Sask. Party spin didn’t match carbon capture reality

While the Sask. Party’s billion-dollar carbon capture experiment was sputtering through failures and flaws, operating at only about 40 per cent of targeted capacity, Brad Wall and his government were working hard to cover up the disappointing reality.

“Sask, we’re fully operational & making history,” Wall tweeted on Oct. 1, 2014, in contradiction to the actual 40 per cent capacity reached and the penalties already piling up.

“CCS performance data exceeding expectations,” read a headline on a SaskPower news release, which also boasted on Feb. 11, 2015 that the project “has the capacity to capture up to one million tonnes of CO2 in 2015 and is on target to meet that goal.”

On Aug. 26, 2015, Wall toured American politicians through the carbon capture plant. On that day, referring to coal power generation, he said: “We have cleaned it up. At this facility operating right now, we have energy being produced from coal that is three times cleaner than natural gas, which is significant. We are capturing 90 per cent of the CO2 and the CO2 has a 99 per cent purity so we can turn around and market that to energy companies.”

Broten said that misleading information is problematic.

“Mr. Wall and his officials have travelled the world to promote this experiment as a wild success,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “But it still hasn’t even met their own baseline definition of achieving commercial operation. In reality, the Sask. Party was preparing – even before the grand opening celebration – to cut a massive penalty cheque to an Alberta-based oil company for failing to deliver.

“Mr. Wall used taxpayer money to build this experiment, and taxpayer money to promote it as a mission accomplished. Meanwhile, he was keeping Saskatchewan people in the dark about what was really going on, and that’s absolutely unacceptable.”

Three years ago, Wall was briefed on the fact that without the sale of CO2, the project is not financially viable. Yet, the fact that the experiment has come nowhere near paying for itself – let alone delivering actual financial returns on its $1.5 billion cost – was kept under wraps by the Sask. Party.

This week, the NDP revealed internal government documents that show major deficiencies and design problems with the Sask. Party’s carbon capture experiment, resulting in the plant operating at only 40 per cent capacity. The first year’s failures resulted in a $12 million penalty being paid to Alberta corporation Cenovus. The government has admitted it will be paying millions more in penalties this year.