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PLANT

Coal: no longer a four-letter word


September 20, 2009
by Kim Laudrum

A Siemens expert investigates the exact composition of synthesis gas.
Photo: Siemens.

Alberta’s Capital Power Corp. and partner Enbridge Inc. plan to build a 270-megawatt energy facility using clean-coal technology with carbon capture and storage, making it one of the first such power facilities in the world to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 87 per cent.

On July 9, Epcor’s $5-billion portfolio of electric-power-generating assets was spun off to become Capital Power Corp. In the largest initial public offering in Canada since 2007, Capital Power offered $500 million in common shares, making it one of the largest electric power utilities traded on the TSX. The company now raises venture capital for new energy generation projects such as the proposed Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) power facility in Alberta and a proposed 142.2-megawatt wind farm in northeastern BC that will reduce its carbon footprint.

The IGCC/CCS plant began in 2006 with a $33-million investment from Epcor, the Alberta Energy Research Institute and Natural Resources Canada to fund a Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) study. This three-year study will determine the anticipated costs and feasibility of designing, building and running a 270-megawatt power plant using syngas derived from coal while capturing harmful emissions in the process.

The FEED study, conducted in conjunction with the Canadian Clean Power Coalition chaired by Capital Power’s senior vice-president David Lewin, ends this year, and those involved are optimistic about the results. They expect the proposed plant to be operational (next to the company’s Genesee 3 coal-fired site 70 kilometers southwest of Edmonton) by 2015, depending on regulatory approvals, environmental assessments and funding.

Key to Alberta’s five-year energy plan, “is finding a technology suitable for our coal,” says Duke duPlessis of the Alberta Energy Research Institute. Alberta has rich coal reserves—37 million tonnes—enough to provide a thousand year’s supply at current levels. Even oil-rich Albertan’s rely on coal-fired power generation for 65% of their electricity needs, according to the Canadian Coal Association, mainly because it’s cheaper than oil or gas, and significantly less price-sensitive to world markets.