Boundary Dam Power Station

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Boundary Dam Power Station
SaskPower Boundary Dam GS.jpg
Boundary Dam Power Station is located in Saskatchewan
Boundary Dam Power Station
Location of Boundary Dam Power Station in Saskatchewan
Country Canada
Location Estevan No. 5, near Estevan, Saskatchewan
Coordinates 49°5′47″N 103°1′49″W / 49.09639°N 103.03028°W / 49.09639; -103.03028
Status Active
Commission date 1959
Owner(s) SaskPower
Thermal power station
Primary fuel Coal (lignite)
Type Steam turbine
Power generation
Nameplate capacity 813 megawatts

Boundary Dam Power Station is the largest coal fired station owned by SaskPower, located near Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada.


The Boundary Dam Power Station consists of:[1] two 62 net MW units (commissioned in 1959), two 139 net MW units (commissioned in 1970); one of which — Unit 3 — was decommissioned and replaced with a new 160 MW unit in 2013,[2] one 139 net MW unit (commissioned in 1973) and one 273 net MW unit (commissioned in 1978).

The boilers are supplied by Babcock & Wilcox and Combustion Engineering while the turbines/generator are supplied by General Electric and Hitatchi.[3] There is also Boundary Dam (constructed in 1957) located next to the station. It is an earth fill dam, which created the Boundary Reservoir on Long Creek a few kilometres west of the river's mouth on the Souris River. The station uses water from the reservoir for coolant, which is why Boundary Reservoir is the only body of water in Saskatchewan that doesn't freeze over during the winter months and why it's also the only body of water in Saskatchewan that supports largemouth bass.[4] The lake's fish species include walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, burbot, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and white sucker.[citation needed]

The plant has five 300 ft (91.44 m) tall smokestacks.[5] SaskPower has advised that the project has a 30-year life.[6]

Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration Project

Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration is a project to retrofit the lignite-fired Unit #3 with carbon capture and an enhanced oil recovery system.[7] It consists of two distinct parts: Repowering of the existing Unit #3 and the installation of the Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and NOx capture facility. Its primary purpose is to provide a low-cost source of carbon dioxide, to the mature Weyburn Oil Field, for Enhanced Oil Recovery.[8][9] It is expected to result in a 90 percent (1 million tonnes/year) reduction in CO2 emissions and will also reduce the output of Unit 3 from 139 MW to 110 MW.[10] However, critics point out that the 90% figure refers to the percentage of total CO2 emissions captured, and that only about a half of this CO2 will be actually be permanently stored. The remainder is released into the atmosphere during capturing, and the processing in the oil field.[11] The retrofitted unit was officially opened in October 2014,[12] and is the world's first commercial-scale, lignite-fired power plant equipped with carbon capture and storage technology[13][14]

Capital cost

In February 2008 the Saskatchewan government announced that it would proceed with a 7-year reconstruction and repowering of Boundary Dam's Unit 3. The initial project cost was $C 1.24 billion[15] out of which $C 240-million was from the federal government.[10][16] Budget over-runs have led to the plant having a total cost of some $C 1.5 billion.[17][18]

A first 2015 financial analysis [19] by energy lobby group Saskatchewan Community Wind found that the project "generates losses in excess of [Canadian]$1-billion for electricity consumers of Saskatchewan: they will be paying for those losses through higher electricity prices for many years to come."[20] The report calculates the project reduces CO2 at a cost of $100/tonne and claims it is in effect "a very high carbon tax" levied on Saskatchewan households and other energy consumers.


Other than the generation of electricity, the plant will have several by-products which will generate revenue.

Sample of solid carbon dioxide or "dry ice" pellets

Carbon dioxide

The facility will capture 90 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions from Unit 3[21] or one million tonnes annually.[22]

Most of the total annual carbon dioxide capture volume, at least for the first ten years of the project, is being sold to Alberta-based Cenovus Energy,[23] the operator of the Weyburn Oil Field.[24] SaskPower has not publicly disclosed the sale price but Minister Boyd has stated that it is "in the range of" $25 per tonne.[25] Annual revenue from carbon dioxide sales is thus estimated at $25 million. Cenovus Energy will use the carbon dioxide mainly for field injection work to increase crude oil production.

Sulphuric acid

Most of the sulphur emissions from the power station (predominantly sulphur dioxide) will be captured,[21] converted to sulphuric acid and sold. SaskPower sulphur dioxide emissions are approximately 5 tonnes per gigawatt hour of system generation.[26] Given annual electricity generation of 1,010 gigawatt hours, it follows that total annual sulphur capture will be 5,050 tonnes.

Fly ash

Fly ash, also known as flue ash, is one of the residues generated following the combustion of coal and lignite. In the past it was simply released into the atmosphere through the smoke stack but pollution control requirements have put an end to that practice. It is now captured by electrostatic precipitators and stored at the point of generation, placed in landfills or recycled - where it will typically replace Portland Cement in concrete production. Typical fly ash recovery rates, for Saskatchewan lignite-fired power stations, are 31 kilograms per megawatt hour.[27] Fly ash, depending on its use, can attract a range of prices. The best arises from concrete-quality ash which fetches $22–$49 per tonne.[28]


There appear to be two main expense items: Operations and maintenance, and parasitic load. In the latter, carbon and sulphur dioxide amine-based capture units, such as the one at Boundary Dam, consume significant amounts of electricity and heat in operation and the largest single component is associated with solvent regeneration.[29] Significant electrical load is also used to run additional emission control components (e.g. NOx and Mercury capture) as well as associated pumps and other equipment.


