Hydrogen Energy California says CO2 offtake issue justifies project suspension

Hydrogen Energy California LLC (HECA) on June 2 defended its May 5 request to suspend for six months the California Energy Commission’s review of its Application for Certification (AFC) for its coal gasification power facility, called the Hydrogen Energy California Project.

Environmental groups have claimed that this suspension request is a stall for a “dead” project and that the AFC proceeding should be terminated.

Said the June 2 HECA response: “Contrary to the assertion that the request is an ‘attempt to buy more time to revive a dead project,’ HECA has diligently engaged in a sustained effort to consummate a CO2 offtake agreement for the Project and thereby advance review of the AFC. Indeed, the very purpose of the request was to temporarily suspend the proceeding given events completely outside the control of HECA—events which prevented a CO2 offtake agreement with California Resources Corporation. Despite this setback, HECA has continued efforts to identify alternative CO2 offtakers, and such efforts remain sustained and ongoing.

“While HECA respects the concerns expressed by Intervenors and their supporters, it is important to recognize that the Project is a permitted use under existing general plan designations and zoning requirements applicable to the Project site.

“As for the amount of time that the AFC has been under review, the Project includes certain components not typical of CEC jurisdictional projects, and is somewhat more complex than a standard power plant. The CEC review process is extremely thorough, and designed to ensure adequate opportunity for CEC Staff review and analysis, as well as participation by members of the public and other state and local agencies. In addition, given the federal funding involved in the Project, the review process is a joint state and federal undertaking by the CEC and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Under the circumstances, the duration of the review period is not unreasonable and is not a basis for denying HECA’s request for a suspension. HECA also objects to Intervenors’ alternative argument that the Committee should impose highly detailed conditions before granting the Request for Suspension. In the absence of specific knowledge regarding a potential CO2 offtake agreement, and what additional analysis might be required, it is impossible for the Committee to determine the reasonableness of the timeline proposed by Intervenors. Instead, HECA respectfully requests that the Committee grant HECA’s Request for Suspension with the condition that the Committee will issue a revised scheduling order to establish appropriate milestones and deadlines after the suspension period has expired, when more information will be available about the status of the CO2 offtake agreement.” 

The project, as proposed, would gasify blends of petroleum coke (25%) and coal (75%) 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) plant. The gasification component would also capture approximately 130 MMSCFD of CO2 (or approximately 90% at steady-state operation), which would be transported and used for enhanced oil recovery and sequestration (storage) in the Elk Hills Oil Field Unit. The HECA project would also produce approximately 1 million tons of fertilizer for domestic use.

The project would be located near Tupman in western Kern County, California, seven miles west of the city limit of Bakersfield.

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.