Questions & Answers
Top 10 General Questions
Most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, which emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a greenhouse gas that is widely accepted as responsible for climate change. HECA sets itself apart by creating electricity without any fossil fuel combustion. The project will convert coal and petroleum coke into CO2 and clean hydrogen while using brackish, non-potable water. HECA will use clean hydrogen to produce a stable flow of electricity while permanently capturing the CO2 before it is emitted into the air. By using brackish, non-potable water, HECA will preserve California’s freshwater resources.
Due to its unique shape and secure geology, extensive geological analysis has identified the Elk Hills Oil Field as one of North America’s premier geologic traps for enhanced oil recovery and permanent CO2 storage. Millions of years ago, oil began migrating to the Elk Hills reservoir, where tiny pore spaces within the domelike structure of the sandstone formation retained oil. The oil has remained underground due to a thick, impenetrable layer of shale thousands of feet thick. HECA’s CO2 will be safely and securely injected 6,000 feet beneath the shale, which is equivalent to four Empire State buildings stacked one on top of the other. The CO2 will push the oil towards the production well, resulting in 5 million additional barrels of domestic oil each year.
Because of its importance to the U.S. as an alternative energy project of the future, HECA is co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, and administered by the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The project is supported in part by a $408 million grant that was competitively awarded to HECA in recognition of its importance in addressing the issue of climate change while providing many local, regional and national benefits.
Hydrogen Energy California is currently completing the technical studies, permitting process and commercial discussions in order to build the HECA facility.
The HECA project will generate clean low-carbon electricity by transforming fossil fuels into clean hydrogen that provides reliable, ongoing energy to the grid. Renewables such as wind or solar typically produce intermittent electricity that is available approximately one third of the time. Since our society’s demand for energy is constant, we can only rely so much on wind and solar energy. For this reason, HECA will produce a stable and predictable source of low-carbon electricity. In fact, HECA will generate enough clean electricity for 160,000 homes while it produces lower air emissions than any conventional plant of its size.
California has shown leadership in addressing the climate change issue and is a fitting location for the HECA project which would prove the application of the hydrogen power and carbon capture and storage concept to solid fuels, such as petcoke or coal. There are also very compelling economic development reasons for building this high tech facility in California namely job creation and new local tax revenues. Demonstration of the concept for future application in countries such as China will be a significant step. China and other countries are also dedicating considerable time and money to identifying potential technologies and projects that will demonstrate the enormous environmental and economic benefits that CCS can bring.
The HECA project was acquired in 2011 by SCS Energy, one of the nation’s leading developers of clean power. SCS’ award winning 1,100 megawatt power plant development in New York City helped stabilize the grid by solving a load pocket problem in Queens while helping to establish the use of air-cooled condensing for power plants in New York.
SCS Energy will work with Fluor Constructors International, Inc. on the front-end engineering phase of the project. To ensure quality craftsmanship, Fluor has entered into a Project Labor Agreement with the National Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (SBCTC), and the Kern, Inyo, Mono Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. HECA will also use the Oxygen-Blown Gasification technology of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.
Because of its importance to the U.S. as an alternative energy project of the future, HECA is co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil energy, and administered by the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The project is supported in part by a $408 million grant that was competitively awarded to HECA in recognition of its importance in addressing the issue of climate change while providing many local and regional benefits.
The HECA project will create thousands of high quality jobs during construction and hundreds of permanent jobs when fully operational in 2017. The project will provide $239 million in annual economic impact to Kern County and $52 million in annual labor income. Construction and annual plant operations will also generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenues and billions of dollars in economic benefits over the next 20 years.
HECA’s plant will be designed, constructed and operated to meet or exceed the highest local, state and federal environmental, safety and health standards to protect the public and plant workers. Carbon dioxide has been safely transported via pipeline and pumped underground for 40 years by energy companies around the world, including those in Canada and the United States. In the past, CO2 primarily came from naturally occurring underground reservoirs, where it was transported and then re-injected into oil fields to perform enhanced oil recovery in locations thousands of miles away. The HECA facility will capture CO2 that would have otherwise been emitted into the atmosphere. The CO2 will then be transported five miles away through a safe and secure pipeline to a nearby oil field where the CO2 will be injected over 6,000 feet beneath a layer of thick, impenetrable cap rock.
There are several carbon capture and storage projects where facilities are capturing and safely storing CO2. These projects include Sleipner, Norway since 1996, Weyburn, Canada since 2000 and Salah, Algeria since 2004. All of these facilities have operated without any incidents whatsoever. Furthermore, over 30 million tons of CO2 have been injected underground for enhanced oil recovery in the United States each year. Located primarily in Texas and Canada, these operations have been working for more than 40 years.
The HECA facility will use existing proven technologies, but will be one of the first in the world to group them together to generate a stable and predictable source of electricity using clean hydrogen.
HECA’s unique process converts coal, petroleum coke and brackish water into liquefied hydrogen and CO2. The clean hydrogen will be used to generate low-carbon electricity for 160,000 homes and to create low-carbon fertilizer products, while the CO2 will be permanently and safely captured, and put to good use for enhanced oil recovery.
Pipeline Transport: Pipelines are recognized as the safest and most efficient method to transport liquids and gases. In North America, CO2 pipelines have a safe operation history spanning decades, with more than 3,000 miles in active service. HECA’s pipeline will be buried and routed in a way to minimize environmental impacts and will be subject to strict regulations and reports. Special construction techniques will be used to enable the pipeline to safely pass under an aqueduct to ensure the integrity of the waterway and the pipeline. Emergency shutdown valves are positioned at regular intervals along the pipeline, and can be closed to ensure the containment of the CO2 in the event of an emergency.
CO2 transport is a long standing activity in the North Sea, Algeria and the Permian Basin of West Texas.
Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) with Permanent CO2 Storage: In a process known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR), HECA’s CO2 will enable five million additional barrels of domestic oil production per year. CO2 injection for EOR has been a commonly used technique in the U.S. for more three decades. For millions of years, the Elk Hills Oil Field’s domelike sandstone formation has trapped oil within its tiny pore spaces. When mixed with CO2 from the HECA facility, oil will swell through the pore spaces, which allows it to easily flow towards the production well. This results in 10-30% more domestic oil production. The CO2 will then safely mineralize 6,000 feet underground, which is equivalent to four Empire State buildings stacked one on top of another. Meanwhile, HECA uses a “closed loop process” to ensure that CO2 is permanently retained within the rock formation as the oil flushes out.