell to Cenovus Energy for use in enhanced oil recovery at a cost of $25 per tonne. In addition to the lost sales, this meant that SaskPower had been forced to pay Cenovus $12 million in penalties.
Now, OK, this is a new technology, so there are bound to be some teething problems. However, it all clearly makes a nonsense of original claims that this was in any way viable as a commercial scale operation. Indeed, an independent financial analysis by James Glennie calculated that the CCS plant would lose $1042 million over its life.
SaskPower customers will be pleased to know that they will be footing most of this bill. George Osborne was widely criticised for cancelling the £1 billion support for developing CCS technology in the UK, originally put in place by Ed Davey. We must be grateful for small mercies!
But I’ll leave the final word to the Grantham Institute:
For most backers of carbon capture and storage, however, the major barrier remains its high price tag.
In Europe, for example, it would cost up to a combined $40 billion by 2030 to install the technology to cover 11 gigawatts of fossil fuel generation, or roughly 10 coal or natural gas power plants, according to the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
The complex infrastructure required to capture carbon from plants, transport the emissions through miles of pipelines and store the cocktail of gases deep underground also puts the technology beyond the grasp of most utilities.
Analysts say, for instance, that capturing carbon can almost double the cost of building a new coal-fired power plant, and can add up to 50 percent to the price of a natural gas facility.