​TransAlta accelerating coal phase-out with new $150 million natural gas pipeline

The Keephills power plant near Edmonton. Image: Capital Power

TransAlta and Tidewater Midstream have entered into an agreement to build a new pipeline to connect Montney and Deep Basin natural gas to customers as TransAlta accelerates its shift away from coal-fired power.

The $150 million pipeline will connect Tidewater’s Brazeau River Complex in west central Alberta to TransAlta’s Sundance and Keephills generating stations near Edmonton.

The plants will be transitioned to run on natural gas one year ahead of schedule, in the 2021 to 2022 timeframe, TransAlta said.

The company is crediting the decision to accelerate to “clarity provided” by draft coal-to-gas conversion rules proposed by the Government of Canada.

“Although not yet finalized, the Government of Canada has proposed coal-to-gas conversion rules that would extend the life of TransAlta's gas conversion units by five-to-ten years past their federal end of coal life, depending on their CO2 emissions profile. The proposed rules would see the life of TransAlta's entire coal-fired fleet extended by an aggregate of approximately 75 years,” TransAlta said in a statement.

Once converted to gas, Sundance and Keephills are anticipated to be able to run through to 2031 to 2039.

TransAlta CEO added that, “Having greater access to natural gas allows TransAlta to blend natural gas with the coal, prior to fully converting the units, allowing us to take advantage of low natural gas prices and reduce our carbon costs.”