Carbon project aims to prove 'clean coal' works

A technology that holds the hope for cleaner use of coal will be tested on a commercial scale for the first time in Canada next year, aiming to resolve big uncertainties about the vast amount of power it will need.

Saskatchewan Power Corp. hopes that a $1.24 billion refit of its 45-year-old Boundary Dam power plant to capture carbon dioxide emissions will make investors think twice about shifting to gas-fired plants from dirtier coal.

The company hopes that its carbon capture technology will reduce Boundary Dam's power output by only a quarter or thereabouts, making it the world's first commercially viable large-scale CCS project at a coal-fired power plant.

Success could spur interest in CCS technology from China to the United States as an effective way to fight climate change.

The plant is designed to capture one million tonnes a year of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from April 2014. It will also trap the pollutant sulphur dioxide.

Saskatchewan Power Corp. agreed last month to sell the carbon dioxide it captures to Canadian oil company Cenovus Energy. When injected into an oil well, the gas raises the pressure and forces more oil to the surface.

There are a few other commercial carbon capture projects, such as the one at the Sleipner natural gas field off Norway run by Statoil, which re-injects a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year beneath the seabed, Reuters reports.

However, high costs and low penalties for emitting carbon mean that such projects have failed to catch on for coal-fired plants as part of efforts to slow climate change.

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