The Project


The Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP) is a “NowGen” carbon capture facility that will incorporate CCS technology in a first-of-a-kind commercial power plant.  TCEP will capture ninety percent (90%) of its carbon – more carbon than any power plant of commercial scale yet operating anywhere in the world. As a result, TCEP’s carbon emissions will be far lower than those of any existing fossil-fueled power plant.

TCEP’s configuration and proven components also make it a “reference plant design” for the electric power and chemical sectors worldwide.  TCEP will generate electric power through Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology while also producing other commercial products from gasified coal, including urea for fertilizer, sulfuric acid, and compressed CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the Permian Basin – all while achieving unprecedented carbon capture rates and minimal carbon emissions.

TCEP will be located at one of the former FutureGen finalist sites – the 600-acre Penwell site – situated fifteen miles west of Odessa, Texas. A Record of Decision and environmental impact statement (EIS) were issued by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on September 29, 2011 in accordance with DOE’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires an assessment of the environmental impacts of any federally subsidized project. TCEP received its air quality permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on December 28, 2010 – a major milestone that is the key state governmental approval that is required to move the project forward to be privately financed and built.

TCEP is currently scheduled to achieve financial closing in April 2015 and commence construction in Summer 2015.  Commercial operation is scheduled for 2018.  The project will begin sequestering carbon during start-up and testing in 2018.

On December 4, 2009, Secretary Stephen Chu of the U.S. Department of Energy announced that TCEP would receive a $350 million award, which helped reduce TCEP’s effective costs substantially.  This award is the largest yet made under the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative, enacted and funded by Congress.  The U.S. DOE made an additional $100 million award to TCEP in August 2010.

At a 2009 hearing of a key Congressional committee, witnesses unanimously agreed that the United States and the world cannot meet current climate goals without the implementation of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. In July 2010, the then U.S. DOE Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy James Markowsky said of TCEP: “It is one of the key carbon capture and storage projects essential to gaining the integration and operating experience necessary for commercial CCS deployment.”

In July 2014, during the 6th round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, Summit entered into a Framework Agreement with Huaneng’s Clean Energy Research Institute (CERI) to share information, expertise and non-proprietary technology on the two company’s proposed CCUS projects — Summit’s TCEP and Huaneng’s GreenGen Phase II. The agreement was one of eight signed by U.S. and Chinese companies in conjunction with the U.S. China Climate Change Working Group CCUS initiative, begun by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013 to find joint endeavors to cut greenhouse gases worldwide. In another development in Beijing that week, Summit signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China Huanqui Contracting & Engineering Corporation (HQC) for HQC to provide engineering services for TCEP.

In a July 3, 2014 letter to China’s National Energy Administration, U.S. DOE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy, Christopher Smith, stated: “Today, I am writing to seek your support for one of the premier carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) projects in the United States. The Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP), which is being developed by Seattle-based Summit Power Group, is an integrated gasification combined cycle facility that will incorporate carbon capture and storage technology in a first-of-its-kind commercial clean coal power plant. Low-carbon power (400 megawatts), urea, and carbon dioxide (CO2) for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) will be produced from TCEP. TCEP is a key part of the U.S. CCUS portfolio, and DOE has invested $450 million into the project.” (click here to read entire letter)

Project Development and Carbon Capture

Summit Power Group, Inc. is developing TCEP as a 400 MW IGCC plant (“IGCC” stands for “integrated gasification combined cycle”). The project relies completely on technologies and components already proven in commercial operation, including a “twin pack” of two Siemens gasifiers.

The power island is a state-of-the-art Siemens F-class combustion turbine and a steam turbine operated in combined cycle. This is almost identical to a state-of-the-art natural gas-fired power plant, modified to use synthesis gas (“syngas”) from gasified coal.

TCEP will be sized to produce at least 400 MW gross output from the power island, but normal baseload operation is designed to be 377MW. Of that, 105.7MW will be used on site to run the major project equipment. Another 15.7MW will be used to compress carbon dioxide and an additional 42.2MW will be used to produce urea for fertilizer – two of TCEP’s commercial products, along with power and sulfuric acid.The remaining 214MW will be used to serve electric utility loads in Texas, at a cost no higher than for conventional base load generation in Texas.

