Committee hearing reveals carbon capture lost millions in 2015

$7 million in penalties, $17 million in repairs

Saskatchewan lost millions on penalties, repairs and operating costs on the Sask. Party’s carbon capture experiment in 2015.

That information was revealed in a committee meeting at the legislature on Tuesday during which Cathy Sproule, the NDP’s critic for SaskPower, questioned the Sask. Party’s Bill Boyd and his officials.

Saskatchewan taxpayers and SaskPower customers are on the hook for at least $17 million in repairs, a $7 million penalty to oil company Cenovus and $13 million in operating costs for 2015.

 Compared to that $37-million price tag, the sale of CO2 in 2015 earned just $9 million.

“Nearly $30 million more lost on this project is highly concerning,” said Sproule. “What we discovered Tuesday is that the project still isn’t working properly, and doesn’t have a working business case or financial model that will deliver a return for the people of Saskatchewan.

“Those annual losses mean we’re not even coming close to paying for the $1.5 billion cost – plus interest – of building this thing. The only other place to find money in this thing is going right back to families and their power bills, which are already up about 40 per cent under the Sask. Party.”

The Sask. Party has also spent millions promoting its carbon capture project around the world. In addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in world travel for Boyd, Brad Wall and officials, an American lobbyist was paid $1.79 million by Saskatchewan between 2013 and 2015, and records filed with the American government show the lobbyist was focused on carbon capture and storage 75 per cent of the time.

That’s despite the fact that Saskatchewan doesn’t own the technology and can’t sell anything.

Sproule also discovered Tuesday that the November overhaul and re-launch of the carbon capture facility at Boundary Dam 3 didn’t go as planned. It had to be shut down again because of new problems in December. SaskPower CEO Mike Marsh said Tuesday he expects outages every month with the plant.

Despite its sales pitch on carbon capture around the world, the Sask. Party has put a pause on the decision to convert Boundary Dam 4 and Boundary Dam 5 or other coal-fired power plants that will soon come under new federal emissions regulations. 

Sproule moved that the committee continue questioning on the carbon capture and storage boondoggle for a full day Wednesday. The Sask. Party MLAs that make up the majority of the committee voted against that effort at transparency.