On the right is the Aquistore injection well. On the left is the observation well. On the horizon is the Boundary Dam Power Station, 3 kilometres to the east. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

ESTEVAN, REGINA – The Boundary Dam Unit 3 Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project hit a milestone in recent days, as did the associated Aquistore project, which is administered by the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC).

On Jan. 23, SaskPower’s regular BD3 update posted that “As of the end of 2022, 5,001,707 tonnes of CO2 have been captured and prevented from entering the atmosphere. Total capture for the 2022 calendar year was 749,035 tonnes, and CCS is on track to achieve an 800,000-tonne target for fiscal 2022-23.”

And on Feb. 1, the PTRC announced that Aquistore “has reached the milestone of permanently storing 500,000 tonnes (500 Kt) of CO2 while the Boundary Dam power plant produces over 120 MW of clean baseload electricity.”

“This represents a major success story for Saskatchewan,” noted Ranjith Narayanasamy, the CEO and president of PTRC. “Ten per cent of the total amount of CO2 captured at Boundary Dam has been injected via the Aquistore well, into the Deadwood deep saline formation some 3200 metres underground for permanent storage.  This is the first project in the world to successfully store CO2 in a deep saline aquifer from a coal-fired power plant and also shows clearly CO2 storage is safe and a part of climate change mitigation.”

Aquistore is a deep saline aquifer CO2 storage research project closely associated with the BD3 project. It started injecting CO2 in 2015.

While most of the carbon dioxide captured is pipelined 70 kilometres northwest to the Whitecap Resources-operated Weyburn Unit, some is pumped into Aquistore. Its purpose is to provide an alternative location to inject CO2 for the periods of time when the Weyburn Unit is unable to receive any, such as maintenance shutdowns. A small amount is always pumped to Aquistore, to keep the research facility going, but that volume regularly varies quite widely.

“It does vary quite widely,” said PTRC spokesperson Norm Sacuta on Feb. 1. “And that’s what’s really interesting about Aquistore.”

He noted it will receive between 25 and 600 tonnes per day, but averages around 10 per cent of what is sent to Whitecap. Since they usually get around 2,500 tonnes on a good day, Aquistore might see 250 tonnes on that day.

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Research is its key focus. The entire facility is heavily instrumented, with fibre optic sensors running downhole. A second observation well roughly 100 metres away which is also equipped with fibre optic sensors as well as tubes to take liquid samples from downhole. There’s a permanent seismic array installed in the land surrounding the facility for “4D seismic” – 3D plus the dimension of time. Other sensors use satellite radar to detect any uplift of the land from the injection of CO2. There are over 30 measurement and monitoring technologies deployed on site

In recent years, the idea of geologic storage of carbon dioxide is gaining considerable steam across North America. The U.S. recently dramatically increased incentives to use geologic storage, like Aquistore, as a method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In Canada, there are now several CO2 storage hubs in the works, including one in the Regina area and several in Alberta.

Indeed, the PTRC has added a “CCUS Summit” to this year’s edition of the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, in Regina May 2-3. Ongoing research from Aquistore will be part of that conference.

As for the Boundary Dam 3 project, According to SaskPower, “During the fourth quarter of 2022 (October 1 – December 31), the CCS facility was available 78.9 per cent of the time, capturing 192,703 tonnes of CO2. A two-week planned maintenance outage in Q4 allowed SaskPower to undertake scheduled work to enable the facility to run smoothly until the next planned outage in May 2023.

“While online, the facility had a daily average capture rate of 2,631 tonnes in Q4, with a peak one-day capture of 2,874 tonnes. This resulted in an emissions intensity of 383.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per gigawatt hour, which is within the current federal carbon tax threshold of 549 tonnes CO2/MWh.

In addition to capturing carbon dioxide, the capture plant also captures sulphur oxides, converting it into sulphuric acid. SaskPower noted, “The acid plant at CCS had an extremely strong year: 2022 saw numerous records broken including highest daily acid produced at 52.2 tonnes produced (Nov 12, 2022), the highest monthly acid produced at 702 tonnes (November 2022), the highest quarterly acid produced at 1,470 tonnes in Q3 2022, the highest yearly acid produced at 3,788 tonnes for 2022 and the highest quarterly and yearly availability since start-up at 80.4 per cent and 46.2 per cent respectively.

 

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Carbon capture, utilization and storage summit added to Williston Basin Petroleum Conference

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