There was no debate among our editorial team when it came to selecting the most interesting and worthy project worldwide for this year’s top award. Boundary Dam Power Station Unit 3 is the world’s first operating coal-fired power plant to implement a full-scale post-combustion carbon capture and storage system. It did so more economically than other commercially available capture processes, and the utility has been active since project initiation in sharing its experience with generators, regulators, and others globally.
The 2015 POWER Plant of the Year award goes to a single, relatively small coal-fired unit: Boundary Dam Power Station Unit 3 (BD3) and its integrated carbon capture (CC) plant. But the award really goes to SaskPower, the Saskatchewan provincial utility that owns the unit, for developing an entire carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) infrastructure and larger ecosystem to support that unit.
The magnitude of the need to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to limit the negative consequences of climate change has led many jurisdictions around the world to set GHG reduction goals and to adopt policies that place limits on emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants. For example, Canada in 2012 passed legislation at the federal level requiring new coal-fired plants to include carbon capture and requiring existing plants reaching the end of their useful life (defined as 50 years) to shut down unless they are retrofitted with CC facilities. But even before then, Ontario decided to eliminate coal-fired generation (see “Ontario Goes Coal-Free in a Decade” in the May 2013 issue or in the archives at powermag.com), and SaskPower had already committed to its BD3 project.
Whereas some jurisdictions are striving to reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuels with renewables or nuclear power, others (typically, those with fossil fuel resources) are hoping that CCS technologies will enable the continued use of abundant and relatively affordable fossil fuel resources while keeping climate-forcing carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere.
It’s true that equipping one 161-MW gross coal-fired unit with 90% carbon capture is a small step in the global context, but it’s also true that someone had to take it. The SaskPower team has taken what actually constitutes a giant leap for the coal-fired power industry and, consequently, has garnered attention from around the world.
I was fortunate to visit Boundary Dam Power Station (BDPS) and interview some of the project leaders in mid-May. The professionalism displayed by everyone I met is clearly one reason this project reached completion in a timely way and with minimal cost overruns.