Despite being slammed by proponents of greener, cleaner alternatives, a place for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in state, national and international alternative energy stimulus programs is pretty well set, even in California.
The California Public Utilities Commission last Friday approved South California Edison’s request to carry out studies necessary to evaluate the feasibility of building a utility-scale base-load power plant fueled by hydrogen produced from gasification of petroleum coke, coal and possibly biomass.
What makes this clean and green you might ask? Well, the plant’s design specs include equipment and processes that would capture 90% of carbon dioxide emissions and the means to sequester it underground.
Cleaner Power from Fossil Fuels
The CPUC and Southern California Edison are looking to assure Californians aren’t victimized by a repeat of the electricity shortages, fraud and market manipulation that affected the state in the wake of electricity market privatization in the years following the turn of the millennium.
Bringing together and adding on gasification and carbon capture and storage technology, though costly, are essentially viewed as extensions of existing fossil fuel production and refining infrastructure that offer a means of mitigating climate change by sequestering huge amounts of carbon dioxide in underground oil and gas reservoirs.
Joining with Hydrogen Energy International LLC, SoCal Edison’s studies are essential to assessing the feasibility of tentative plans to build an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plant capable of generating 250 megawatts of electricity in Kern County, California, enough to power some 150,000 homes, according to the utility.
The utility commission’s approval enables SoCal Edison to record up to $30 million of the costs it incurs to participate in the study. The CPUC denied the utility’s request for “rate recovery of certain costs recorded in the account at this time,” which means that it will not be able to pass them on to customers, at least not yet. The Commission did leave that door open, however. It ruled that the utility “may seek recovery of the costs stemming from its participation in Phase I and Phase II of the study” by filing an application at a subsequent date.
Hydrogen Fuel via Enhanced Oil Recovery, CCS
“I encourage the other investor-owned utilities, as well as the publicly-owned utilities, to become partners in the HECA study project, and for all utilities to work together on commercializing carbon capture and storage technology,” CPUC President Michael R. Peevey, said in a media release.
“If California’s utilities work together, the costs and risks of this and other carbon capture projects can be shared broadly so that the benefits can be realized by all Californians. If shown to be technically feasible and commercially reasonable, the HECA facility, and potentially other generation utilizing carbon capture technology, will be resources that will advance California’s move towards reduced greenhouse gas emissions while producing reliable power.”
Hydrogen Energy International last July proposed construction of a hydrogen fuel production facility and power plant in Kern County. Key to the plan, the site is next door to the Elk Hills oil reserve.
This gives the three partners the opportunity to combine the use of enhanced oil recovery techniques to boost output of the oil wells and as yet unproven underground storage of carbon dioxide captured during the production of hydrogen by the gasification of petroleum coke- a by-product of crude oil refining – or blends of petroleum coke and coal, as well as the possibility of using biomass as a feedstock.
A limited liability company, Hydrogen Energy International is a joint venture established last year by BP Alternative Energy North America and Rio Tinto Hydrogen Energy LLC, itself an offshoot of Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining and mineral resources companies. The joint venture was set up to pursue opportunities to produce low carbon hydrogen from fossil fuel sources.