SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Unit 3 carbon capture and storage project in Saskatchewan ran into a few “hiccups” this year with its amine carbon capture system, CEO Mike Marsh said Wednesday. “The issue is amine degradation,” he told reporters. “We expect every year there’s going to be some amine degradation, that’s why we budget for it, but the degradation is higher than what we anticipated, but we continue to work on that technical problem.”
Cleaning and replacing the amine is estimated to cost the crown utility $8 million – $9 million (CAN) more than budgeted for the fiscal year. Thankfully, the company is “finding efficiencies and costs are expected to go down next year,” SaskPower spokesman Jonathan Tremblay told GHG Daily.
“We budget an estimate based on the maintenance we expect to see and certainly I think when our technical teams were looking at the budgets heading into the second and third year they continue to be optimistic we’ll get this issue resolved,” Marsh said.
Shell Cansolv developed BD3’s amine system, which chemically removes CO2 from flue gas. According to Shell, the product has “Improved resistance to oxidative and thermal degradation” compared to conventional amines.
The company is also on the hook for $1.2 million (CAN) in penalties to its CO2 off-taker, Canadian oil company Cenovus. Under the off-take contract, Cenovus buys BD3’s captured CO2 for use in enhanced oil recovery. The contract requires BD3 to provide roughly 2,000 metric tons of CO2 per day. “Our contract applies on a daily basis, tallied monthly. That means that a day of unplanned maintenance can result in a small shortfall amount,” Tremblay said.
All told, the company stands to bring in $15-$16 million in profits this fiscal year from its contract with Cenovus, regardless of the penalties. “The specifics of the contract [do] not allow us to make up for CO2 when we have a day or two days or three days when we can’t supply that CO2 to Cenovus, so unfortunately when those days get missed because of an outage then we can’t make that up. So, there is a shortfall payment, but over the year … the target that we’re looking at now is $15-$16 million net positive on CO2 to Cenovus,” Marsh said.
During six of the last 12 months, the plant operated 100 percent of the time. The plant captured an average of 2,486 metric tons of CO2 per day during the last 12 months.
However, the plant experienced a few operational stumbles through the last year. Just last month the facility shut down for several days due to a compressor electrical failure in the power unit. In August a minor electrical failure kept the unit offline for several days, and on multiple occasions in June issues with the capture process brought the operations to a halt. “We’ve said many times this is a first-of-its-kind plant, we’re in the first couple years of operation, and it’s going to take two to three years to work all the issues out,” Marsh said.