Enviro groups want California proceeding on HECA coal project terminated

The Sierra Club, HECA Neighbors and the Association of Irritated Residents on March 3 asked the California Energy Commission committee overseeing the proceeding on the Application for Certification for the Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) project to terminate the proceeding because the project applicant has failed to pursue the application with due diligence.

“Most notably, the applicant cannot obtain a contract to sell its carbon dioxide (CO2) to the adjacent Elk Hills oil field.” the filing claimed. “Without a CO2 contract, the project is financially and legally infeasible. Abundant additional evidence points to the same conclusion that the project cannot proceed, including the lack of an acceptable water supply plan, and the impossibility of qualifying for and spending [the U.S. Department of Energy’s] full funding allocation by the September 2015 statutory deadline.

“For the last 18 months, the applicant and owner, SCS Energy California LLC (SCS), has failed to provide staff with a CO2 contract between SCS and the Elk Hills oil field owner, and other critical information. SCS has also closed its local information office, failed to update its website, and, in stark contrast to its past media presence, refused to respond to any request for public comment. SCS’ last status report, filed over ten months ago, failed to report a single informational update on the project. SCS’ actions – more pointedly, lack of actions – demonstrate that it is not pursuing the HECA project with due diligence, and the Commission should therefore terminate the proceeding. In the alternative, the Commission should issue an order to the applicant to show cause why the proceeding should not be terminated.”

The request later added: “The proposed HECA facility has been ill-conceived from the start, drawing broad vocal opposition from the local and regional community. HECA has been extremely controversial and unlikely to succeed because the project proposes to ship coal by open-top rail car over 650 miles into the nation’s leading clean energy state, draw significant amounts of usable agricultural water away from an over-tapped aquifer during a severe drought, and burn coal in the most polluted air basin in the country, while providing no benefit to California’s energy consumers. The project’s precarious financial viability is dependent on its ability to pump regional water, sell its carbon dioxide emissions to the adjacent Elk Hills oil field for enhanced oil recovery, and obtain funding from DOE.”

A prior developer started the commission review process in 2008. In 2011, SCS Energy California acquired the Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) project and in 2012 revamped the project and the application at the commission.

The project, as currently proposed, would gasify blends of petroleum coke (25%) from local refineries and coal (75%) railed in from New Mexico to produce hydrogen to fuel a combustion turbine operating in combined cycle mode. The gasification component would produce 180 million standard cubic feet per day (MMSCFD) of hydrogen to feed a 400 MW gross, 288 MW net combined cycle plant providing California with dispatchable baseload power to the grid. The gasification component would also capture approximately 130 MMSCFD of carbon dioxide (or approximately 90% at steady-state operation) which would be transported and used for enhanced oil recovery and sequestration in the Elk Hills Oil Field Unit. The HECA project would also produce approximately 1 million tons of fertilizer.

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.