Hydrogen Energy California looks for project completion in 2017

Construction and commissioning of the Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) project is expected to take approximately 49 months, with commencement of pre-construction and construction activities expected to begin in June 2013 and be completed by February 2017.

Commercial operation is expected to commence in September 2017, said a revised application by Hydrogen Energy California LLC filed May 3 at the California Energy Commission. Here are some of the notable project design improvements included in the application:

  • A manufacturing complex to produce approximately 1 million tons per year of low-carbon nitrogen-based products (including urea, urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) and anhydrous ammonia) to be used in agricultural, transportation, and industrial applications has been integrated into the project design.
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) oxygen-blown dry feed gasification technology has been selected. The gasifier preheaters are no longer needed due to the change in design of the gasifier. A MHI 501GAC CT has been selected. The Combined Cycle Power Block will now generate approximately 405 MW of gross power and will provide a nominal 300-MW output of low-carbon baseload electricity to the grid.
  • The option to purchase an approximately 5-acre parcel adjacent to the project site in Kern County was acquired subsequent to a 2009 application. This parcel became part of the controlled area and increased its acreage from 628 to 633.
  • There are now two alternatives for transferring feedstock coal to the project site. Alternative 1, rail transportation, is an approximately 5-mile-long new industrial railroad spur that will connect the project site to the existing San Joaquin Valley Railroad Buttonwillow railroad line. This railroad spur will also be used to transport some HECA products to market. Alternative 2, truck transportation, is an approximately 27-mile-long truck transport route via existing roads from an existing coal transloading facility northeast of the project site. This alternative was presented in the 2009 application.
  • The routes of the natural gas pipeline, potable water pipeline, and electrical transmission line have been refined. An approximately 13-mile-long natural gas pipeline will interconnect with a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) natural gas pipeline located north of the project site. Potable water will be delivered via an approximately 1-mile-long pipeline from a new West Kern Water District potable water production site. An approximately 2-mile-long electrical transmission linear will interconnect with a future PG&E switching station east of the project site.

HECA is an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) electrical power plant with an integrated manufacturing complex that will produce fertilizer and other low-carbon, nitrogen-based products. HECA will use solid feedstock – 75% western sub-bituminous coal and 25% petroleum coke – to produce clean hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen fuel is then used to generate electricity and produce other useful products. Because it produces multiple products, HECA is sometimes referred to as a “polygeneration” project.

“The power and products produced by HECA have a lower carbon footprint compared to power and products produced from more traditional fossil fuel facilities,” the application said. “This low-carbon footprint is achieved by capturing more than 90 percent of the CO2 in the production of the hydrogen fuel and transporting it for use in [enhanced oil recovery], which results in simultaneous sequestration (storage) of the CO2 in a secure geologic formation. CO2 from HECA will be used in EOR in the adjacent Elk Hills Oil Field (EHOF), which is owned and operated by Occidental of Elk Hills, Inc. (OEHI). HECA will be located on a 453-acre Project Site approximately 7 miles west of the outermost edge of the city of Bakersfield and 1.5 miles northwest of the unincorporated community of Tupman in western Kern County, California.”

SCS Energy California LLC, which took over the project last year from prior owners, said this project will create thousands of construction and permanent jobs, is a major step to promote clean energy and will advance California’s long term climate strategy.

One interesting point is that the project doesn’t intend to use sub-bituminous coal out of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, which is by far the most common source for that type of coal in the U.S.

“The Project expects to obtain its western sub-bituminous coal from New Mexico,” said the application. “Based on the design plant production rate, the Project will consume 4,580 stpd of coal (nominally 1.6 million short tons per year [stpy]). Several western sub-bituminous coal mines that can supply coal meeting Project technology requirements in terms of ash composition and other characteristics have been identified. The Project is in the process of discussing contractual terms with relevant entities.”

There are only a handful of existing coal mines in New Mexico, mainly those run by Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) and BHP Billiton, with the BHP operations currently captive to specific power plant customers.

Petcoke most likely will be supplied from refineries in the Los Angeles or Santa Maria areas, the HECA application added.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.