SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. power generator NRG Energy Inc. and Japanese energy producer JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. have finished the world’s largest system to capture carbon dioxide produced from burning coal at a power plant.
The $1 billion Petra Nova project, which collects carbon emissions from an existing coal-fired power plant southwest of Houston, passed testing in late December and was turned over for operations, the companies said in a statement Tuesday. The carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that contributes to global warming, is sent by pipeline to an oil field jointly owned by NRG, JX Nippon and Hilcorp Energy Co. where it can be used to draw crude out of the ground.
The achievement comes at a precarious time for so-called clean coal projects that have for years benefited from federal policies encouraging lower emissions from power plants to battle climate change. While the Petra Nova project was finished on schedule, another clean coal plant being built by Southern Co. in Mississippi has been delayed by years and is billions over budget. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has, meanwhile, vowed to roll back rules that require power generators to curb emissions.
“Even for the climate change skeptic, they should be in support of this project because it is about domestic energy reserves,” David Greeson, vice president of development for NRG Energy, said in a phone interview. “I really think this kind of project, with this structure, is something that transcends the debate on this.”
NRG and JX Nippon each invested $300 million in the Petra Nova system, with the rest of the financing coming from loans and a U.S. Energy Department grant for as much as $190 million, NRG said. The complex can capture more than 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide a day, the equivalent of taking more than 350,000 cars off the road, according to the Princeton, New Jersey-based power generator.