The world’s largest carbon capture facility is coming to Texas. The US Department of Energy has announced that work will soon begin a project to capture up to 90% of the carbon emissions from the W.A, Parish Generating Station; a coal-fired power plant southwest of Houston Texas. Once captured, the CO2 will be pumped underground at the West Ranch oil field.
Pumping the CO2 underground will serve two purposes. By injecting CO2 into pockets of hard to extract oil, the oil is liberated in a way that makes it easier to extract. The process also results in the CO2 being sequestered underground rather than being released into the atmosphere.
The CO2 will be captured by processing the power plant’s exhaust gas through a solution of amines. The amines will bind with the Co2 allowing it to be separated from the sulfates. Later the amine solution will be heated; a process which releases the CO2. The amine is recycled while the CO2 is pressurized and piped to the oil field where it will be used to help extract the hard to reach oil.
The West Ranch oil field, which has been in operation for over 75 years, has seen its production rates fall through conventional production techniques. The carbon dioxide will reduce the oil’s viscosity and force it out of tight spots where it can be more easily extracted. The oil will them be processed to remove any CO2 that has become mixed with the oil. The CO2 can then be re-injected into the ground.
The size of the project was scaled up from original plans and will now entail capturing the CO2 from 240 MW of electricity production, making it the largest such operation in the world. The DOE will be providing financial assistance for the project, whose principals include a subsidiary of NRG Energy. NRG Energy is the parent company of Reliant Energy, a Texas electricity provider.
Although coal has long been the predominate source of electricity generation in the U.S., it has seen its market share slide in recent years as the abundance of cheap natural gas has created a cheaper and cleaner alternative. In Texas, the natural gas boom has helped electricity rates fall substantially since their highs in 2008.