Saskatchewan carbon-capture plan adds to list of projects in Midwest using clean-coal process

Several states in the Midwest are now involved in carbon-capture-and-storage projects. 

Stateline Midwest Vol. 20, No. 7: July / August 2011

The government of Saskatchewan is moving forward with an integrated carbon capture and storage demonstration project that it says is “among the first commercial-scale [CCS] facilities in the world.”

The $1.24 billion (Canadian dollars) Boundary Dam project is one of several CCS projects now ongoing or being planned in this region. It will be built as a partnership among the Canadian and provincial governments, SaskPower (the province-owned utility) and the private sector. The project will upgrade one of Boundary Dam’s six generating units. This new unit will generate 110 megawatts of electricity and, by capturing and storing CO2, will reduce emissions — by an amount equivalent to that of taking 250,000 vehicles off the roads, according to SaskPower.

Some of the stored CO2 will be used for enhanced oil recovery in older, partially depleted oil fields (CCS has been used for this purpose for decades).

In the 11-state Midwest, there are several large-scale CCS demonstration projects, somewhat similar in size to Saskatchewan’s.

For example, three of the nation’s seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships are centered in Illinois, Michigan and North Dakota. Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, these partnerships include involvement by multiple states, local governments and the private sector.

Demonstration projects being conducted through the partnerships are testing various aspects of the CCS process — such as the capacity to store CO2 in the sandstone formations of northern Michigan and the deep saline rock formations of the Illinois Basin, as well as tests in the Plains region involving CO2 transport and enhanced oil recovery.

Over the past decade, some states in the Midwest have adopted CCS-related measures (see map). Most recently, in 2009, Illinois SB 1987 was signed into law. Under this bill, after 2017, new coal plants must capture 90 percent of the CO2 that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.

CCS is a process that captures carbon dioxide emissions, compresses and transports the CO2 by pipeline, and then injects it underground into geologic formations that have the capacity to store it. Obstacles to wider use of CCS include a lack of markets for the stored CO2 (to offset costs) and the shortage of pipelines to transport it.