Construction of the Golden South Wind Facility near Assiniboia in January, 2021. The hundreds of wind turbines in Saskatchewan produced no power net to the grid on Monday, Jan. 16. Indeed, they drew more power than they produced. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

REGINA – On the day that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lectured the Government of Saskatchewan on its clean energy efforts, a total collapse of both wind and solar power generation in Saskatchewan was taking place.

In In Saskatoon on Jan. 16, Trudeau made allusions that the Saskatchewan government was not doing enough on clean electricity, saying, “We also know there’s work to be done on encouraging the Government of Saskatchewan to see the opportunities that companies and indeed workers are seeing in a clean, cleaner jobs in the opportunities for get cleaner energy projects. These are things that we’re going to continue to work on.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tours the Vital Metals rare earth elements processing plant in Saskatoon on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
Liam Richards

On that very day, characterized by fog throughout much of southern Saskatchewan (where the wind turbines are located), SaskPower’s total wind power generation fell to “-1 megawatt,” as in negative one megawatt, according to the Crown corporation’s Where Does Your Power Come From web page. This is the lowest number Pipeline Online has seen since the page went online in September, 2022. It’s also an average throughout the entire day, not just at a particular moment.

According to SaskPower, “The turbines were iced up and unable to produce. The -1 megawatt was load to service the facilities.”

Saskatchewan has 617 megawatts of installed grid-scale wind power generation.

On Monday, Jan. 16, wind power generation in Saskatchewan actually went into the negative, literally using more power than it was producing. Saskatchewan has 617 megawatts of installed grid-scale wind generation. SaskPower

 

Saskatchewan received 1,534 megawatts from natural gas-fired power, or 46 per cent overall throughout the day. Coal came in second at 1,228 megawatts, or 37 per cent. Combined, fossil fuels produced an average of 83 per cent of power throughout the day.

Hydro came in at 13 per cent, or 442 megawatts. Solar was negligible as a percentage, at 1 megawatt. Wind was also negligible as a percentage, but it was listed as -1 megawatt. Total power production was listed as an average of 3,316 megawatts, with Saskatchewan’s demand at 3,202 megawatts and 114 megawatts exported.

Moe responds to Trudeau

In response to Trudeau, Premier Scott Moe pointed out that according to federal rules, not only will coal-fired power production be banned by 2030, but even carbon capture on coal was not sufficient. And the same applied to natural gas in 2035.

Moe said, “Do we have some work to do? And we’re doing the planning, right now, with respect to our electric electricity grid. And we’ve signed a Memorandum of Understanding. We’ve been working with other provinces, on how we are going to repower our electrical sector here in this province due to regulations that are coming down.

  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0040 Southeast College safety tickets
    0040 Southeast College safety tickets
  • 0036 Prairie Lithium - Chad Glemser 30 Sec
  • 0033 Buffalo Potash Jared Small Footprint
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0029 Latus Viro updated Latus phone
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0026 Buffalo Potash Quinton Salt
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
  • 9001
  • 0002

 

“The first of them coming into place in 2030 that will say not only can you not burn coal to generate electricity in Saskatchewan or in Canada, but even coal that has carbon capture and storage on it will not meet the criteria that the federal government has.

“And so essentially coal, of all types, will be banned by 2030. Further (by) 2035, now with the Clean Electricity Standard, natural gas, whether it has CCS or not, will also be banned by the year 2035.”

Did something change?

This appears to be a change from what has been said before regarding federal regulations. Pipeline Online asked the Government of Saskatchewan for clarification if anything had changed, and received this response by email on Jan. 18:

Coal:

  • Current federal regulations would not enable SaskPower to operate coal-fired electrical generation without CCS (carbon capture and storage) past 2030.

  • The proposed Clean Electricity Regulations would require Boundary Dam Unit 3 (BD3) to maintain an ultra-low performance standard in order to operate at all between 2030-2034. If CCS went down, or if its efficiency dropped slightly, we would be required to shut it down until the emissions intensity target is met.

  • Even if BD3 with CCS could maintain the federal performance standard of 420 t/GWh long-term, the proposed regulations will not allow BD3 to operate beyond 2034.

Boundary Dam Power Station. The carbon capture unit is on the left. Unit 3 is the orange-striped chimney on the right. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

This may be an indication that the Integrated Boundary Dam Unit 3 Carbon Capture and Storage Project has never truly reached performance levels that were initially promised. In the lead up to its opening, SaskPower had billboards near Estevan, saying the project would capture one million tonnes of CO2 per year. It has never come close to that. Later, expectations were revised to 800,000 tonnes per year, and even those were not achieved.

  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0040 Southeast College safety tickets
    0040 Southeast College safety tickets
  • 0036 Prairie Lithium - Chad Glemser 30 Sec
  • 0033 Buffalo Potash Jared Small Footprint
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0029 Latus Viro updated Latus phone
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0026 Buffalo Potash Quinton Salt
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
  • 9001
  • 0002

 

Pipeline Online reported on Sept. 21, 2022:

Boundary Dam Unit 3’s performance hasn’t stacked up

While Boundary Dam 3 has been functioning for most of the last eight years, it did have teething problems, and never lived up to initial promises of capturing one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Indeed, its cumulative collection since startup is just shy of 60 per cent of that initial promise.

