HECA drops, for now, pursuit of coal gasification project approval

Hydrogen Energy California LLC, saying it could apply again later, on March 3 withdrew a long-stalled application at the California Energy Commission for certification of its coal/petcoke gasification power project.

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) was a key to this project, and lately the company had been pursuing commission approval to simply bury much of the CO2 emissions from the project, after failed efforts to negotiate a firm contract to sell this CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

Said the March 3 withdraw request: “Applicant continues to believe that the HECA site, over which Applicant retains control, is well suited to carbon sequestration. Applicant has worked closely with the University of California (LBNL and LLNL) to evaluate the permanent sequestration of CO2 beneath the HECA site utilizing Class VI wells permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The existing geomodel created by the National Labs, using existing data and information specific to the HECA site and surrounding areas, provides a substantial base of information regarding the potential for carbon sequestration at the HECA site. Preliminary assessments of the geologic storage potential at the HECA site have concluded that shifting to a saline formation injection on-site has a high potential for success.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, the timeframe for deploying a project such as HECA has been longer than was anticipated at the time the Revised [application] was filed. Recent developments, such as the U.S. Supreme Court’s February 9, 2016 decision to stay implementation of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which was rendered subsequent to Applicant’s pending request to reinstate the Revised [application] proceedings, have cast additional uncertainty over the timing of such projects. Given the current uncertainty related to timing, the time that has passed since some of the analysis related to the Project was completed, and the likely need for substantially revised analysis to reflect anticipated changes to the Project, Applicant has decided to withdraw the Revised [application].

“For the reasons stated above, Applicant continues to be optimistic about the prospects for HECA at its proposed location. Applicant will continue to monitor relevant policy, regulatory, legal and economic developments, and work with agencies and other entities likely to play a role in the future deployment of the Project. The information collected and analysis completed over the course of the review of the Project provide a substantial base upon which to develop a new application.” 

In September 2011, SCS Energy California acquired the HECA project, and determined that the information needs of all the parties, agencies, and the public would be served best by submitting an application amendment which incorporates all the unchanged information from an earlier proceeding begun in 2008 as well as detailed information regarding the project refinements, including turbine selection, the addition of an integrated fertilizer production plant, and the addition of a rail spur for use in coal and petcoke deliveries and transporting the nitrogen-based fertilizer, degassed liquid sulphur, and gasification solids.

The project, located in Kern County, was to 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) combined cycle plant. The gasification component would also capture approximately 130 MMSCFD of carbon dioxide (or approximately 90% at steady-state operation) for underground storage. The HECA project would also produce approximately 1 million tons of fertilizer for domestic use.

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.