The Commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) voted unanimously on Tuesday to grant the air quality permits necessary for the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center under development near Sweetwater, Texas, to begin construction. Trailblazer will be the first new-build carbon-capturing coal plant in Texas to receive an air quality permit—a critical approval that opens the door for future construction of the energy center.
State-of-the-art technology at the plant will capture 85% to 90% of the plant’s carbon dioxide (CO2) and greatly minimize other emissions. Captured CO2 is expected to be used for enhanced oil recovery operations.
"Trailblazer will provide electricity for Texans in a safe and environmentally responsible way," said Tenaska Development President David Fiorelli. "At the same time, the plant will promote energy security by using the most abundant fossil fuel to generate baseload electricity and increase Permian Basin oil production in West Texas by providing a valuable supply of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery."
The project is already receiving international attention, having been awarded a $7.7 million grant from the Australia-based Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute and featured in a series about clean energy aired internationally by the British Broadcasting Company.
Among the environmental features of the project is Tenaska’s commitment to use dry cooling technology to reduce Trailblazer’s water use by 90%. The Trailblazer Energy Center would be the first large-scale coal project in Texas to use dry cooling. Citing the contributions the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center would make to more environmentally responsible, water-conserving energy production, the Environmental Defense Fund in April this year withdrew its opposition to the project’s air quality permit application.
Construction and operation of the $3.5 billion 600-MW (net) plant will provide an immense economic boost to West Texas, bringing up to 1,500 jobs at the peak of construction, more than 100 permanent jobs when the plant is in operation, and at least another 70 full-time jobs in the community itself. .
Trailblazer’s air quality permits are required in order to begin construction on the power plant. However, a number of other tasks and contracts must be completed before construction can begin, including engineering and design studies, securing customers for the electricity and CO2, and securing state, federal and local incentives designed to encourage development of carbon capture and storage projects. Internationally recognized energy contractor, Fluor Corp., based in Irving, Texas, is performing engineering and design work.