DOE, California regulators pursue parallel HECA project approvals

The U.S. Department of Energy said July 9 that it and the California Energy Commission (CEC) are working together to advance an innovative carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility at the planned Hydrogen Energy California LLC coal gasification project simultaneously through a federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and a California Energy Quality Act process.

As part of the NEPA process, DOE and CEC will hold a public meeting on July 12 in Tupman, Calif. This will be an opportunity for the public to offer comments and view the project site in Kern County, Calif. DOE is coordinating its NEPA review with the environmental review conducted by CEC as lead agency under the California Energy Quality Act for deciding whether to certify the project.

To get funding help under DOE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI), the new “polygeneration” plant will incorporate CCS as well as utilize CO2 for enhanced oil recovery. Hydrogen Energy California (HECA), which is owned by SCS Energy LLC, is developing and designing the new plant, which will demonstrate the co-production of fertilizer and hydrogen-based electric power.

The HECA project offers multiple benefits, DOE noted. It furthers California’s low carbon power policies, will replace imported fertilizer with domestically-produced fertilizer and adds to domestic oil production. The plant will be made up of an advanced integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant, which will convert coal into hydrogen to generate power, and a chemical plant that will produce nitrogen-based fertilizers. The plant will also capture more than 90% of the CO2, which means that the fertilizer and power produced by the project will have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than those produced by conventional facilities, including those using natural gas.

Combined, the gas combustion and steam turbines would have the capacity to generate 405 MW gross (about 300 MW nominal) of low-carbon electricity, slightly more than the 390 MW gross and 288 MW net originally anticipated under a prior version of this project.

Approximately 2.6 million tons per year of CO2 will be transported via pipeline to Occidental Petroleum’s nearby Elk Hills Oil Field. With oil fields as the CO2 injection site, HECA will enable oil production to be increased, while storing CO2.

Michael Peevey, President of the California Public Utilities Commission, has said: “They have developed an innovative business model that improves the economic viability of the project. HECA intends to ramp up the facility to produce more electricity during peak hours of need in order to maximize the energy and capacity value of the plant. This is an example of the kind of creative thinking we will need to solve the climate crisis.”

“The HECA project underscores the significance of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage—the creative combination of business drivers and environmental responsibility,” said Chuck McConnell, DOE’s Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. “It demonstrates how carbon capture technology will help us fully develop and use our vast domestic energy resources in a sustainable way. And, by utilizing the captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, the project provides significant economic and job creation benefits.”

The plant will also use petroleum coke, as a supplement to the primary coal feedstock, with that petcoke currently being burned overseas without the benefit of CO2 capture, DOE noted.

The estimated capital cost for the project is about $4bn. The DOE cost-share is limited to $408m. The project consists of three phases: Project Definition (Phase I), Design and Construction (Phase II), and Demonstration (Phase III). Plant operation and sequestration of CO2 in the Elk Hills Oil Field will commence in 2017. The project is being administered by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and National Energy Technology Laboratory.

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.