Could an emissions-busting technology keep King Coal alive in Nova Scotia?
Carl Poirier is looking for answers regarding a technology few Atlantic Canadians have heard of: carbon capture and storage.
Known as “CCS” in the energy business, the technology involves taking carbon dioxide (CO2) and transporting it deep underground where it is stored permanently. As president and CEO of CCS Nova Scotia, Poirier is leading a notfor- profit organization that is tasked with learning more about the province’s geology and whether it has the characteristics to be used for CCS.
CCS Nova Scotia’s partners include the Nova Scotia Department of Energy, Nova Scotia Power Inc. and Dalhousie University. It’s received approximately $11.5 million in government funding since its inception. Coming up with ways to reduce CO2 emissions is a major issue for Nova Scotia Power. Federal regulations introduced for coal-fired power plants in 2012 state they must close no later than 2030 unless they are equipped with CCS technology that can bring CO2 emissions down to the level of high-efficiency natural gas-fired plants. CCS could allow Nova Scotia, which generates large amounts of its electricity from coal, to keep it in the energy mix beyond 2030.
In May of 2013, CCS Nova Scotia announced Cape Breton Island’s Sydney sub-basin had the largest potential capacity to safely store CO2. In October of 2013, two-dimensional seismic work was completed on the sub-basin. If the seismic data shows that it is large enough to store CO2, Poirier says a drilling program will be done this spring to test the sub-basin’s porosity and permeability. “At the end of that, we’ll be able to tell people, ‘Yes, where we have drilled and the reservoir we’ve characterized is suitable for storage or not,'” Poirier says.
What Poirier can’t tell people is what happens to CCS Nova Scotia’s research after the 2014-15 fiscal year when his organization’s funding runs out. “I wish I could say it’s going to continue but there are no guarantees,” Poirier says. “Somebody may come in and fund it or they may just take the information and say, ‘Thank you very much and we’ll consider it for future clients.'”