TCEP will have a carbon capture rate of 90 percent. The resulting carbon dioxide emissions per MWh of power produced will be only a fraction of those of a combined cycle natural gas-fired plant, and far below the leading-edge carbon dioxide emissions limits recently adopted by California and Washington and proposed in 2009 Federal climate legislation.

The captured carbon dioxide will be used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the West Texas Permian Basin, where the project is located. Nearly three million tons of man-made (“anthropogenic”) carbon dioxide will be captured for EOR and ultimate geological sequestration in local oil fields. All EOR operations will be conducted pursuant to a monitoring, verification, and accounting (MVA) program specially designed by the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) to set a national standard. Thus, the EOR program will be designed and implemented to achieve not just EOR but carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for all relevant regulatory and climate policy purposes.

Under Texas House Bill 469, which was passed and signed into law in June 2009, Texas currently has the highest legislative bar set for carbon capture and sequestration in the United States to date. In order for clean-coal power projects to qualify for state tax incentives, the projects must capture at least 70 percent of their carbon dioxide and retain UT’s BEG to do the MVA of the sequestered CO2 to meet the state’s current standard of 99 percent retention in the ground for a minimum of 1,000 years.

What is Coal Gasification?

From the U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory website:

“Coal gasification electric power plants are now operating commercially in the United States and in other nations, and many experts predict that coal gasification will be at the heart of future generations of clean coal technology plants.

Rather than burning coal directly, gasification (a thermo-chemical process) breaks down coal – or virtually any carbon-based feedstock – into its basic chemical constituents. In a modern gasifier, coal is typically exposed to steam and carefully controlled amounts of air or oxygen under high temperatures and pressures. Under these conditions, molecules in coal break apart, initiating chemical reactions that typically produce a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and other gaseous compounds.

Gasification Based System Concepts

Gasification, in fact, may be one of the most flexible technologies to produce clean-burning hydrogen for tomorrow’s automobiles and power-generating fuel cells. Hydrogen and other coal gases can also be used to fuel power-generating turbines, or as the chemical “building blocks” for a wide range of commercial products.

The environmental benefits of gasification stem from the capability to achieve extremely low SOx, NOx and particulate emissions from burning coal-derived gases. Sulfur in coal, for example, is converted to hydrogen sulfide and can be captured by processes presently used in the chemical industry. In some methods, the sulfur can be extracted in either a liquid or solid form that can be sold commercially.”

TCEP received its air quality permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on December 28, 2010. TCEP will capture 90 percent of its carbon dioxide, 99 percent of its sulfur, more than 95 percent of its mercury, and eliminate more than 90 percent of the nitrogen oxides produced by the process – making it overall the cleanest coal-fueled coal-fueled project ever permitted in Texas

What is Carbon Capture?

From the U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory website:

Carbon Capture

“Carbon capture refers to the separation and capture of CO2 from emissions point sources or the atmosphere and the recovery of a concentrated stream of that CO2 that can be feasibly stored (sequestered) or converted in such a way as to mitigate its impact as a greenhouse gas. For all practical purposes, it entails the capture of CO2 from stationary sources, such as fossil fuel-fired power plants and industrial facilities. Research efforts are focused on systems for capturing CO2 from coal-fired power plants because they are the largest stationary sources of CO2. Although current R&D emphasizes CO2 capture in coal-fired power plants, the carbon capture technologies to be developed will apply to natural gas-fired power plants and industrial CO2 sources as well.

CO2 capture has been happening for many years in the petroleum, chemical, and power industries, for a variety of reasons relevant to those industrial processes. However, in those cases, only a small portion of the CO2 produced is captured. Capturing all, or even just three-fourths, of the CO2 in a typical power plant with current technology would require equipment many orders of magnitude larger-a very expensive and highly energy-intensive option. In addition, without feasible, cost-effective ways to transport and store the captured CO2, there is no point to capturing it from power plants. There are three types of CO2 capture: post-combustion, pre-combustion, and oxy-combustion. Post-combustion CO2 capture applies mainly to conventional coal-fired power generation but can also apply to combustion turbines fired by natural gas. In this case, the CO2 is captured from flue gases after the fossil fuel has been burned. This technology is well-known and used to a limited degree. Pre-combustion entails a technology, widely used in chemical and some power plants, in which the fossil fuel is gasified instead of directly combusted, and the CO2 can be readily captured from the gasification exhaust stream. With oxy-combustion, coal is burned in oxygen instead of in air, with resulting exhaust containing only CO2 and water vapor. Because it yields an almost 100% CO2 stream that is readily transportable, the process has strong potential but is extremely energy-intensive.”

