Today, the Department of Energy -- in partnership with NRG Energy Inc. and JX Nippon -- announced that construction has begun on the first commercial-scale post-combustion carbon capture retrofit project in the U.S., the largest such project in the world. The Petra Nova Project will use this cutting edge technology to help decrease the power plant's greenhouse gas emissions.
Once completed, the energy technology project will capture about 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually from an existing coal-fired power plant in Texas. The captured CO2 will then be used to extract additional, hard-to-access oil from a previously depleted field 80 miles away, safely storing the carbon underground in the process.
"As part of the President's all-of-the-above approach to American energy, the Department is advancing the technologies that will help ensure we can continue to develop all of our abundant energy resources responsibly and sustainably," said Secretary Ernest Moniz. "With coal expected to remain a significant part of the energy portfolio in the U.S. and internationally, first-of-a-kind projects like Petra Nova will move us toward a low-carbon energy future."
Originally conceived as a 60 megawatt (MW) capture project for which they received $167 million in support from the Department, the project sponsors expanded the design to capture emissions from 240 MW of generation at the Houston-area power plant, quadrupling the size of the capture project without additional federal investment.
The Petra Nova Project will capture 90 percent of the CO2 using a process previously deployed in a DOE-sponsored 3-year pilot-scale test in Alabama where it successfully captured more than 150,000 metric tons of CO2 per year from a coal power plant. With this capture rate, coal-fired power generation would have a greenhouse gas footprint much lower than that of a traditional natural gas-powered plant. After compressing and transporting the captured CO2 via pipeline, the greenhouse gas will be used to displace previously unreachable oil. Once the oil is separated from the CO2, the greenhouse gas will be injected back into the underground oil field for permanent storage. Carbon dioxide has been successfully used since the early 1970s to safely bring up more oil from reservoirs previously considered to be uneconomic for further production.
Today, the company is actively considering additional projects at other NRG coal-fired power units.