Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Carbon Sequestration in Saskatchewan

via SaskPower

So the first coal-fired power generation facility with CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) has opened in Saskatchewan. I know I'm supposed to cheer about this, it being Canadian and "green" and all, but, no.
I've never really understood the desperation to cling to fossil fuels. It just seems so sensible that instead of replacing dinosaurs with more dinosaurs, you should be moving into new, cleaner modes of power generation. And this should be easiest with outfits like Sask Power, a state-owned monopoly.
I'm pro state-owned power generation, don't misunderstand. I went through power privatization in Alberta, where public utilities were sold off and bought (primarily) by Enron--who proceeded to whipsaw everyone in the province except the few (like Edmonton) who kept their own municipal power utility.
So how is the new CCS system working in Saskatchewan? Well, Grist is reporting on a new report on the finances and functionality of the plant. As Grist reports:
In 2008, the provincial government announced the Boundary Dam CCS project, whereby one of the station’s boilers (No. 3) would be replaced with a modern 160-megawatt boiler and coupled with a facility that would capture and store up to 90 percent of the boiler’s CO2 emissions. Seven years later, in 2014, boiler No. 3 began operations, representing the world’s first full-scale coal CCS project.
The captured carbon dioxide is compressed into liquid form and transported via pipeline. Most of it goes northwest to the aging Weyburn oil field, privately owned by Alberta-based Cenovus Energy, where it is used in “enhanced oil recovery” (EOR), boosting oil production.
The plant also scrubs sulphur dioxide, NOx, and  resells its fly ash. There's no reference as to whether it captures the released mercury, though. The SO2 is sold as sulphuric acid for industrial uses.
But the compressed CO2 is shipped to an oil field and used for enhanced oil recovery (ie. pumped into a played out field to force the last of the oil to the surface). So I'm failing to see any significant carbon savings in this scenario. Any reasonable carbon accounting would have to include the CO2 release from the recovered oil.
And the dollars don't really add up either. According to to Grist/the Glennie report:
 (All dollar figures are expressed in net-present-value terms, and in Canadian dollars.) The project — heretofore known as BD3CCS, for Boundary Dam Boiler No. 3 Carbon Capture and Sequestration — was initially forecast to cost $1.2 billion but ended up costing $1.47 billion. Of that, the Canadian federal government contributed $240 million. The remaining $1.23 billion was paid by SaskPower customers. Of the total, the new boiler cost $550 million and the CCS facility cost $917 million. Over the 30-year life of the plant, in terms of cash flow, the boiler itself nets out at a $391 million profit — that’s total revenue from power sold minus the initial investment and operation and maintenance costs. Over the same 30 years, the neighboring CCS facility will generate $713 million in revenue from the sale of CO2 and sulfuric acid. If you then subtract the initial investment, operation and maintenance costs, and the costs of “parasitic load” (the electricity required to run the CCS facility, which is almost 25 percent of the power plant’s output), the CCS facility nets out at a $1,042 million loss. Note that even if capital costs were zero, the CCS facility would still generate negative Earnings Before Interest Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA). Subtract that $391 million profit from the boiler from the $1,042 million loss from the CCS facility and you get a $651 million net financial loss for SaskPower customers from BD3CCS.
 Provincial monopoly power producers are in a position to lead in power production--just as Ontario Hydro has been pushed to do. The problem still remains that international trade agreements and entrenched interests will do all they can to thwart any progress on the transition to clean, renewable distributed power generation. As citizens, we have to demand that change even if it should cause disruption and destruction of business models.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The New Corporate SLAPP to Canadians

Bill C51, the new expansion of "anti-terror" legislation in Canada, isn't really about the one-in-twenty-million chance of an act of terror having any effect on a Canadian. Rather, it is clearly about expanding the remit of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to allow the the infiltration and disruption of environmental groups (and, by extension, other politically progressive groups), and to allow the prosecution (and persecution) of Canadian activists under "anti-terror" legislation.
The idea is clearly to scare the shit out of Canadians who question the neo-fascist politics of the Stephen Harper government. In this way it follows in the footsteps of the use of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) to chill public reaction to corporate domination of the public sphere in Canada.
The RCMP has already begun branding environmental action groups and individuals with the "terrorist" label:
Sgt. Cox would not comment on the tone of the January, 2014, assessment that suggests opposition to resource development runs counter to Canada’s national interest and links groups such as Greenpeace, Tides Canada and the Sierra Club to growing militancy in the “anti-petroleum movement.” via: Globe and Mail
It's all just part of the naked displays of corporate power rising around the world (particularly the developed world). Meaningful action on global warming is stymied because the massive oil corporations would see their value collapse if it was clear to the investment community that the on-book reserves would never be able to be tapped. This is the point being made by the divestment movement: we cannot burn any more fossil fuel if we hope to live on the planet. Therefore, what's in the ground must stay in the ground. And that makes those reserves worthless--a fact not reflected in share prices.
So corporations have enlisted (or compelled) the help of national governments to ensure that they are still able to realize profits--regardless of any threat to (or from) those same national governments, or to the global ecosystem. The global  one percent figure they and their descendents should make out all right without regard to what happens to the rest of us. And they may be right.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Very Canadian Mess

Via IPS: 
MANILA, Mar 15 2015 (IPS) - Filipino Catholic priest and activist Reverend Father Robert Reyes, dubbed by media as the “running priest”, joined a protest of environmental and public health activists last week by running along the streets of the Makati Business District, the Philippines’ financial capital, to urge the government to immediately re-export the 50 Canadian containers filled with hazardous wastes that have been in the Port of Manila for 600 days now.
Along with the groups BAN Toxics, Ecowaste Coalition and Greenpeace, Reyes staged BasuRUN, a name derived from the Filipino word ‘basura’, which means trash or waste.
“These toxic wastes are the worst forms of expressing friendship between our two countries,” said the politically active and socially conscious Reyes.Although praised by activists but criticised by the Filipino Catholic bishops, Reyes’ latest run, which ended across the Canadian Embassy located in the financial district, added another voice to the call for Canada to take responsibility for its “overstaying” toxic shipment in the Philippines.
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is an embarrassment to the civic-minded and environmentally conscious Canadians,” said Reyes. “We know this is not the real Canada. We urge Prime Minister Harper to take immediate action. Take back your illegal waste shipment now,” he stressed.
In June 2013, the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized 50 container vans carrying various hazardous household waste and toxic materials imported from Canada, with the consignee Chronic Plastics, Inc., declaring the shipment as “assorted scrap plastic materials for recycling”.