Air Products demonstrating CO2 capture at Texas refinery

Air Products (NYSE: APD) on May 10 marked the successful operation of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Demonstration Project that will capture about 1 million tons of CO2 in an enhanced oil recovery project in Texas.

DOE anticipates 1.6 million-3.1 million barrels of oil to be produced annually from the CO2 injection. This unprecedented achievement comes by way of an Air Products innovative technology, is the first-of-its-kind operating at such a large scale, and has not been accomplished anywhere else in the U.S., the company noted in a May 10 statement.

Carbon capture technology like this, which many experts think won’t be ready for commercial use until next decade, is a key to the future of coal-fired power in a carbon-constrained world.

With funding help from DOE’s Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (ICCS) program, Air Products’ project in Port Arthur, Texas, recovers and purifies the CO2, all of which is then transported in its gaseous state by Air Products via a pipeline owned by Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas LLC for injection into the Denbury Onshore-operated West Hastings Unit, an enhanced oil recovery project in Texas.

“Air Products is very proud to celebrate this Demonstration Project’s success,” said Jeff Byrne, vice president and general manager–Tonnage Gases at Air Products. “When you define projects that could be a model of sustainability, it doesn’t get much better than this effort in taking a vented greenhouse gas and capturing it, cleaning it up, and sequestering it in the process of increasing the output of a valuable domestic natural resource like crude oil.” 

Air Products designed, constructed, and is now operating the state-of-the-art system to capture CO2 from its steam methane reformers (SMR) located within the Valero Port Arthur Refinery. The CO2 removal technology was retrofitted to the SMRs, which produce hydrogen to assist in the making of cleaner burning transportation fuels by refinery customers on Air Products’ Gulf Coast hydrogen pipeline network. Hydrogen is commonly used in petroleum refining to remove impurities in crude oil such as sulfur, olefins and aromatics to meet product specs.

Air Products’ Gulf Coast hydrogen plant and pipeline supply network is largest system of its kind in the world. The pipeline stretches from the Houston Ship Channel in Texas to New Orleans, La. The 600-mile pipeline span is fed by over 20 Air Products’ hydrogen production facilities and provides over 1.2 billion cubic feet of hydrogen per day to refinery and petrochemical customers.

DOE provided a significant portion of the funding (66%) for the over $400m project. In June 2010, Air Products was selected to receive $253m in funding from DOE through the National Energy Technology Laboratory under the ICCS Program, which is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for this project. It later received an additional $30m from DOE through the ARRA for final engineering, design, construction, and project operation through September 2015. Air Products’ project was the only industrial gas company-led undertaking selected by DOE, and one of only three projects receiving additional funding towards a commercial demonstration project.

Air Products involved in several CO2 projects worldwide

Air Products said May 10 it has also worked on several carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects around the world for the power market. These projects include:

  • the world’s first full demonstration of oxyfuel CCS with Vattenfall AB, one of Europe’s leading energy companies. Air Products installed its proprietary CO2 capture, purification, and compression system at Vattenfall’s facility in Schwarze Pumpe, Germany, viewed globally as the preeminent CO2 oxyfuel project;
  • in collaboration with the Alberta Energy Research Institute, a study focused on advanced CO2 capture technology for use with gasification;
  • in cooperation with DOE, Air Products designed and constructed a CO2 purification system in support of oxyfuel technology development at a boiler-simulation facility in Connecticut;
  • Air Products demonstrated oxyfuel sour compression technology in work by Imperial College London with flue gas from a 160-kW coal-fired combustion installation at Doosan Babcock‘s facility in Scotland, as part of the Oxycoal-UK Project.

DOE readies funding for another CO2-capture project

This is not the only activity for DOE related to a carbon capture project involving Texas. The agency posted to its website on May 3 a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Leucadia Energy LLC’s proposed Lake Charles Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) project, which will capture CO2 at a facility in Louisiana and pipe it to a nearby oil field in Texas.

DOE’s proposed action would provide financial assistance to Leucadia under the ICCS program to support construction and operation of this project. DOE proposes to provide Leucadia with up to $261.4m, which would constitute about 60% of the estimated $435.6m total development and capital cost of the project.

The Lake Charles CCS project would demonstrate the capture of CO2 from an industrial facility in Louisiana for use in an existing, commercial enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operation in the West Hastings oil field. The industrial source of CO2 would be a newly constructed gasification plant that converts petroleum coke into hydrogen gas, methanol, and other products.

While this plant would mostly produce chemicals, it would be a power plant, though that power is for inside-the-fence usage. Power would be produced primarily from excess heat and the combustion of waste gases. Heat energy would be recovered through a variety of exchangers that produce low-, medium- and high-pressure steam. Combustion of off-gases in the superheater would ensure proper steam conditions for the steam turbine (the auxiliary boiler also uses off-gases). The steam would expand, causing turbine blades to turn a shaft coupled to an electric generator. The LCCE Gasification plant would produce between 165 MW and 180 MW of power at design capacity for use throughout the plant, including at the Lake Charles CCS project.

The CO2 capture equipment for this project would consist of two Lurgi Rectisol Acid Gas Removal (AGR) units in which CO2 is separated from the process gas. The compression equipment would include two compressors that would pressurize the CO2 to 2,250 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) for transport and geologic sequestration. Approximately 4.6 million tons per year of CO2 would be captured from the LCCE Gasification plant.

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.