Technology and innnovation are helping to ensure that Canada’s coal industry remains viable and competitive both domestically and internationally.  Some of the technological developments in coal-fired electricity generation include:

Combustion Technology

Supercritical-Pressure Pulversized Coal Combustion Technology involves the use of a boiler to heat and pressurize steam to supercritical levels. The benefits of this method include a reduction in fuel consumption by approximately 18 per cent and as a by-product GHGs would also decrease.

The most recent coal-fired generation plant built with this technology is Genessee 3 (Capital Power/TransAlta) near Edmonton, which has been in operation since March 2005.

Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle

An Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGSS) power plant uses a partial combustion process that converts coal into syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which is then used to fire the combustion turbine in a combined-cycle power plant. Along with improved efficiency in power production, and a decrease in the production of GHGs, the benefits of IGCC include the ability to scrub pollutants like sulphur and heavy metals from the fuel before it is burned. IGCC can produce a concentrated carbon dioxide (CO2) stream which can make CO2 storage more economical. As the technology matures, IGCC has the potential to become the preferred method to generate electricity from coal.

Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon Capture and Storage (CSS) is a process where carbon dioxide is separated and collected from emissions.  It then can be shipped by pipeline to an area where it can be stored in geological formations such as active or depleted oil and gas reservoirs, or deep saline aquifers.

After the carbon dioxide is secured deep underground and the injection site is no longer needed, the site is tightly sealed and monitored long-term to ensure there are no safety or health risks to the public or environment.

There are major benefits from the use of Carbon Capture and Storage technology including;

  • reduction in CO2 emissions
  • ability to meet growing energy demands
  • employment opportunities created by new plants and pipelines

Carbon Capture and Storage – Coal Projects

  • The SaskPower Boundary Dam Project in Estevan, Saskatchewan – one of the world’s first and largest full-scale CCS demonstrations at a coal-fired power plant at a cost of $1.4 billion.
  • TransAlta’s Pioneer Project at its Keephills three plant near Edmonton, Alberta has the potential to be among the world’s first coal-fired power plants which could capture as much as one million tonnes of CO2 per year beginning in 2015.
  • The Swan Hills Coal Gasification Project (Swan Hills, Alberta) will turn coal into a synthetic gas to be used to generate clean electricity. The project will also capture up to 1.3 million tonnes per year of CO2 to enhance the recovery of conventional oil in the area.

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