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Coal a natural for carbon capture: Lowry


| Sourced From Edmonton Journal |

EDMONTON – Coal will remain the primary fuel for power generation in Alberta, and would be the easiest target for carbon-capture technology, says the president of city-owned Epcor Utilities.

“If you want early wins and quick action” on carbon dioxide capture, Don Lowry said the province should look to coal before considering proposals from the oilsands.

Lowry was speaking Thursday to the Edmonton Rotary Club.

Epcor has already spent $15 million on engineering and design studies for two separate projects, a new coal gasification plant and amine-scrubbing process to remove CO2 from flue gas emissions for existing coal-fired turbines at Genesee. Both are among 20 projects being considered for assistance under the province’s $2-billion carbon capture and storage program.

Half of Alberta’s CO2 emissions come from coal-fired power plants.

“We are the low-hanging fruit,” he said in an interview, the best place to invest in the first round of carbon capture. Lowry said starting with the oilsands would be very expensive, requiring costly construction in Fort McMurray and long pipelines to ship gas to central Alberta for storage.

“Let’s do it where we have the best chance of success at the lowest cost, just west of Edmonton (south of Lake Wabamun), and if that works, we can ripple it out. Let’s not pick the hardest to do, that is the furthest away,” he said.

Epcor’s amine-scrubbing system, like TransAlta’s chilled-ammonia process proposal for its coal-fired plants, could cost $400 million per turbine. A new gasification plant could cost about the same, said Lowry.

“The point is these systems cost a lot of money,” he said. Without some initial assistance from government, it would not be possible to proceed, says Lowry.

“There is a social value to reducing emissions. And there is a role for government to step up and contribute for the first models, or parts of them,” he said.

“Maybe there’s surcharges on energy bills for the first 15 years. But it’s like training for the Olympics: We’re not going to get there by wanting it, we’re going to have to put some skin into the game to get to zero emissions.”

Lowry said the Alberta government deserves “special recognition” for the $2-billion carbon-capture fund.

“There’s no government anywhere in the world that has put that amount of dollars on the table to address emissions. From the U.S. to the European nations, they all talk a huge story, but they put virtually nothing on the table … (apart from) subsidizing windmills or solar panels,” he said.

By Dave Cooper

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