As SaskToday.ca reported on April 15, 2022, “In the previous 12 months, the facility was online for 40.4 per cent of the time, and captured an average of 30,642 tonnes of CO2 per month. It went through a scheduled shutdown last June and July (2021), and shortly after it came back online, it encountered multiple issues, including a compressor motor failure that took it offline for more than two months.

“The average daily capture when CCS was online was 2,364 tonnes per day with a peak one-day capture of 2,982 tonnes.”

On July 22, SaskPower’s blog about the project said 4,589,251 tonnes of CO2 had been captured since operational startup in 2014. Over the 7.75 years of operation, that works out to an average of 592,161 tonnes per year.

More recently, the carbon capture unit has been operating in the 500-800 t/GWh range, according to SaskPower on Jan. 18. In other words, it had not been dialed up to full nameplate capture capacity. However, in the calendar year of 2022, the capture unit was able to achieve 749,000 tonnes of CO2 capture, its highest yet, according to SaskPower.

As for natural gas-fired power generation, this is how the provincial government responded:

Natural gas:

  • The proposed Clean Electricity Regulations would require Canada to produce net-zero greenhouse gases from electricity production by 2035.

  • The federal government has expressed their desire to phase-down natural gas electricity through the Clean Electricity Regulations. It is understood that an ultra-low emissions intensity performance standard will be defined by the government. Natural gas with CCS may potentially be considered to achieve this standard; however, this is an emerging technology and there are performance uncertainties at this time.

  • SaskPower has also reached out to the Government of Canada regarding the operational lifespan of existing natural gas facilities and possible allowances for limited operation of these facilities beyond 2035.

As coal-fired baseload power has been given several years to phase out, under regulations first brought in by the federal Conservative government, then amplified by the Liberals, SaskPower has increasingly turned to natural gas-fired power. Many years ago Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth Power Station was converted to strictly natural gas (having formerly been capable of coal as well).

  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0040 Southeast College safety tickets
    0040 Southeast College safety tickets
  • 0036 Prairie Lithium - Chad Glemser 30 Sec
  • 0033 Buffalo Potash Jared Small Footprint
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0029 Latus Viro updated Latus phone
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0026 Buffalo Potash Quinton Salt
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
  • 9001
  • 0002

 

The 353 megawatt natural gas combined cycle Chinook Power Station at Swift Current went online in 2019. Construction is apace for the similar 360 megawatt Great Plains Power Station at Moose Jaw. And planning is underway for a 370 megawatt combined cycle and simple cycle natural gas power station at Lanigan. SaskPower’s web page for the project notes:

“Why We’re Doing It

“We’re beginning to phase out using coal as a power source. This means we’ll need to replace it with another reliable source of power. Natural gas is our best option for meeting our province’s power needs in the near future. It will help us meet environmental regulations and produces half the emissions of coal. As a power source that can be available 24/7, it will also support renewable generation sources — like wind and solar — as we add them to our power grid.”

Clean Electricity Standard

The federal Clean Electricity Standard, currently in discussion phase but not yet law, is the heart of the issue. The discussion paper on it states in its definitions, “Net-zero electricity means Canada’s stated goal of having the electricity sector achieve, in effect, no emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2035, or emissions are offset by other actions that remove carbon from the atmosphere.” It adds, “In realizing this goal, it is expected that some low-emitting generation facilities may continue to operate past 2035. The emissions resulting from this operation would need to be balanced by removals in or attributed to the sector.”

Introduced last fall, the Saskatchewan First Act specifically addresses these issues. That bill says Saskatchewan will decide for itself the “regulation of environmental standards and the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and other emissions; and the source of fuel for electrical generation, including renewable and non-renewable resources.”

Poplar River Power Station, Coronach, Saskatchewan. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

SaskPower paying Coronach workers extra to stick around

In the meantime, Pipeline Online has been able to confirm that effective Jan. 1, 2023, SaskPower has begun paying its permanently based employees at Coronach a $360 per month “location allowance” for permanent employees working at the coal-fired Poplar River Power Station.

It’s meant to “recruit and retain staff” at the coal-fired power station, effectively trying to keep people there to keep it running. It’s just for permanent SaskPower employees, but not mine workers who feed the power plant.

The provision will be in place until Jan. 1, 2024, and will be re-evaluated this fall, according to SaskPower.

 

  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0040 Southeast College safety tickets
    0040 Southeast College safety tickets
  • 0036 Prairie Lithium - Chad Glemser 30 Sec
  • 0033 Buffalo Potash Jared Small Footprint
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0029 Latus Viro updated Latus phone
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0026 Buffalo Potash Quinton Salt
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
  • 9001
  • 0002

 

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

 

Saskatchewan First Act introduced to literally keep the lights on in this province, and allow farmers to keep using nitrogen fertilizer