Deal signed on cross-border climate project |

Deal signed on cross-border climate project

Associated Press Writer

BILLINGS, Mont. ” The leaders of Montana and Saskatchewan have agreed to develop North America’s first large scale, government-sponsored initiative to capture and store greenhouse gasses from a coal-burning power plant.

Whether the $270 million effort succeeds could have profound implications for the power industry, which relies on coal for about half the electricity produced in the United States.

The project would capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from a Canadian power plant and pipe it across the border into northern Montana. The gas would be pumped into deep geologic formations for storage and could later be used to enhance oil production.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall signed an agreement Thursday committing their governments to the project.

Julio Friedmann, head of carbon management at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, said the project could prove key in securing a future for coal at a time when the fuel is under assault by environmentalists.

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“Coal has a bright future in power generation is North America if carbon capture and sequestration works,” he said.

He added the project differs from a spate of other recently announced climate change initiatives because it calls for retrofitting an existing coal plant, instead of incorporating the technology into a new facility.

The carbon would be captured from a 300-megawatt power plant owned by Canada’s SaskPower. The gas then would be piped 50-60 miles south into Montana, where it would be injected deep underground for storage.

The carbon dioxide could later be withdrawn for use in oil production, a long-standing industry practice in which carbon dioxide is pumped into the ground to push oil out of aging reserves.

Montana’s Poplar Dome geological formation, east of Medicine Lake, appears to offer the best site for storing carbon dioxide from the SaskPower plant, state officials said.

“CO2 is a global concern and its time to work together to address this pressing issue,” Schweitzer said. “Montana has 30 percent of the coal in America and in order to use our coal we need a solution to CO2.”

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