Legal & Regulatory

Construction Begins on World’s Largest Carbon Capture Retrofit

The Department of Energy (DOE), NRG Energy Inc., and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. announced on July 15 that construction has begun on the first commercial-scale post-combustion carbon capture retrofit project on an existing coal-fired power plant in the U.S.

The Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project is expected to capture 90% of the CO2 in the processed flue gas from the existing WA Parish power plant in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston. The captured CO2 will be utilized for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) at the West Ranch oilfield. EOR is expected to boost oil production at the field from around 500 barrels per day to approximately 15,000 barrels per day.

The technology to be implemented was previously deployed in a DOE-sponsored three-year pilot-scale test in Alabama. The demonstration—conducted at the Plant Barry power station in Mobile—successfully captured more than 150,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, which could allow a coal-fired plant to have a greenhouse gas footprint smaller than that of a traditional natural gas–powered plant.

Petra Nova was originally conceived as a 60-MW project, which received $167 million in support from the DOE, but the sponsors quadrupled the size without additional federal funding and will capture emissions from 240 MW when complete. The project will extract flue gases from a slipstream installed on the 610-MW WA Parish Unit 8. Expectations are for 1.6 million metric tons of CO2 to be captured annually at the site.

“Our objective is simple: we want to continue to provide safe, affordable, and reliable power to our customers, but without risking the health of the planet as a result of our activities,” David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, said in a press release. “This project is an enormous step in that direction, plus it continues the trend of enhancing domestic oil production; thus further reducing our national dependence on foreign sources of oil.”

“With coal expected to remain a significant part of the energy portfolio in the U.S. and internationally, first-of-a-kind projects like Petra Nova will move us towards a low-carbon energy future,” Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said in a DOE-released statement.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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