Clean Coal Megaprojects for Saskatchewan
Briefing notes for Green Party Candidates
Prepared by John W. Warnock
Do a google search
for “clean coal” and
you will find that the coal industry, power corporations and governments
supporting this as the answer to greenhouse gas emissions from coal
fired power plants. For the NDP government in Saskatchewan, it is the
silver bullet that allows continued mining and burning coal. Possibly
a system of using carbon capture and storage could gain GHG credits
for trading. It could be used to extract more oil through enhanced
oil recovery, a system now being developed near Estevan with large
Recently Sask Power spent $86 million to refurbish the coal fired
generation plants at Coronach and Poplar River-Boundary Dam to allow
them to continue to burn coal for another 25 years.
(1) Sask Power
has proposed a new $1.5 billion “clean coal” project
to be built next to one of its two existing plants in southern Saskatchewan
and are planning to fast-track the project by two years. This would
create a new 300MW coal-fired power plant. Carbon dioxide most likely
would be used for enhanced oil recovery. The plant would come on line
(2) The Federal
and provincial governments are financing research to study the feasibility
of a “poly-generation” plant
to be cited at Belle Plaine, using petroleum coke or lignite coal
fuel, which would produce hydrogen, nitrogen, steam and carbon dioxide
to produce fertilizer, electricity and other commodities. This would
be a joint Saskatchewan-private industry project costing around $3
Problems with the Coal industry:
Coal is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. A 300 MW plant
will produce 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in one
Coal-fired power plants are the leading source of mercury emissions
in North America which adversely affects human health, fish and wildlife.
Methyl mercury affects the learning ability and neurological development
Burning coal produces large amounts of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides
and particulate matter. Sulphur dioxide mixes with rain and snow to
produce acid rain. Nitrogen oxides are the key ingredient in smog.
Mega projects are poor development
Large power projects using coal, nuclear energy and natural gas are
capital intensive. They employ few people when in operation. They are
normally highly centralized operations. They have few forward and backward
linkages to the local community. To be efficient they must operate
at full capacity at all times.
Large power plants require a highly centralized distribution system.
While this was deemed important when first developing energy for rural
and northern communities, in the era of climate change and the increased
likelihood of ice storms as in Quebec and the Maritimes, they are risky
developments. Decentralized, locally controlled energy system are much
better suited to the new era of climate change.
projects exist because of government subsidies and accounting systems
externalize environmental and health costs
to the public at large. While coal seems “cheap” when it
sells for 3.5 cents per kWh, if the externalized costs are included,
studies show that the price rises to between 8 and 12 cents per kWh.
and storage which is proposed for “clean coal” production
requires storage in deep saline aquifers in order to contain the carbon.
This can only be done from large point sources in certain favourable
Using carbon dioxide to push more oil out of the ground is self defeating.
Studies show that the process used and the burning of the oil and gas
released results in a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions. (See
The obvious alternative
The Pembina Institute
in Calgary has examined carbon capture and storage. They conclude
it might be justified as a “small percentage
of public funds devoted to GHG emission reductions.” The primary
emphasis should be on conservation, improving energy efficiency, and
a decentralized system which includes a broad range of renewable energy
projects. They also argue that we need a strong regulatory system to
control emissions from large industrial operations.
Imagine what we could do in Saskatchewan if $4.5 billion were spent
on an alternative energy system!
John W. Warnock
2156 Retallack St.
"It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than vote
for something you don't want and get it." Eugene V. Debs