Christa Marshall, E&E reporter
Published: Wednesday, December 9, 2015
A major project in Texas that would capture the majority of CO2 emissions from a large coal plant took a step forward yesterday with the signing of a contract considered key to its completion.
In Beijing, officials with Summit Power Group LLC — which is planning to build the Texas Clean Energy Project near Odessa, Texas — announced the contract with China Huanqiu Contracting & Engineering Corp. and SNC-Lavalin Engineers & Constructors Inc. (SNC-Lavalin). It was considered a needed step for the project to move to financial closing and came as both Capitol Hill lawmakers and environmental groups urged U.S. negotiators at international climate talks in Paris to pledge more support for CCS technology.
The contract covers the engineering, procurement and construction of the carbon capture and chemical elements of the planned plant, which if built would grab more than 90 percent of the CO2 emissions while producing 400 megawatts of power. The carbon capture unit is expected to be integrated with equipment from Siemens that would power the plant, Summit Power said.
In September, the company said it planned to move forward with the proposal, despite having to forgo more than $100 million in Department of Energy funds because of a federal deadline (ClimateWire, Sept. 23). Laura Miller, Texas director of projects for Summit Power, said yesterday that there is now a spring 2016 target date for financial closing, “with a groundbreaking shortly thereafter.”
“We see great potential for the principles of the Texas Clean Energy Project to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. and around the world,” said Neil Bruce, CEO of SNC-Lavalin, an engineering and construction firm based in Montreal, Canada.
Along with Southern Co.’s under-construction Kemper plant in Mississippi, the Texas Clean Energy Project is one of a handful of Department of Energy-backed initiatives to try and demonstrate CCS on coal generators at scale. Outside of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam project in Canada, the technology has not been demonstrated yet at scale on coal-fired power plants, leading to sharp criticism of CCS generally from segments of the environmental community.
The Texas initiative received more than $450 million as part of DOE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) and also received $811 million in federal tax credits available to coal projects that generate more than 400 megawatts to power and capture at least 65 percent of their CO2.
‘An interesting business model’
In a recent interview, John Thompson, director of the fossil transition project at the Clean Air Task Force, called it distinctive in part because it has “an interesting business model,” where the CO2 capture process will create multiple byproducts like urea for sale.
The Summit Power announcement came as both Capitol Hill lawmakers and environmental groups pushed for CCS to gain greater policy support at the Paris climate negotiations and beyond.
In a letter yesterday, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) urged Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to include carbon capture utilization and storage in any final agreement at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Specifically, they called for a carveout for the technology in the Green Climate Fund and recognition of its climate mitigation potential in updates to climate targets, or intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), from the United States and other nations.
“We also recognize that Congress can play a role in facilitating international cooperation so as to maximize our finite RD&D budget for CCUS, reduce duplicative efforts and spur the financing of demonstration projects,” Heitkamp and Whitehouse wrote. “To this end, we request that you return from COP 21 with specific legislative recommendations.” Heitkamp — along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and others — has been an advocate for the technology on Capitol Hill, introducing legislation to boost its prospects (Greenwire, Nov. 19).
Separately, the Environmental NGO Network on Carbon Capture & Storage — which includes the Clean Air Task Force, the World Resources Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups — released a report at the Paris climate negotiations yesterday outlining the technology’s progress since 2012 and urging greater government support for it — including through knowledge sharing between wealthy and developing countries.
“CCS is not just about coal,” said Dave Hawkins, director of the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It is also applicable to natural gas-fired power generation and to key industrial sectors such as cement.”
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