January 31, 2007 at 8:30 am #4064
Fort Bend power plant planned
Hunton Energy would use fuel that produces low emissions
By TOM FOWLER
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Jan 25, 2007 – A Houston company plans to build a major power plant in Fort Bend County that it says will run on an oil refining byproduct and produce low greenhouse gas emissions.
The $2.4 billion project being developed by Hunton Energy, a unit of heating and air-conditioning contractor Hunton Group, is planned for a 200-acre site near Smithers Lake and the massive W.A. Parish power plant.
The proposed 1,200-megawatt plant, known as Lockwood Road, will be designed to produce electricity for less money per kilowatt-hour than a coal plant, Hunton Energy President Rocky Sembritzky said, thanks to a long-term contract with oil refiner Valero Energy to buy petroleum coke — a relatively inexpensive refining byproduct — to fuel the plant.
The plant will use a gasification technology, known by the acronym IGCC, to turn the pet coke into a cleaner-burning gas. Plans are to inject carbon dioxide emissions into the ground, either for storage or to improve the flow of oil from fields in the area, R.O. Hunton, chairman of Hunton Group, said.
“The Lockwood Road project will verify that it is possible for this country to have lower and more stable electricity costs, lower emissions and CO2 sequestration, all at the same time,” Hunton said.
Financing is far from complete, and the company is still negotiating with Fort Bend County officials over tax breaks, but environmentalists are optimistic the project can be an effective foil to plans by companies like TXU Power to build pulverized coal-fired plants in Texas that some say will threaten air quality.
“This is exciting to us because it’s the first power project to put carbon sequestration in its plans from day one,” said Tom Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.
“TXU and the others claim carbon sequestration is too expensive and won’t work, but Hunton is showing it’s not true. I think this changes the playing field.”
More heat, less cost
Pet coke is a lumpy black material that resembles coal but produces more heat per pound than coal and commonly costs 25 to 50 percent less, said Phil Fisher, a pet coke industry consultant from Greenbrae, Calif.
It has a higher sulfur content than coal, which can cause air pollution problems. It is most commonly used as a fuel to run power generators at cement plants — where the sulfur is absorbed as part of the cement-making process — or at power plants that use gasification technology to turn it into a cleaner-burning gas.
More than a dozen power plants around the world use pet coke, most based on technology that was developed by Conoco- Phillips or GE’s Houston-based gasification technology unit, said Neville Holt, a fellow at the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry think tank.
The plants haven’t reached the same reliability rates as the more numerous pulverized coal plants, running in the mid-80 percent range versus 90 percent for pulverized coal, Holt said, but that should improve with experience.
TXU officials have said previously IGCC technology is not yet reliable and will not develop quickly enough to meet the state’s power needs.
No final plans
Hunton said he has not completed plans for carbon sequestration on the project but has discussed the project with a number of oil-field operators.
Injecting CO2 into the ground to improve oil recovery in older wells is a well-established business, but storing it in the ground long-term is still a developing technology. Just this week the Department of Energy said the technology has several years to go before it is commercially viable.
Not reasonable option?
In a draft environmental impact statement for a Pennsylvania coal-to-clean fuels project, officials said efforts to reduce CO2 emissions using geologic sequestration “is not a reasonable option because sequestration technology is not sufficiently mature to be implemented at production scale.”
Hunton said the Lockwood Road project is one of the biggest business risks he has taken, but the company needed to take on a project that covers new ground to break into the power business.
“To build something of significance you have to take risks, but I think the rewards match,” Hunton said. “We’re being conservative on the financial side. I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize our other businesses.”
February 1, 2007 at 8:51 am #7472
This Houston Chronicle attached release is on a 1,200 MW Fort Bend IGCC that is to be supplied by Valero Petcoke. I would assume the +3.0 million tons petcoke needed from Valero would come from its Port Arthur Refinery after the coker expansion is completed. The article talks about CO2 sequestration but neither financing nor sequestration plans are complete at this time.
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