DOE nearly done with environmental review of HECA coal project

The California Energy Commission staff said June 17 that it is getting close to completion of a review of the Hydrogen Energy California LLC (HECA) coal gasification project by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project, to be built in Kern County, would get DOE funding help, which is the reason for the DOE review.

“Energy Commission staff and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are jointly conducting the review of the proposed HECA project and intend to issue joint documents,” said a June 17 staff update to the commission. “Staff is evaluating the project subject to both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”

A revised time frame will be necessary for staff to complete its work to publish the Preliminary Staff Assessment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (PSA/DEIS). It is critical for DOE’s purposes that this PSA/DEIS be as complete and comprehensive as possible. Staff said it continues to work to meet these standards.

Additionally, the requirements for production of a complex document are being coordinated between the Energy Commission staff and the DOE. DOE has completed its review of all draft PSA/DEIS technical areas and staff has addressed DOE’s comments. DOE is now conducting a final review of the document and has completed its final review of 17 of the 22 sections. Energy Commission staff is hopeful to receive the final sections from DOE the week of June 17. Both DOE and Energy Commission staff plan to do a final review of the completed PSA/DEIS the week of June 24, with the goal of publishing by June 28.

HECA first proposed the Hydrogen Energy California integrated gasification combined cycle facility in July 2008. In May 2012, after a change in ownership, the company filed an amended application with the commission. In September 2011, SCS Energy California acquired 100% ownership of HECA from BP Alternative Energy North America and Rio Tinto Hydrogen Energy LLC

The plant would gasify mostly coal shipped from New Mexico (possibly from Peabody Energy mines in that state) and some petroleum coke. The syngas from the gasification process will be purified to hydrogen-rich fuel, and used to generate a nominal 300 MW of baseload electricity, with what would normally be waste CO2 to be used for enhanced oil recovery in the nearby Elk Hills oilfield.

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.