The proposed polygeneration facility will be the first of its kind in Canada and use advanced technology to turn petroleum coke into 300 megawatts of electricity, along with hydrogen, nitrogen, steam and carbon dioxide for various industrial uses.
In October, the previous NDP government committed up to $26 million to the project. Of that total, $6 million will match contributions TransCanada has made during the past two years to determine the viability of the project. The research project is expected to be completed in 2008.
The second phase will see the provincial government and TransCanada contribute another $20 million each to complete the detailed engineering phase of the project by 2009. Should the project proceed, TransCanada would repay the $26 million to the province. The polygeneration plant could be in service by 2013.
John Jenkins, project manager for TransCanada, said polygeneration refers to the process of gasification of petroleum coke - a low-value byproduct of heavy oil upgrading. "It's an industrial facility that will convert a low-grade fossil fuel - in our case, petroleum coke, which is a byproduct of the heavy oil upgrading process - into a number of useable energy and chemical products,'' Jenkins said in an interview from Calgary.
"Specifically, we'll be producing hydrogen, steam, electricity and carbon dioxide.... Overall, the process combines gasification at the front end and a co-generation component. The combination of the two (allows for) increased efficiency and emissions to be kept at a very low level."
While the project is still in the early stages of development, Jenkins said the petroleum coke feedstock will likely be shipped by rail from northern Alberta, namely Fort McMurray, where it currently being stockpiled.
Jenkins said the site of the proposed facility, Belle Plaine, has several large-scale industrial plants, including a nitrogen fertilizer plant, a solution potash mine and, later this spring, an ethanol plant.
"We see it as a huge win-win for all facets of the project, whether it's the industrial users nearby, or the province in terms of economic development, and for the environment itself.''
Another advantage of the project is the addition of 300 megawatts of electricity to the provincial grid, without significant emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
Jenkins said the townhall meetings are an opportunity for local residents to provide input to the project developers, as well as learn about the project.
"What we'll be doing is introducing the project to the public at these meetings.... The biggest thing we want to accomplish at the open houses is to get input from the public to see if they have concerns that we need to address."