With the prospects of additional carbon capture on coal-fired power now diminished, the Boundary Dam Unit 3 capture plant on the left side of this image might end up being the only one of its kind in this province. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

ESTEVAN – Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig, upon hearing that further carbon capture projects on local coal-fired power plants was “not an option,” according to Crown Investments Corp. Minister Don Morgan, wants to know what the federal government is going to do to help his community. They’re not even responding to emails, he said.

In announcing on Sept. 20 that Estevan area was one of two sites being considered for future nuclear power development in Saskatchewan, Morgan was asked by Pipeline Online if it was cheaper and quicker to do more carbon capture projects on coal instead. Morgan, whose portfolio includes SaskPower, replied, “The federal government’s clean electricity standards would not allow for any further expansion or usage of fossil fuel. The contrary, there’s time limits as to how long things are there. So we intend to continue to work with the federal government and look at extending the life of some of the existing assets that are there. But an expansion, in those things at this point in time, does not fit with the federal government requirements.”

 

Asked if any new carbon capture with coal is basically off the table due to federal regulations, Morgan said, “Right now, it’s not an option to us under the under the federal Clean Standard regulations.”

Ludwig, who not that long ago retired as career coal miner, said on Sept. 21, “We’re up against it, my friend. We’re up against it,” as in up against a wall.

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“And we’re not getting any answers. I mean, we’ve been meeting now with the province a few times and we said, ‘Listen, we want to know. We have to start meeting. 2030 is coming very quickly. What are we going to do? We need the federal government involvement. They don’t even answer our emails. We have to get them to the table.

“They want to shut down coal, which is a great baseload power. The only option to that would be close to that would be nuclear. And that won’t be coming (soon). Once we make a decision toward the end of this decade, it probably won’t be built till 2035-2036, something like that.”

It now seems highly unlikely Saskatchewan’s remaining coal-fired power units, such as Boundary Dam Unit 6, seen here, will get carbon capture. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

He asked how can we realistically ignore the 1,400 megawatts of power production between Estevan and Coronach. All that conventional coal power, with the exception of the net 127 megawatt Boundary Dam Unit 3 equipped with carbon capture, is ordered by federal regulation to shut down by the end of 2029.

“It takes five years to build a power plant. We’re not really building anything of any size. How can we just put our heads in the sand and say, ‘Well, 2030, we’re shutting coal down.’

Referencing Pipeline Online’s continuing series of stories pointing out the frequent utter collapse of wind power in Alberta, Ludwig asked, “And where are you making up all those megawatts, with wind? Like you point out – with wind?

He noted that Alberta’s nearly 2,600 megawatts of installed wind capacity sometimes produces less than 200 megawatts. Indeed, Pipeline Online has documented days where it has fallen to 13 megawatts at +30 C and even 3 megawatts at -30 C. As an example, At 2:19 p.m. on Sept. 22, Alberta’s 2,589 megawatts of wind generation across 28 wind farms was putting out 191 megawatts to the grid (7.4 per cent of installed capacity), while solar was putting out 197 of 1,013 megawatts across 25 solar facilities.

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Ludwig said, “This stuff has to come out in the open. You know, we need that. Everybody has to wake the hell up and say ‘Okay, what are we going to do here?’

“And we have to somehow, and I’m not sure how, we have to somehow get the feds to the table. They don’t want to talk to us right now. But I mean, they’re the ones pushing this envelope. So why don’t you talk to us? Why can’t we sit down collaborate?”

He said they have had a few meetings with the province of Saskatchewan. “We gave Minister (Lori) Carr a call and we set up a meeting with her and Don Morgan. And we said, ‘You know, between now and 2030, we have to have a game plan. We want the feds to be a part of that.’

“And we have had a couple of meetings but we want to see many more.”

Ludwig wants Morgan, representing SaskPower, the workers from the mines and power plants to take part.

“You have to have all the stakeholders involved. And the biggest stakeholder is the federal government. They’re the ones pushing all this, you know, so okay, what’s your solution here? So I was what’s the alternative?”

Fundamentally, Estevan has been waiting for an answer of ‘What’s next?’ for eight years, since the opening of the Boundary Dam Unit 3 Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project. While the future of carbon capture looked promising at first, the recent years with all indications showing that coal’s future in Saskatchewan would come to an end in 2029 have taken their toll. Ludwig spoke of serious mental health impacts on some of the workers. As mentioned above, he was a miner.

“It’s weighing on the employees already. We have people saying, ‘You know, I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen, come 2030, so I’m bailing now. I’m going to where the jobs are now.’

“And it’s this sense of frustration, this sense of not knowing, you know, it’s a killer. And the closer we get without any good answers by 2030, the harder it is for everyone in our community. We deserve some answers. And the federal government owes us some answers. And the province, well, we’re starting to talk with them. SaskPower, we have a pretty good relationship with them, but it’s, you know, the final decisions with SaskPower are made by the provincial government, not SaskPower.”

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He asked how SaskPower is going to replace those megawatts. Gas-fired power plants were seen as a panacea, Ludwig noted. “Now gas has what, tripled? All of a sudden, they’re not looking that smart. And we told them all along, don’t put your eggs, in the natural gas basket. It’s a commodity. It’s going to go up and down. And they looked at us like we were idiots. What do you know? Well, here we are.

“And that’s the other thing. The feds now want to kill eventually kill natural gas, too, because that’s a fossil fuel

Boundary Dam Power Station. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

.”

As for Boundary Dam Unit 3 carbon capture unit’s less-than anticipated performance over the last 7.75 years, Ludwig said, “I’m frustrated about that, too. And I know they’ve got good people, and they’re working very hard. But the sad thing there too, when we went and stuck our necks out for this clean coal and carbon sequestration, I thought the rest of the world, because there’s so much coal out there, would follow. And by now, we would have a very workable solution. But not enough people jumped on side, and now they’re up against it, because of the fuel costs and natural gas costs. I mean, it’s also astronomical. Had they been willing to look at coal, instead of saying, ‘It’s black, it’s dirty, it’s done, and we won’t have anything to do with it.’ We could probably be in a lot better spot right now.”

Fundamentally, Ludwig would rather know right now what the province’s intentions are with regards to coal, as opposed to obfuscation. He wants a game plan now, instead of when it’s too late.

There has been the Coal Transition program, which has included some federal funding. But Ludwig said, “The Feds put a bit of money in. That’s kind of like lipstick on a pig. The province has put some money in. We’re working overtime, trying to get economic development in our community. We’re working very, very hard. And we are having some successes. Economic development is very tough. You know, you can work very hard and think you have all these things in place and sometimes you don’t get as much as you would like to think you’re going to get. That’s the nature of the beast, but it’s not for lack of trying that we are having some successes.

Ludwig said, “My question here with all of this is where is the federal government? They started this, they mandated this. Do they not care for these thousands of jobs that are in the balance? Where are they? We’re asking they come to the table? Where are they? All we’ve heard up till now was silence.”

As for the Estevan area being considered for nuclear site selection, Ludwig said, “We’re in favor of nuclear there’s a lot of questions to be answered. And we will talk about those issues, moving forward. We’ve got a fairly healthy timeframe, before the final site is chosen. But again, for the sake of jobs, we are in favor of nuclear. They are safer, these new SMRs it is a sign of the future, and it is good baseload power. So yes, you know, we’re in favor of that.”

 

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Further carbon capture on coal “not an option,” according to CIC Minister Don Morgan

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