California commission sets workshop for revamped HECA project

The California Energy Commission said June 14 that its staff will conduct a June 20 workshop for the revamped version of Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) project, which is a plant that would gasify coal into hydrogen for power generation.

Commission staff, the applicant, intervenors, interested agencies, and the public plan at the workshop to discuss several technical areas for the project including project description, air quality, carbon capture and storage, coordination between local, state and federal agencies, traffic and transportation, and water resources.

The HECA project, proposed by Hydrogen Energy California LLC, is an integrated gasification combined cycle power plant that plans to manufacture hydrogen to generate 300 MW of electricity and to produce low-carbon nitrogen-based products such as fertilizer. SCS Energy California LLC, which acquired the project in 2011, filed an amended application for certification with the commission in May after redesigning key aspects of the project.

The project would be located on a 453-acre site currently used for agricultural purposes. The site is about seven miles west of Bakersfield near the town of Tupman in western Kern County.

The project would convert mostly coal, with some supplemental petroleum coke from California refineries, into hydrogen-rich syngas fuel, which would be used to generate electricity and produce other products. The plant would capture about 90% of the CO2 produced from the gasification process and transport it for use at the adjacent Elk Hills Oil Field for enhanced oil recovery and permanent sequestration. Occidental of Elk Hills Inc. owns and operates the field.

Some of the notable project design improvements included in the application include:

  • 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.
  • 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 is a 27-mile-long truck transport route via existing roads from an existing coal transloading facility northeast of the project site.

If the commission approves the project, construction would begin June 2013 with commercial operation in September 2017, according to the applicant.

One interesting point is that the HECA project doesn’t intend to use as a feedstock 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 May 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.

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.