DOE nears final decision on Parish CCS project funding

The U.S. Department of Energy took a major step forward on the W.A. Parish CO2 capture and sequestration (CCS) project of NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) with the release of a final project environmental impact statement.

NRG is already building a new gas-fired generating facility at its coal-fired W.A. Parish plant in Texas, which has 2,505 MW (net) of coal-fired capacity, that would supply power to the outside market initially, and then provide power and steam support for the CCS project when it is built.

DOE’s proposed action would provide $167m in cost-shared financial assistance to NRG under the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) Program to support construction and operation of NRG’s Parish project. The funding would be used for project design and development, procurement of capital equipment, construction, and CO2 monitoring during the 35-month demonstration period of the integrated CO2 capture and compression system.

The capture facility would use an advanced amine-based CO2 absorption technology to capture at least 90% of the CO2 from a 250-MW equivalent (MWe) portion of the flue gas exhaust from Unit 8 at the W.A. Parish plant. The project would be designed to capture approximately 1.6 million tons of CO2 per year from the plant exhaust, which would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere. The captured CO2 would be compressed and transported via a new approximately 81-mile-long, 12-inch-diameter underground pipeline to the existing West Ranch oil field in Jackson County, Texas. The CO2 would be used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and ultimately sequestered in geologic formations approximately 5,000 to 6,300 feet below ground surface.

DOE is the lead federal agency responsible for preparation of this EIS. The EIS evaluates the potential environmental impacts of the Parish project as part of DOE’s decision-making process to determine whether to provide NRG with financial assistance for its proposed project. The EIS also analyzes the No-Action Alternative, under which DOE would not provide financial assistance for the proposed project.

Project split into four parts

CO2 Capture Facility – The proposed project would retrofit one of the W.A. Parish Plant’s existing coal-fueled units (Unit 8) with a post-combustion CO2 capture system constructed within the existing W.A. Parish plant site. A new natural gas-fired cogeneration plant (the one now being built by NRG), estimated to be 80 MW in size, would also be constructed on the plant property to produce the auxiliary power and steam needed by the proposed CO2 capture system. The captured CO2 would be compressed to the pipeline pressure (i.e., 2,115 pounds per square inch absolute) and dehydrated within the CO2 capture facility before delivery to the CO2 pipeline. The compressed CO2 would be a supercritical fluid (resembling a liquid but expanding to fill space like a gas) with a density heavier than air and a very low viscosity.

CO2 Pipeline – Captured CO2 would be transported via a new, approximately 81-mile-long, 12-inch-diameter underground pipeline to the West Ranch oil field, located near the city of Vanderbilt in Jackson County, Texas. The anticipated pipeline route includes mostly rural and sparsely-developed agricultural lands in Fort Bend, Wharton, and Jackson counties. NRG plans to use existing mowed and maintained utility rights-of-way (ROWs) to the extent possible to minimize environmental impacts and avoid sensitive resources. As proposed, NRG’s pipeline would be located along or within existing mowed and maintained utility ROWs (i.e., high-voltage transmission line and pipeline ROWs) for about 75% of the route. A joint venture between NRG and Hilcorp Energy Co. (HEC), known as Texas Coastal Ventures LLC (TCV), would operate the pipeline.

EOR Operations – The Parish project would deliver up to 1.6 million tons of CO2 per year to the West Ranch oil field, where the CO2 would be injected into the 98-A, 41-A, Glasscock, and Greta sand units of the Frio Formation, which lie approximately 5,000 to 6,300 feet below ground surface. The portions of the West Ranch oil field in which EOR operations would be conducted are currently owned or leased by TCV. HEC has been contracted to conduct the EOR operations.

CO2 Monitoring Program – TCV would implement a program to monitor the injection and migration of CO2 within the geologic formations at the EOR site based on a CO2 Monitoring Plan developed in cooperation with the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology. In addition to satisfying the CO2 monitoring requirements of the CCPI Program, the CO2 monitoring program that would be conducted at the West Ranch oil field would be designed to satisfy the monitoring, sampling, and testing requirements of the Railroad Commission of Texas certification program for tax exemptions related to use of CO2 for EOR and use of CO2 from anthropogenic sources.

The final EIS said the CO2 capture facility construction is planned to start in mid-2013, at the earliest, and take approximately 24 months to complete. Construction would be followed by a three- to six-month commissioning and start-up period to verify that all process systems function properly and achieve project requirement.

Said NRG’s Feb. 27 annual Form 10-K report about this project: “On May 3, 2012, NRG entered into a financing arrangement in the form of a $54 million tax-exempt bond financing…. The proceeds of the bonds are being used for the construction of a peaking unit at the W.A. Parish plant and one or more components of a commercial scale [carbon capture, utilization and storage project (CCUS)]. The CCUS is sponsored in part by a grant from the U.S. DOE. On August 14, 2012, NRG, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Petra Nova Power I LLC, entered into an EPC agreement for the construction of the 75 MW turbine as a peaking unit (later to be retrofitted for use as a cogeneration facility to provide steam and power to operate the CCUS), commenced construction in the fourth quarter of 2012, and anticipates a commercial operations date during the second quarter of 2013. Construction of the CCUS is intended to allow NRG, through its wholly owned subsidiary Petra Nova LLC, or Petra Nova, to utilize the captured CO2 in enhanced oil recovery operations in oil fields on the Texas Gulf Coast. In December of 2012, the final air permit was issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for the full carbon capture system. The final Environmental Impact Statement is approved and the Record of Decision is expected to be issued by the U.S. DOE in March of 2013.”

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.