TCEP is a pre -combustion capture project. All of its captured carbon dioxide will be transported to the extensive CO2 pipeline system that is located within a few miles of TCEP’s 600-acre site in Penwell, Texas. The CO2 will be sold to local oil field producers for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

The Site at Penwell

Texas Clean Energy Project's Penwell site
Photo by Jason Lewis of the U.S. DOE.

The 600-acre site is undeveloped and located outside the small town of Penwell. According to Samuel Myres’ “The Permian Basin: Petroleum Empire of the Southwest” (2 vols., El Paso: Permian, 1973, 1977):

“Penwell, sixteen miles southwest of Odessa in southwestern Ector County, was named for J. H. Penn, a veteran West Texas oil operator, who drilled the discovery well of the Penwell-Jordan oilfield.

When Penn’s well, the R. R. Penn Kloh-Rumsey No. 1, came in on October 7, 1929, the area began to develop rapidly. The town site was officially laid out on November 8, 1929, and a post office was established there in 1930.

The first residents lived in tents or hastily constructed shacks, but eventually better housing was built. Because many of the early settlers were only temporary residents, accurate population statistics are difficult to ascertain. For example, Penwell’s 1930–31 population was given as 230 in one source, but as 3,000 in another. According to one source, during the early 1930s Penwell had six lumberyards, several rooming houses, several filling stations, two or three clothing stores, two hotels, a doctor’s office, a drugstore, a barbershop, a pool hall, a dance hall, and a paper, the Penwell News. For a while there was also a school, but later local students were transferred to the Odessa schools. After the 1930s Penwell’s population decreased because of a decline in local oil drilling and the movement of workers to larger cities. In 1980 its population was estimated at seventy-five, and the town included a post office, a service station, a welding shop, and a beer store. Some ranches were in the vicinity. In the 1980s the nearby Odessa Raceway Park was operating from May through October.

®Texas Parks and Wildlife

Monahans State Park is just outside of town. In 1990 and again in 2000 the population of Penwell was reported as seventy-four.”

One of the most impressive sights in West Texas is Monahans Sandhills State Park –3,840 acres of rolling, white-sand dunes (up to 70 feet high) that are a must-see on any trip to the Odessa area. For more information, go to the official website of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Air Emissions

The Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP) received its final air quality permit on December 28, 2010 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The permit was issued administratively since the draft permit received no opposition or requests for a hearing. The air permit is the key state governmental approval that is required to move the project forward to be financed and built.

View TCEP’s air permit

TCEP will capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide, 99 percent of the sulfur, more than 95 percent of the mercury, and eliminate more than 90 percent of the nitrogen oxides produced by the process — making it overall the cleanest coal-fueled power project ever permitted in Texas.

TCEP’s high carbon-capture rate reduces the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted to the atmosphere to less than 10 percent of the emissions from an equivalently-sized,

conventional coal plant, and less than 25 percent of that from an equivalently-sized, highly efficient, natural gas-fired power plant. (TCEP has also cut its projected water consumption by 30 percent by substituting air-cooling in place of more conventional water-cooling for the project’s power block.)

The following bar charts show TCEP’s emissions levels compared to other coal-fueled plants that have been permitted in Texas. The charts were prepared by Joe Kupper, Senior Consulting Engineer for RPS Group, which served as TCEP’s permit engineers. The charts compare the emissions in two different ways: 1) lb/MWh (pounds per megawatt hour) Basis and 2) tpy (tons per year) Total Mass Basis.

See emissions charts

Small common grave by train tracks in Penwell. (Briley Mitchell)

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