The world’s largest carbon capture scheme is about to be fitted to a 2.7GW coal-fired power station Texas at a total cost of $1bn.
The Petra Nova plant is to be incorporated in the Washington A Parish power plant, located to the southwest of Houston, and will come on stream before the end of year.
It will use "amine-scrubbers" developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to remove 90% of the carbon dioxide from the power station’s flue gases, along with oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, and the fine particles that have been shown to cause a variety of life-threatening conditions.
The scheme, in development since 2009, is being carried out as a joint venture between Houston-based utility NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration, Japan’s largest oil producer.
Each of the partners has put $300m into the scheme and the US government’s Department of Energy has added another $190m. Another $250m is being supplied by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Mizuho Bank.
The scrubbers work by dissolving varieties of amine such as ethanolamine in water and passing the gas through it. A chemical reaction makes the carbon dioxide more soluble, and traps it in the liquid. This will be pumped 82 miles to a depleted oil field in Jackson County, Texas, where it will be used to extract the last recoverable crude from the reservoirs.
Andrew Hlasko, a senior project manager at DOE, told Scientific American: "If you consider that around 35% of power generated in the US is coal-fired, this presents a significant opportunity for application of this technology."
However, NRG has already indicated that it will not be pursuing further schemes while the price of oil is oscillating around the $45 a barrel mark. In October last year, chief executive David Crane told the Houston Chronicle that such schemes were only attractive when the price of oil is higher than $75.
Image: NRG Energy’s graphic showing the location of the capture facility at its WA Parish plant