Sierra Club says new report points out HECA project deficiencies

The Sierra Club said June 28 that the California Energy Commission (CEC) and U.S. Department of Energy released their much anticipated preliminary assessment for the planned Hydro Energy California LLC coal gasification power project.

The 2,154 page assessment highlights “significant unresolved issues” with many aspects of the project, ranging from concerns about water supply, waste, environmental justice impacts, and the proposed but unproven carbon capture and sequestration technology, said the club, a staunch opponent of any coal-fired power project in the U.S., including this one.   

The report comes on the heels of a Sierra club investigation of the project’s air permittign work, the club said. The proposed air permit failed to demonstrate HECA’s compliance with the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act, the state Clean Air Act, and the District regulations, the club claims.

Since the comment period on the proposed air permit and the CEC report overlapped, in this initial assessment the Energy Commission accepted the Air District’s analysis without considering public comment, the club said.

The release of the Energy Commission report raises the stakes for the future of the proposed coal plant, and kicks off a 45-day comment period, which will include a public hearing in Kern County before the comment period ends, the club said.

The plant would use coal railed from New Mexico (likely supplier is Peabody Energy), with coal making up 75% of the feedstock for at least the first five years of operation. Supplemental petroleum coke (about 25% of feedstock) would be shipped from southern California refineries nearby. CO2 from the plant would be used for enhanced oil recovery.

The report is a joint Preliminary Staff Assessment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The report notes that the Energy Commission for its part must decide whether to certify the project.

The PSA/DEIS analyzes the potential environmental impacts of DOE providing financial assistance under the Industrial Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) program. DOE’s proposed action is to provide about $408m in financial assistance to HECA.

The HECA project would demonstrate integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) and carbon capture technology on a commercial scale turning a fuel blend consisting of 75% western sub-bituminous coal and 25% petcoke into a synthesis gas (syngas) in a new power plant consisting of a single gasifier with gas cleanup systems, a gas combustion turbine, a heat recovery steam generator, a steam turbine, and associated facilities capable of generating 405 MW gross power. Because of its multiple production capabilities, the plant is referred to as a poly-generation (or polygen) plant designed so that it could sell urea, ammonia, and perhaps other nitrogenous compounds. 

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.