November 5, 2007

Epcor to invest over $22M in coal R&D project, municipal water treatment plant upgrade

Epcor Utilities and the Canadian Clean Power Coalition (CCPC) are collaborating with the federal and Alberta governments on a $33-million research and development project that promises to make Canada a world leader in clean coal technology. Researchers will conduct front-end engineering design work for a power plant that would turn sub-bituminous coal into synthesis gas and hydrogen. This gasification process could virtually eliminate smog-related air emissions.

The project is the first to receive funding through the federal ecoEnergy Technology Initiative, which is providing $11 million. Epcor and the Alberta Energy Research Institute (AERI) are contributing equal amounts. It is an important step toward construction of a full-scale coal gasification power plant that will demonstrate this advanced clean coal technology both domestically and internationally.

"The application of this technology, on this scale, with this type of coal, has not been used anywhere else in the world," said Dr David Lewin, senior vice-president of Epcor and also chair of the CCPC. "By converting coal into synthesis gas, and capturing and sequestering CO2, we can create electricity that's cleaner than the best natural gas facility operating today."

In addition to further reducing emissions of air pollutants associated with coal-fired electricity generation, the technology is designed to take advantage of opportunities for carbon capture and storage, which will almost completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

The work will be carried out near Edmonton, at Epcor's Genesee generating station, considered to be the most technologically advanced and cleanest coal-fired generating station in Canada. Completion of the project is expected in 2009, and if subsequent investment and construction decisions proceed as planned, a 500-megawatt generating station using the new technology could be in operation in Alberta as early as 2015.

In other activities, Epcor Utilities recently signed an agreement with the city of Wetaskiwin under which Epcor will design, build and finance upgrades to Wetaskiwin's water treatment plant and will operate and maintain the facility. The city will continue to own the plant and to set rates and bill customers.

The $11.5-million upgrade project will also allow Wetaskiwin to meet new Alberta Environment water regulations, ensuring that the city will be able to renew its water license in 2008. Epcor has committed to meeting or surpassing Alberta Environment standards, and will incorporate advanced water quality technology such as ultraviolet (UV) disinfection and dissolved air flotation into the project design. The upgrades will use existing infrastructure to reduce the total cost to the city. For example, an existing facility located outside Wetaskiwin will be used for sludge storage, which will also minimize odour impacts to the community.

The agreement is the starting point for a long-term relationship between the two parties, which will eventually transfer the water treatment plant facilities from the city to Epcor.

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