Province contributes $2 million towards first-of-its-kind carbon capture energy plant proposed for Merritt

Carbon capture plant funded

A Squamish-based clean energy company is looking to construct a new, first-of-its-kind energy plant in Merritt, designed to capture carbon dioxide and convert it into low-carbon fuels.

Huron Clean Energy is looking to finance, build and operate the Merritt Electro Fuels Project, with help from a funding boost from the provincial government.

Bruce Ralston, minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation, announced in a press conference Thursday the government would contribute $2 million to support the engineering and design of the plant.

“This is the first stage in Huron Clean Energy's proposal to develop a world-leading electro fuels plant in partnership with the Upper Nicola Band,” Ralston said.

“This plant will use carbon dioxide captured directly from the air around us, and hydro electricity purchased from BC Hydro to make low carbon hydrogen to convert into low carbon synthetic fuels.”

Huron Clean Energy has a licensing agreement to use technology from Carbon Engineering, which operates a direct air carbon capture plant in Squamish. Huron is also operating in partnership with the Upper Nicola Band.

Ralston said if construction is able to begin in 2022, the plant could be operational by 2025.

The project would employ about 5,400 people during the design and construction phases, and 340 long-term jobs would be created to operate the plant.

Once the plant is built and operational, it is expected to capture 250,000 tonnes of carbon annually, using 315 megawatts of electricity and 35,200 tonnes of hydrogen to produce 103 million litres of low-carbon fuel per year.

The fuels produced by the proposed Merritt plant would be used to replace standard diesel, marine and aviation fuels.

Ralston said low-carbon transportation fuels will become important as B.C. looks to meet its climate action targets in the next decade.

“The Merritt Electro Fuels project is expected to prove the case for direct air capture fuel sources around the world, leading to the development of other plants across Canada,” Ralston said.

Harvey McLeod, Chief of the Upper Nicola Band, said the band is honoured to play a role in implementing this new technology.

“The economic benefits that could be generated from a project of this magnitude will change forever the people of Upper Nicola, the Nicola Valley, the nation,” McLeod said.

“By showing and taking the small steps that it takes to make change for Mother Earth, to make change in us as people, this will only be possible when we all work together.”

Michael Hutchison, CEO of Huron Clean Energy, said the plant will make a small step toward cleaning fuel use in B.C.

"We would like to demonstrate through the development of this technology to the rest of the world, that we can produce fuel to supply the energy needs of our society, cleanly,” Hutchison said.

“I think the goal of all British Columbians is to take the environment that you receive, and pass it on to the next generation in a condition is the same as or better than you received it. And I think today, that that is something that needs to be demonstrated to the world.”

Steve Oldham, the CEO of Carbon Engineering, said one of the largest challenges in climate change is decarbonizing transportation.

“One part of the solution to decarbonize transportation is to change the fuel we use. If we can make the fuel carbon neutral, our vehicles, our ships and planes become carbon neutral,” Oldham said.

“Imagine if we can make a fuel with almost no carbon footprint, and do so out of sun, out of wind, out of water and out of air. Imagine if that fuel works with all our existing vehicles, our ships, and our planes. That's what today is all about.”

Ralston said this project is “an obvious win” for the province’s economy, and the environment.

“I look forward to it succeeding for Huron Clean Energy and Carbon Engineering, for the upper Nicola band, and for the people of British Columbia.”

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