Canadian clean coal plant seeks to capture and store carbon dioxide

Global Business

Coal is one of the most relied on energy sources in the world, but it’s one of the worst fossils fuels for the environment. Efforts are underway to make it cleaner so that China, the U.S. and other countries can dramatically cut carbon emissions. Ground-breaking technology using carbon capture and storage was recently unveiled in Canada. CCTV’s Kristiaan Yeo filed this report from Saskatchewan.

Canadian clean coal plant seeks to capture and store carbon dioxide

Canadian clean coal plant seeks to capture and store carbon dioxide

Coal is one of the most relied on energy sources in the world, but it's one of the worst fossils fuels for the environment. Efforts are underway to make it cleaner so that China, the U.S. and other countries can dramatically cut carbon emissions. Ground-breaking technology using carbon capture and storage was recently unveiled in Canada. CCTV's Kristiaan Yeo filed this report from Saskatchewan.

Coal fueled the industrial revolution and remains the planet’s number one source of power. Today, China still receives about 80 percent of its power from burning coal. However coal is also the biggest contributor to global carbon dioxide or CO2 emissions, a greenhouse gas that many scientists say has caused global warming. As nations set carbon reduction targets, coal companies are looking to find ways to reduce emissions.

In Central Canada, the Boundary Dam power plant in Saskatchewan is home to the world’s first working “clean coal” technology. Using a process called carbon capture and storage, 90 percent of carbon dioxide and 100 percent of sulfur can be secured and stopped from entering the atmosphere.

Search a list of large carbon capture projects around the world:

Source: Global CSS Institute

In this plant, sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide are extracted from the coal-burning process and those by-products are then sold on the open market. There is some controversy over where this liquefied CO2 then goes. Most from this plant is sold to oil drillers, who use it for enhanced oil recovery, a sort of fracking for oil. Some environmentalists say that’s just passing on the potential to pollute elsewhere. There’s also concern about leakage, as the CO2 is also sent deep underground to about 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles) for long-term storage.

Research is ongoing to see whether CO2 can be stored underground and underwater safely, and what happens while its down there.

How carbon capture and storage works:

Source: The European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants

Thousands more carbon capture facilities like Boundary Dam’s must be built to make a dent in carbon emissions by 2050. So far, just 55 projects are in planning, construction or testing stage worldwide. Most of these are in the US, China or Canada, but other countries are looking.

A United Nations’ report claims China and the U.S., the world’s two biggest polluters, must work closely on carbon capture development. This technology, the UN says, is simply not optional. Almost 90 percent of coal plants and 80 percent of gas plants in China will have to be carbon capture ready if the world is to reduce its carbon footprint.

Follow Kristiaan Yeo on Twitter @ThatsTheLatest