Friday morning we took the short flight from Calgary to Regina. We met our hosts for the day, Premier Brad Wall and his lovely wife Tami. Julie and Tami toured Regina while the Premier and I had a great discussion of our political experiences, the challenges and opportunities facing Saskatchewan and western Canada, and the close state of the relationship between his province and the United States – particularly the neighboring states of Montana and North Dakota. I also got a detailed briefing on Saturday’s big game between the Roughriders and the Stampeders. (Premier Wall has a weekly sports radio show where he makes his picks in the CFL and the NFL.) Among other things, I learned that Saskatchewan is responsible for about 1/3 of the world’s mustard production. So the next time I have a hot dog at Wrigley Field in Chicago I’ll be thinking of Saskatchewan!!
We also had a chance to visit with Don Toth, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, June Draude, the Provincial Secretary, and a variety of civic, business and educational leaders in the Province. The Premier and I then flew to the world’s largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility located in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. This is a great story and could be part of the solution to address carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Canada, the United States and around the world. I learned that CO2 from the Great Plains coal gasification plant in Beulah, North Dakota is compressed and shipped via pipeline to a mature oil field in Weyburn where it is used for enhanced oil recovery.
The CO2 is pumped in to the existing well structure at very high pressures where it mixes with the oil trapped in the rock and allows the oil to escape. As the oil is brought back to the surface, the CO2 is separated and recycled back into the wells for the next loop to extract more oil. Not only does this enhanced oil recovery process allow Weyburn to continue producing 28,000 barrels per day from wells that would otherwise have been abandoned, it will store over 30 million tons of CO2 during the life of the project (through 2035). That reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is equivalent to getting 6.7 million cars off the road for a year. While this project does seem to be a great success, there is still much work and study that needs to be done before it can be used commercially in other contexts such as to capture the CO2 at coal fired power plants. I was pleased to see the level of cooperation between the coal gasification plant in my country and the CCS facility in Canada.
But the highlight of the day was unquestionably the chance Julie and I had to go with Premier Wall to a dinner honoring a group of Royal Regina Rifles Regiment Reservists who are about to deploy to Afghanistan. It truly was my honor to meet and talk with these young men (one of whom was about to embark on this third tour of duty in Afghanistan). It reminded me and Julie that we are not sending statistics or even just soldiers off to war. We are sending people. Brave young men and women with mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and wives and husbands. I hope to welcome them back upon their safe return. It was a humbling experience to be in their presence. DJ