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Project Pioneer was a proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at the coal-fired Keephills 3 power station west of Edmonton, in the province of Alberta, Canada. Keephills 3, which was commissioned in September 2011, is jointly owned by two of the four Project Pioneer partners, TransAlta and Capital Power Corporation.
In a 2010 media release Transalta stated that the project "will pilot Alstom Canada's proprietary chilled ammonia process and will be designed to capture one megatonne (Mt) per year of carbon dioxide (CO2)" from the Keephills 3 power station. "The majority of the captured CO2 is intended to be used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), while the remainder is expected to be injected safely in deep underground storage for permanent storage," the media release stated.
In April 2012 the project collapsed with Transalta stating that it was uneconomic.
Stephen Harper's up-beat assessment of Project Pioneer
In mid-October 2009 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking at the Keephills power station, said that "this plant will not just be a first for Canada; indeed, it will be the first of its kind in the world! ... Innovations like carbon capture and storage will define the future of this industry. I’d also like to take a moment to acknowledge the workers here at the Keephills plant who will make this project a reality. Like the 19th century coal miners and the 20th century wildcatters who gave birth to the Alberta energy industry, history will remember you as the pioneers who transformed the industry in the 21st century, as the pioneers who kept Alberta at the forefront of the global energy market, as the pioneers who contributed to a prosperous future for all of Canada!". 
On October 14, 2009 the project was awarded $778 million in federal and provincial funding. This funding comprises $343 million from the Canadian government's Clean Energy Fund and the federal ecoENERGY Technology Initiative with $431 million from the Government of Alberta's CCS Fund and an additional $5 million from the Alberta EcoTrust Grant program.
In November 2011, Premier Alison Redford told the Herald editorial board that a portion of government dollars intended for carbon capture and storage projects in Alberta may instead be diverted to other climate change and clean energy initiatives. Approximately $1.6 billion of the government's $2-billion carbon capture fund has been committed, potentially leaving the remainder for other investments. The Stelmach government had previously announced funding for four major carbon-capture projects, but only three have funding agreements in place; the one that does not is Project Pioneer. Funding was announced more than two years ago and the project is supposed to receive $436 million in provincial cash. However, no agreement has yet been reached. Stephen Carter, Redford's chief of staff, said it is not certain that funding for the project will go ahead. The project is also slated to receive $343 million from the federal government.
In April 2012 the industry partners in the project announced that they would not proceed with the project following the completion of a "front end engineering and design (FEED) study". In a media release the companies stated that "although the technology works and capital costs were in-line with expectations, the market for carbon sales and the price of emissions reductions were insufficient to allow the project to proceed."
Alberta -- which produces 40 per cent of Canada’s industrial emissions -- is the only state or province in North America which has imposed a carbon tax. Set at C$15 a ton, supporters of Project Pioneer argued that the price would have to be $100-$125 per ton to make CCS viable.
The collapse of the project leaves a big hole in the province's greenhouse gas reduction plan. The province's original plan was for CCS to deliver 70% of the emissions reductions through to 2050. However, the collapse of both Project Pioneer and a proposed SaskPower CCS project which proposed to store carbon dioxide in Montana have left provincial officials pondering alternative plans. Bob Savage, the director of Alberta’s Climate Change Secretariat, told the Toronto Star that he had been told to re-evaluate Alberta's emissions reduction plan including alternatives to CCS.
Project partners are listed as:
- TransAlta - project leader and operational partner. TransAlta is the generation operator for Keephills 3;
- Alstom Canada - capture technology leader;
- Capital Power - generation partner with TransAlta for the Keephills 3 coal plant; and
- Enbridge - transportation and storage leader.
Articles and resources
- Project Pioneer, "About the plant", Project Pioneer website, accessed July 2010.
- Translate, "Enbridge to join TransAlta on Project Pioneer", Media Release, June 28, 2010.
- "Project Pioneer partners conclude front-end study; will not proceed with CCS demonstration project", Media Release, April 26, 2012.
- Stephen Harper, "Clean Energy for Tomorrow: Investing in Carbon Capture and Storage in Alberta", Speech at the Keephills power station, Alberta, October 14 2009.
- James Wood,"Alberta government backs away from carbon capture" The Vancouver Sun, Nov. 15, 2011.
- Wendy Gillis, "Carbon capture and storage: an uncertain future in Canada", Toronto Star, June 8, 2012.
- Claudia Cattaneo, "Saskatchewan/Montana carbon capture project scrapped", Financial Post, March 3, 2011.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Canada and coal
- Carbon Capture and Storage
- Carbon Capture and Storage demonstration projects worldwide
- Carbon Capture and Storage in Canada
- "Project Pioneer", Global CCS Institute, accessed June 2012.
- "Global CCS Institute Taps Key Canadian Project to Share Experience and Knowledge", Media Release, November 29, 2010.
- Adam Aston, "Project update: In Canada, partners pull the plug on CA$1.4billion TransAlta CCS project", Global CCS Institute, May 22, 2012.