500 MW Hydrogen Power Plant Will Test Carbon Sequestration

BP and Edison Mission Group (EMG), a subsidiary of Edison International, plan on building a new $1 billion, 500 MW hydrogen-fueled power plant in California, which, while not using renewable energy, will generate clean electricity and sequester its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The first-of-its-kind plant would test the theories surrounding carbon-sequestration as a solution to the emissions currently escaping fossil fuel-based power plants all across the U.S. and countries beyond. Somewhat like the gases captured at east coast landfills for power production, this project would use the vast byproducts of an oil refinery to provide commercial power generation from the relatively clean combustion of hydrogen while also separating and sequestering the CO2. The following paragraphs are drawn directly from a BP press release. The plant would be located alongside BP’s Carson refinery, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, and would be capable of producing 500 MW of “low-carbon” generation, enough power to serve 325,000 Southern California homes. BP and EMG hope to complete detailed engineering and commercial studies in 2006, finalize project investment decisions in 2008 and bring the new power plant online by 2011. The proposed Carson project would combine a number of existing industrial processes to provide a new option for generating electricity without significant CO2 emissions. Petroleum coke produced at California refineries would first be converted to hydrogen and CO2 gases and around 90 percent of the CO2 captured and separated. Petroleum coke is a residue produced when all useful volatile hydrocarbons are removed from crude oil in the refining process. Carson refinery’s coker units produce around 3 to 4,000 tons of coke a day. The hydrogen gas stream would be used to fuel a gas turbine to generate electricity. The captured CO2 would be transported by pipeline to an oilfield and injected into reservoir rock formations thousands of feet underground, both stimulating additional oil production and permanently trapping the CO2. “This will be the first plant of its kind in the whole country and I think it is a perfect fit for our state,” said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, speaking at the announcement in Carson. “With our Strategic Growth Plan, a commitment to air quality, and innovative projects like this hydrogen plant, I know we can have clear skies, improve our quality of life and build a stronger, more vibrant economy for California.” Final project investment decisions will follow further study by the partners and review by the California Energy Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. BP and EMG are beginning project discussions with state and federal government agencies and local stakeholders and are exploring options for selling the electricity the plant would generate. BP is in discussions with Occidental Petroleum to develop options for sequestering the CO2 in Occidental’s California oilfields. The costs of hydrogen power are higher than those of traditional power plant fuels. As a result, the project will depend, in part, on incentives provided in the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 for advanced gasification technologies. In addition, continued progress on the California Public Utilities Commission’s electricity “resource adequacy” procurement policies will encourage this first-of-its-kind facility. “Wide-scale deployment of technology such as hydrogen power can make a significant contribution towards the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed worldwide,” said Ross Pillari, president of BP America. “California is a natural location for this project. Both the state and federal government have challenged businesses to take a leadership role in tackling carbon dioxide emissions. With this project, we expect to make a meaningful contribution to those goals.”