SaskPower travel costs to boast beleaguered CO2 capture plant challenged
Saskatchewan's Opposition is questioning why a Crown official spent nearly half a million dollars in travel to promote carbon capture when the province can't even sell the technology.
Mike Monea, president of carbon capture for SaskPower, spent $476,000 from 2009 to 2014 to boast about a carbon-capture facility at the Boundary Dam power plant near Estevan. On two occasions, the travel also included airfare for Monea's wife.
The New Democrats note the government isn't in a position to sell the CO2 capture technology because it is owned by Shell Cansolv, not SaskPower.
"My question is, what on Earth is he selling, in terms of what can be sold to make a profit and in terms of what is being told?" NDP Leader Cam Broten asked Tuesday.
"Is it the truth, is it the reality that we now know through leaked documents? Or is it the hyper-spin and the tall tales that we've been hearing about the success of this project that isn't backed up by reality?"
Documents leaked to the NDP show the $1.5-billion facility has been working 45 per cent of the time since it opened last year.
SaskPower CEO Mike Marsh said SaskPower is the first utility to attach carbon-capture technology to a generating station and it needs to market that expertise.
"We're getting interest," Marsh said Tuesday.
"This is the initial stage of something that's going to be a big part of the world in the next few years. And it may appear right now that it's very early in the game, but unless you get out there and establish your position in that community, the opportunities won't present themselves -- and that's what we're looking at."
Marsh suggested others may need technology and engineering information and Monea's role has been to engage the international community and let people know what's going on at the plant.
"Someday there will be somebody who comes knocking on the door and that's what Mike's job is right now."
The carbon-capture facility opened with much fanfare last October. It was to have opened the previous April, but faced construction delays.
The goal is to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by one million tonnes annually. The facility has removed 400,000 tonnes so far this year.
One document says SaskPower has incurred additional costs of about $80 million to fix "construction deficiencies." Marsh said last week that the amount is a little higher now, but he would not confirm the new number because SaskPower is trying to recoup the costs through legal means.
On Monday, Marsh said the facility was back online after a two-month overhaul.