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TransAlta aims for big carbon emissions cuts

Oilfield Technology,

TransAlta is taking a conservative approach to dealing with new regulations regarding CO2 emissions, which, while acknowledging that coal needs to be phased out is not jumping the gun but taking a slower, staged approach to phasing out the coal-fired plants.

The Centralia coal-fired plant in Washington state will have its coal generated 1367 MW output replaced by cleaner energy sources by 2025. The plant has no opportunities for carbon capture and no nearby sources of coal, so alternative sources of energy are the logical choice in this instance. TransAlta has said that it will be switching to wind power and natural gas.

However, in Canada, it is a different story, Alberta holds 70% of Canada’s reserves of coal, and a complete phase-out doesn’t make economic sense. Jim Prentice, the Canadian Environment Minister, has said that Ottawa may make natural gas the new standard as coal-fired plants reach the end of their usefulness. However, with coal so plentiful in Alberta and renewable energy sources not fully developed yet, TransAlta are not taking the same approach.

TransAlta have begun a carbon-capture and storage project here to reduce CO2 emissions from the coal-fired power plants. Steve Snyder, TransAlta’s Chief Executive, speaking about the transition to cleaner energy sources, said, “We want to do it in an orderly fashion, and we don’t want to take too much optionality out too soon because that could come back to haunt availability and supply and reliability 10, 15 years out.”

The company has been positioning itself to deal with increasingly tight emissions regulations though, buying up wind, hydro, natural gas facilities along with investing carbon capture technologies. However, it is expected it will take some time for renewable energy to completely take over from ‘dirty’ fuels such as coal, which is why TransAlta are keen not to jump the gun.

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