It was another fierce day of questioning from Saskatchewan’s NDP over SaskPower’s carbon capture and storage facility and how it has been running.
Opposition Leader Cam Broten and SaskPower critic Cathy Sproule fired away at the premier and the economy minister during Wednesday’s question period, believing the province made it seem as if the $1.4-billion facility had been capturing carbon at full capacity right from the beginning and was even exceeding expectations.
The facility has been the subject of intense questioning from the opposition all week after internal documents brought to light by the NDP indicated operational challenges at the plant and financial penalties for not meeting the contractual obligations with Alberta-based Cenovus Energy.
It was also uncovered the facility has only been recently operating at 40 per cent capacity.
“This government is not being clear about what is going on, what has gone on,” said Broten.
He wants transparency he believes Saskatchewan residents aren’t getting from the province.
“How has the plant been operating? We’re getting all these competing stories about the amount of CO2 that it’s actually capturing. What is the level?”
Premier Brad Wall insisted that the plant has indeed been fully operational at times, but admitted there have also been a few hiccups with the never-before-seen technology. He explained planned shutdowns have occurred to address some of the challenges. Wall backs the carbon capturing unit at the plant, but pointed to some outstanding mechanical issues that remain and require attention to get the facility back up and running to the targetted goal of capturing 90 per cent of CO2 emissions.
Wall and Economy Minister Bill Boyd maintained that the government had always been transparent and had disclosed all information, citing an annual SaskPower report as an example. However, in that 144-page report, only a brief sentence mentioned a $12 million shortfall on CO2 deliveries. Wall couldn’t explain why a greater emphasis and explanation was placed on this information.
“At the pace we’re on now, we’re going to make money,” said Wall during question period.
“We’re not losing money even this year. We’re going to sell enough CO2 to turn a small profit,” he reiterated to reporters later in the rotunda.
Eventually Wall deferred questions to Mike Monea, SaskPower’s president in relation to carbon capture and storage initiatives. He was asked why the Crown didn’t make it clear to the public before the project launched that a few bumps in the road were to be expected.
“There’s always perfection in hindsight,” he responded.
The numbers from the first year of a never-before-seen-facility such as this will be distorted, he continued. Instead, Monea said a clearer picture will be painted in subsequent years.