he Coleson Cove Generating Station, with its three 350 mega-watt
units, and output capacity of 1005 mega-watts of electricity, is N.B.
Power's largest plant. It is also the largest single point source of
greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions in Atlantic Canada.
The Coleson Cove plant has operated since 1976, burning a low grade
of number 6 Bunker oil. Smoke from its 600 foot stack often blackens
skies from Grand Manan to Fundy Park when the plant is cranked up to
meet U.S. export power demands.
On October 10th, the government of New Brunswick gave their
endorsement and approval for a $750 million project to convert the
Coleson Cove plant to burn Orimulsion. Orimulsion is an even dirtier and higher
sulfur fuel than the oil currently being burned, thus assuring New
Brunswick's contribution towards global greenhouse gas production for
the next 35 years.
The government's decision flew in the face of the Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA) summary, which said, "almost all those
who participated in the public consultation were overwhelmingly
against the project."
The major part of the $750 million project construction work at
Coleson Cove will involve the building of a scrubber system and a
second 600 foot stack to clean up the Orimulsion emissions to meet
standards for releasing sulphur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere. However, direct air pollution and increased greenhouse gas (CO2)
emissions from the plant are not the only environmental concerns.
The scrubber at Coleson Cove will require 200 000 tonnes of
limestone a year. This limestone will be delivered from where it is
quarried to Saint John by 15 ship trips a year, and then to Coleson
Cove by an ongoing parade of thousands of truck trips.
The scrubber will also require fresh water, almost doubling the
amount of water currently used at the plant. The source of this water
supply will be the lakes in the newly proclaimed Loch Alva Protected
(Photo: N.B. Protected Natural Areas Coalition)
N.B. Power plans to sell some of the used limestone (gypsum) from
the scrubber operation for wallboard. However, a large dump site will
be required for the remainder of the lime waste from the scrubber and
the contaminated sludge from waste water treatment. N.B. Power
suggested a site for this dump on the Shannon Watershed, which has
been turned down by the EIA, as it presented a direct risk to the
proposed Musquash Marine Protected Area. It now appears that the
Environment Department will allow a new dump site to be established
nearby without an EIA. Perhaps New Brunswick will have the next Sydney
Orimulsion is a mixture of bitumen, a tar-like substance, and
water. It is dirty and it is cheap. There are few markets for it and
only one supplier - the national oil company of Venezuela. Orimulsion
will be delivered to Saint John by large tankers and then pipelined to
Coleson Cove. When spilled into the water, Orimulsion does not float
on the surface like oil, but sinks into the water column. Any
effective containment or cleanup from a tanker accident or pipeline
spill into the Bay of Fundy would be impossible with current
Orimulsion is not being used as a fuel anywhere in the United
States or in Canada except by N.B. Power at their Dalhousie
Generating Station, where serious air emission problems exist.
With the government of New Brunswick about to begin selling off the
assets of N.B. Power, Coleson Cove is the first they have put on the
auction block and already they have received expressions of interest
from several potential buyers. If Coleson Cove is sold, it will
probably operate as a merchant power plant and at full capacity
year-round. Already a consortium has been developed to raise funds to
finance a direct underwater power cable from Coleson Cove to New York
City, which would bypass the grid and utilities along the way. This
proposal has been named Project Neptune, and we can expect to hear
more about it soon.