Several major publications have noted what they deem poor economics of the project, among them The Economist,[30] The Financial Times,[31] The MIT Technology Review,[32] and The New York Times.[33][34]

Financial concerns appear to fall into three main areas:

Among environmental concerns, critics note that while 90% of CO2 smokestack emissions are indeed captured, only a portion is actually stored.Almost half of captured emissions end up being released in the atmosphere by processing in the oil field and the capturing process.[20]

Among other concerns, critics point to the following:

  • The foremost goal of the CCS project is to keep the aging plant from becoming a stranded asset. "Unless SaskPower outfits the boilers of the Boundary Dam station with CCS, they have to shut down by 2020"[11] due to Canadian federal regulation.[39]
  • The unfair sharing of the costs, risks and benefits: Energy consumers are said to be saddled with a "very expensive carbon tax", while Saskatchewan's aging oil industry, namely Weyburn Consortium (headed by Cenovus Energy), which owns the Weyburn oil field receives a "backdoor subsidy." In essence, critics claim, the project is designed to sequester not carbon as much as tax dollars.[11][40]

In 2015, internal documents from SaskPower revealed that there were "serious design issues" in the carbon capture system, resulting in regular breakdowns and maintenance problems that led the unit to only be operational 40% of the time. SNC-Lavalin had been contracted to engineer, procure, and build the facility, and the documents asserted that it "has neither the will or the ability to fix some of these fundamental flaws."[41] The low productivity of the plant had in turn meant that SaskPower was only able to sell half of the 800,000 tonnes of captured carbon dioxide that it had contracted to sell to Cenovus Energy for use in enhanced oil recovery at a cost of $25 per tonne. In addition to the lost sales, this meant that SaskPower had been forced to pay Cenovus $12 million in penalties.[42]

All of these concerns are compounded by a lack of transparency: As of 2015 the project operators had not presented any financial or environmental performance numbers.


  1. Plant Description
  2. "Alberici to install turbine for SaskPower carbon capture facility."Electric Light & Power. 1 September 2013
  3. Coal Fired Power Plants in Canada - Power Plants Around the World
  4. Snook, M., "Saskatchewan's Best Fishing Hot Spots", Western Sportsman. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  5. "Boundary Dam Power Station". Environment Canada - Detailed Facility Information.
  6. "Hanley: Questions remain over SaskPower project." The Star Phoenix - 18-Nov-2014.
  7. Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration Project
  8. "Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Sequestration Demonstration Project" Global CCS Institute
  9. "Integrated Carbon Capture & Storage Project at SaskPower's Boundary Dam Power Station" Global CCS Institute 2015
  10. 10.0 10.1
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4
  13. "SaskPower unveils world's first carbon capture coal plant". Shawn McCarthy. Globe and Mail. 2-Oct-2014
  14. "SaskPower launches world's first commercial CCS process." SaskPower News release. 2-Oct-2014
  15. "Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration Project". SaskPower Fact Sheet: 7211/Apr12
  16. "Saskatchewan Plans Clean Coal-Carbon Capture Project." 27-Feb-2008. Power Engineering
  17. "CCS Performance Data Exceeding Expectations at World-First Boundary Dam Power Station #3". SaskPower press release. 11-Feb-2015.
  18. "Jim Prentice says to wind down carbon capture fund in Alberta, new projects 'on hold'". Geoffrey Morgan - Financial Post. 6-Oct-2014.
  20. 20.0 20.1
  21. 21.0 21.1 "SaskPower Boundary Dam Project" Carbon Capture Journal. July–August 2010
  22. "Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration Project." SaskPower fact sheet. 7211/Apr12.
  23. "SaskPower signs 10-year deal with Cenovus" Bruce Johnstone Leader-Post. 20-Dec-2012
  24. "Increasing oil production and reducing greenhouse gas emissions." 'Weyburn Project Overview' - Cenovus Energy fact sheet
  25. ". Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan - Debates and Proceedings. Page 5836. Minister Bill Boyd response to question from MLA Cathy Sproule". Hansard 13-Nov-2014
  26. SaskPower Sustainability Report 2011. (no longer available on SaskPower site)
  27. Reference withheld at author request.
  28. "How Much are Coal Combustion Products Worth?" The American Coal Ash Association Website.
  29. "Cansolv CO2 Capture: The Value of Integration" Devin Shaw. Cansolv Technologies Inc. Oct-2008. Shell website
  30. "Nice try, shame about the price." The Economist. 3-Oct-2014
  31. "Carbon Capture Faces Viability Struggle." Pilita Clark. Financial Times. 23-Nov-14.
  32. "A coal plant that buries its greenhouse gases". Peter Fairley: MIT Technology Review. Dec-2014.
  33. "Corralling Carbon Before It Belches From the Stack".Henry Fountain: The New York Times. 21-Jul-2014.
  34. Companies Struggle To Make Carbon Capture Viable Mark Scott. New York Times. 5-Oct-2015
  35. "Carbon Capture faces viability struggle." Pilita Clark. Financial Times. 23-Nov-2014
  36. highest power-sector carbon
  37. "Push for CCS misguided policy." Letters - James Glennie. The Star Phoenix. 28-Mar-2014.]
  38. "CO2 project sequesters tax dollars". Murray Mandryk. The Leader Post: 7-Oct-2014
  40. "CO2 project sequesters tax dollars"
  41. Leo, Geoff (October 27, 2015). "SNC-Lavalin-built carbon capture facility has 'serious design issues': SaskPower". CBC News. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  42. Leo, Geoff (October 26, 2015). "Carbon capture plant delay costing SaskPower millions". CBC News. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 

External links