NRG coal plant works on clean energy project

By Michael Sudhalter

NRG_featuredNRG, the Houston-based owner of the WA Parish Generating Station in south Fort Bend County, is coordinating a $1 billion project to bring cleaner air to local residents.

W.A. Parish, a 4,650 acre plant on the Brazos River, opened in the 1950s as a natural gas plant and added coal in the late 70s and early 80s.

While some coal plants have closed around the country, NRG is looking for a long-term future with the world’s largest Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Project, which is expected to be completed by late 2016.

Post-Combustion means that the Carbon Dioxide produced by the burning of the coal in one of the units at the plant that generates about 20 percent of the electricity for the Greater Houston area will be separated and redirected to the West Ranch oil field 80 miles southwest of the plant in Jackson County.

“The goal is to reduce greenhouse emissions in a way that provides no economic penalty to our shareholders and add no cost to electricity generated for the customer,” said David Greeson, Vice President of Development for Petra Nova, a special purpose company that’s part of NRG. “It’s going to have a number of very beneficial impacts. It will make our air a lot cleaner and provide economic growth. That is something people can rally around.”

The project was financed through NRG/Petra Nova, along with its partner in the oil & gas industry, Hilcorp Energy, as well as JX Nippon, a Japanese company.

They also received a $167 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The West Ranch Oilfield currently produces 500 barrels per day, but that will be increased to 15,000 barrels per day.

“The dramatic increase will produce the revenue that makes this viable,” Greeson said.

There are only two other Post-Combustion projects in North America – one in Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada that’s about half the size of the carbon capture capability being installed at W.A. Parish, and another in Mobile, Ala. that’s one/tenth the size.

Carbon Dioxide is clear and odorless so people won’t notice the change but according to Greeson, the air will be cleaner.

Greeson said there will likely be increased regulations on Carbon Dioxide in the future, and NRG/Petra Nova will be one step ahead, in terms of compliance.

He said other plants may follow in W.A. Parish’s steps, nationally and globally, if the project is successful.

“This is the beginning of something potentially huge,” Greeson said.

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