Canada-UK Carbon Capture & Storage Workshop and Reception, 28 March 2013

The Workshop and reception was held at the Canadian High Commission in London and was attended by both Paul Baruya and John Kessels.
Both the UK and Canada recognise the importance of CCS, and as the UK competition closes, the two countries are fostering a strong relationship between the expertise in Canada and the developing CCS market in the UK.
The key question to come out of the workshop is how is Canada advancing CCS development with such apparent success and what can the UK learn from the case studies? This is particularly interesting question for a country that is so dominated by nuclear and hydroelectricity. The workshop provided an excellent insight into the latest status of CCS projects, with a slant towards storage and transport.
It became clear that in Canada, provincial governments, in particular Alberta and Saskatchewan, have considerable leverage to steer projects and regulations to suit all stakeholders and to ensure corporate aims are harmonised with local community needs. Provincial governance in Canada appears powerful and is also capable of part subsidising projects, but works in tandem with Federal laws and regulations too.
Furthermore, provincial government leadership in Canada appears to be less unsettled by opposition to fossil fuels, but rather confidently recognises a responsibility to deliver energy to its people as cleanly and sustainably as possible. Instead of opting for small piecemeal projects, energy markets in Canada need larger solutions, especially as it is a country with some of the highest electricity usage per capita in the OECD. Presentations from a range of projects to fulfil this cleaner energy from fossil fuels demand included Boundary Dam, Quest, Spectra, and Aquistore (Weyburn).
In Western Canada energy commodities generate financial revenue and employment, and despite the rise in public debt, a long term future for cleaner energy that sits alongside nuclear and hydropower. These projects are also located in regions where industry is well understood, as is the need for jobs. In fact, the UK’s local councils in Yorkshire seem to share the same enthusiasm for CCS, with some officials from different regions keen to encourage the passage of CO2 pipeline corridors through their territories from Drax’s proposed 426 MWe oxyfuel plant to the coast for storage offshore.
In Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan, both in the western half of Canada and on the US border with Montana are addressing CO2 from fossil-fuelled power stations. Both states are landlocked, cover vast areas of prairie and can be subject to the harshest weather, but also contain large coal reserves. GHG emission reduction targets of -17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and CO2 emission standards equivalent to that of a natural gas plant will require CCS on coal plants by 2015. Rather than give up on coal, utilities and government are forging ahead with solutions.
Interestingly, Canada’s coal rich provinces are isolated in energy terms. However, the geology of these regions is perfect for storing CO2, benefiting from the ease of operating onshore, flat geography to set up CO2 monitoring stations, and perfect geological formations to store CO2 deep underground, many km below that of even oil reserves, let alone potable water bearing rocks. Monitoring and verification have become very important aspects of CCS judging by this workshop, but much of this has been perfected over a period of (in some cases) decades. It seems as though data is becoming as important as engineering when it comes to combatting climate change.
A presentation for the Boundary Dam project described in detail the Phase I stage of the cogeneration plant which is generating 220 MWe of power, and capable of capturing 1 Mt CO2 every year. The Federal government provided CAN$240m in subsidies to the project, which employs more than 450 people. The 2nd generation plant planned for 2020 is targeting zero subsidies AND a 20% cost reduction. Fostering good relations with the local population seems paramount, but at the same time, the local population seems to be more amenable to engaging with energy engineers, provided enough effort is made.
One thing the speaker was too modest to mention was the fuel. The coal used is a low rank, high moisture coal. It is so poor by world standards it cannot be railed far due to cost. Yet somehow, the Canadian developers are burning lignite efficiently (90% efficient cogen), SO2 absorption and particulate control, and reducing CO2 emission by 90%! This incredible feat of engineering in a country where winters can be harsh, slowing construction, and local skilled expertise can charge large premiums due to locality, is something the rest of the world should look upon with awe. With more energy projects being developed in Asia in areas where low grade and/or low rank coals are plentiful, Canada could provide some of the most important learning processes for CCS in the world. The UK is somewhat lagging behind with regards to a commercial scale CCS unit on a coal-fired power station, but the country is setting the framework to play catch up very quickly. The Yorkshire White Rose project for example could add other industrial facilities to the Drax pipeline over time, thus creating an opportunity for a multi source CO2 pipeline network, a first of its kind.
Shell has placed CCS among the top four most essential investments that must be made alongside energy efficiency, natural gas and biofuels
Public engagement and communication  is paramount, and rerouting CO2 pipelines is taken seriously to avoid entangling with local communities. The developers want to make these first-of-a-kind projects work correctly from the beginning, and expect a rise in costs due to learning, but importantly within a firm regulatory and supportive government, CCS projects can work. These lessons are timely and essential for the UK competition top choices (White Rose and Peterhead). Examples of other projects were also made available, notably the Spectra Project (British Columbia) which is storing gas in an ancient coral reef structure as part of a sour (natural) gas cleaning plant. With potential to store 2.2 Mt/y of CO2 and at up to 50% cheaper than typical CO2, the potential for the natural gas industry is considerable.
Canada is also leading the development of an international standard with the ISO. This initiative is needed to avoid duplication and coherent development of regulations internationally for CCS to be implemented efficiently. More information and presentations from the workshop can be found at: