The U.S. Department of Energy first announced the project – a joint venture between the DoE, JX Nippon and NRG Energy, Inc. – on July 15. The CCS facility will adjoin the W.A. Parish Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant located in Thompsons, Texas.
The Petra Nova Project will decrease the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by capturing an annual 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the plant. The stored CO2 will then be used to extract hard-to-access oil from a depleted oil field nearby.
Allegedly, this will seal the carbon underground. Scientific America points out that CCS has been criticized in the past for its unreliable rates of carbon sequestration. To determine its effectiveness, the Petra Nova Project will include a monitoring program to track whether or not the captured carbon remains underground.
In early June, President Obama and the EPA announced their plan to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by 30 percent. If CCS facilities like Petra Nova work, they will allow states that rely on coal to cut their emissions and buy more time to transition into renewable energies.
In other words, as Scientific America explains, “CCS can ‘clean up’ fossil fuel powered plants, including the coal plants that account for 37% of the U.S. electricity supply.”
This is the government’s intent, according to DoE Secretary Ernest Moniz:
“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. 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.”
An amine-based solvent will be used to strip carbon emissions from the coal plant’s flue gas stream before it is released into the atmosphere. The emissions will then be separated from the solvent and transported to the West Ranch oil field near Vanderbilt, Texas.