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Posts Tagged ‘carbon capture and sequestration’

Petra Nova, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture project, has been in commercial operation at the W. A. Parish Plant in Thompsons, Texas, southwest of Houston, since January 2017. The project offers no hope for combating climate change.

Petra Nova Facility

The Parish station has 10 generating units, but only unit 8 has been upgraded with carbon capture technology, and thus, the other 9 units are still emitting CO2. The project was supposed to divert 40% unit’s exhaust into a post-combustion capture (PCC) system, which designed to capture 90% of the CO2 in that stream. However, once the emissions from the gas-fired turbine that powers the carbon capture system and the emissions from the additional petroleum products resulting from enhanced oil recovery are taken into consideration, the total impact of the carbon capture system is actually an estimated 2% increase in CO2 emissions.

The Petra Nova has retrofit cost $1 billion and benefitted from a $190 million Clean Coal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. This huge amount of money has been invested to build a new coal power plant and enhance oil recovery by injecting 5,200 tons of carbon dioxide per day at West Ranch. However, NRG’s CEO has claimed that the Petra Nova CCS project “made both strategic and economic sense at $75 to $100 a barrel” and that “obviously [with West Texas Crude selling for less than US$50 a barrel], it does not currently make economic sense.”

Fossil fuel industries have promoted the use of CCS technology as a solution to enable the continued burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation. The coal industry has been seeking to increase its profit by lobbying Congress to get subsidies even though they are aware of the negative impacts of burning fossil fuels on the human health and climate change. Moreover, fossil fuel industries have influenced the EPA to reduce penalties and long-term liability to increase the profitability of CCS projects at the expense of public health and the environment.

Petra Nova Carbon Capture

Health and Environmental Impacts of CCS Technologies Include:

  • Power plants that are capable of capturing carbon require 15-25% more energy than conventional plants in order to capture and store CO2. The mining, transportation, and burning of the additional fuel (usually coal) needed for CCS produces more CO2 emissions.
  • Particulate matter and Nitrogen Oxide are both expected to increase as a result of the additional fuel consumption in order to capture carbon dioxide. Particulate matter is identified by the World Health Organization to be the deadliest form of air pollution as its ability to enter the respiratory system
  • Due to the degradation of the solvents in the process of capturing carbon, Ammonia is expected to increase, which can lead to form particular matter in the atmosphere
  • Possible damages or any leakage in the pipeline or storage reservoir would result in serious environmental impacts
  • Gradual leakage in the storage site can damage fresh groundwater resources if the incorrect storage site is selected or the site is not prepared correctly
  • Injecting CO2 into aquifers can cause acidification of the water and increase its ability to break down the surrounding rocks, aggregate the potential for leakage into the soils or water table, which could worsen the impact of climate change in ocean sinks as a major reservoir of carbon dioxide.

Since burning fossil fuels is the main reason for global warming, do we really need another coal power plant with CCS capability? Isn’t better to allocate federal tax credits and incentives for building energy storage or solar/ wind farms to generate electricity?

Recently, the average cost of solar energy has decreased by $2.71 to $3.57 per watt and the wind energy cost has dropped to around $30/MWh to $60/MWh in 2017. Solar battery energy storage technologies have also advanced and costs have declined by $400 dollars per kilowatt hour (kWh) to $750/kWh. Therefore, it is more viable and profitable to invest in the clean renewable energy to cut CO2 emissions instead of building new coal power plants with CCS capability.

As a result of a growth in the world population and energy demand, greenhouse gas emissions are increasing and have accelerated climate change. In order to combat climate change, nations must shift their reliance away from fossil fuels to renewable energy instead of applying new technologies to produce “clean coal.” Relying on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies to rescue the world from climate change instead of focusing action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a dangerous gamble.

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One point we often forget when debating climate change strategies is the major economic case for changing our economy to new, clean technology.  A new study has been released on the impacts of the Kerry-Lieberman bill, which we’ve never been so hot on, but it shows that despite what the chicken littles at the Chamber of Commerce might spew about how a carbon cap is a jobs killer, it’s anything but.  From the NY Times articles on this story:

The Peterson Institute for International Economics said in its 18-page report that the bill from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) creates the new jobs between 2011 and 2020 because of its mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, which will prompt $41.1 billion in investments per year as the nation shifts away from traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil and toward new nuclear power and renewables.

So, good news, right? 

Looking closer at the study itself, we see something very interesting.  Michael Levi of the CFR points out that it looks more like this is a nuclear jobs bill than a climate bill,  echoing what Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum has said repeatedly about this bill.

And indeed, here is average ANNUAL net job creation by industry from 2011-2020 according to page 12 the analysis:

  • Nuclear: 165,000
  • CCS: 96,000
  • Renewables: 19,000

Yikes.  Overall, this is a bad deal. And, this assumes that carbon sequestration is economical, safe, and practical.  But more on that later.

The sad thing is, we know what we need to do to create more jobs in renewable energy.  (more…)

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According to a new study published in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) by Michael Economides of the University of Houston and Christine Ehlig-Economides of Texas A&M University, clean coal is unlikely to prove a real solution to carbon emissions because the process of carbon capture and sequestration won’t prove feasible.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: It has been pointed out to us that many of these claims made by Dr. Economides may be overinflated or just plain spurious- a retort posted by NRDC here which we take very seriously.  Because we don’t believe in just throwing blog posts down the memory hole, we want to give this big caveat, and watch for a further discussion on CCS from us.) (more…)

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The United States Department of Energy has sunk $154 million into a carbon capture and sequestration project in Texas proposed by NRG Energy near Houston. The “demonstration” project will be built on their existing Parish Generating Station in Thompsons, TX (one of the biggest and dirtiest coal plants in Texas and the United States). The project will only be capturing 60 megawatts worth of CO2 from the plant – or 400,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. In comparison the Parish plant currently generates 2,697 megawatts of power and releases over 21 million tons of CO2 every year. Also keep in mind that the CO2 from this “capture” process will be used in what’s called “Enhanced Oil Recovery” meaning that the CO2 being sequestered will be partially offset by the CO2 released when the resulting oil is burned. And even industry analysts have said that between 35-50% of the CO2 solution used in EOR comes back up during the oil recovery process, with this carbon being released back into the atmosphere. (more…)

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Carson, California was recently on the path to becoming home to a pet-coke power plant, situated conveniently next door to the BP Carson refinery. The project, though touted as the “cleanest and greenest of energy plants possible,” would really have been an environmental and possibly a public safety nightmare. Luckily the project was scrapped, largely due to the activities of the Wilmington Coalition for a Safe Environment and other grassroots organizers.

Pet-coke, short for Petroleum Coke, is a petroleum by-product that can be burned to produce energy in a manner similar to coal. The proposed plant, which would have been built by BP America in conjunction with Edison International, would burn pet-coke as a means of producing energy — hydrogen. 90% of the carbon dioxide used would be pumped into the Wilmington oil field (This is a common method of enhanced oil recovery. The CO2 pushes the oil closer to the surface, making recovery more economic), which is a massive oil field stretching through Los Angeles county from San Pedro Bay to Long Beach. Needless to say, much of the land above this oil field is heavily populated with Los Angeles residents.

Recently I was able talk with Jesse Marquez, founder and Chief Director of Wilmington Coalition for a Safe Environment, about his victory over BP and Occidental and why this proposal was such a bad idea. (more…)

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