Petra Nova program a win-win for environment, energy production

By Joe Southern
jsouthern@fortbendstar.com

(Photo by Joe Southern)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry, now Energy Secretary for the Trump administration, turn the wheel in a symbolic ribbon cutting at the Petra Nova site at the W.A. Parish generating station in Thompsons last Thursday. Several dignitaries attended the ceremony that celebrated the operational status of the world’s largest carbon capture facility.

Calling it a win-win for the environment and energy production, Gov. Greg Abbott, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and a host of dignitaries gathered last Thursday at the W.A. Parish generating station in Thompsons to celebrate the operational status of Petra Nova, the world’s largest carbon capture facility.

The joint venture between NRG and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration filters carbon dioxide (CO2) from the emissions of the coal-fueled electrical plant and pipes it 81 miles to the West Ranch oilfield near Port Lavaca, where it is used to increase oil production while at the same time trapping the greenhouse gas underground.

The CO2 increases the viscosity of the oil, freeing more of it from underground.

“It captures 17 tons of carbon dioxide every second preventing it from entering out atmosphere,” said NRG President and CEO Mauricio Gutierrez.

With U.S. and Japanese flags hanging from the giant structure, officials gushed like geysers at the potential the Petra Nova project has to help clean the air and increase domestic oil production.

“This is a stunning display of what American and Japanese innovation working together can do,” said Perry, former governor of Texas. “We’re investing in cleaner power.”

“The reviled CO2 is being captured and put to use doing what Texans know best how to do, and that is to produce even more energy from our oil fields,” Abbott said.

Petra Nova is a 50-50 joint venture between NRG and JX Nippon. It captures more than 90 percent of CO2 from the 240-megawatt power plant, the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road. The system has delivered more than 300,000 tons of captured CO2 to the West Ranch oil field since it went operational on Sept. 19.

Hilcorp Energy Company, the operator of West Ranch oilfield, uses the CO2 to boost production at West Ranch oilfield, jointly owned by NRG, JX Nippon and Hilcorp. Both Hilcorp and the University Of Texas Bureau Of Economic Geology are monitoring the movement of CO2 deep in the oil reservoir. Over the next few years, oil production at the field is currently estimated to increase from approximately 300 barrels per day before beginning Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) operations to production of up to 15,000 barrels per day using captured CO2.

JX Nippon CEO Shunsaku Miyake said he wants the project to be replicated for other enhanced oil recovery projects.

“In the future, we would like to develop this type of CO2 EOR project not only in Texas but also across the United States, and indeed globally,” he said, adding, “All of us who have supported this project must continue to cooperate in order to achieve our overall goal, which is increasing oil production and decreasing the emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere.”

Hilcorp CEO Jeffery Hildebrand said the carbon capture technology will significantly enhance West Ranch production.

“The West Ranch field is getting a new lease on life,” he said.

The $1 billion Petra Nova project was completed on time and on budget thanks to the partnerships and about $190 million from the Department of Energy.

“I commend all those who contributed to this major achievement,” Perry said. “While the Petra Nova project will certainly benefit Texas, it also demonstrates that clean coal technologies can have a meaningful and positive impact on the nation’s energy security and economic growth.”

He said the project epitomizes the goals of the Department of Energy, which will not pit environmental concerns against the economic needs of the energy industry.

“We can and we will be stewards of both,” he said.

Naturally, having the biggest carbon capture facility in the world and an innovative and strategic global energy partnership were facts that Abbott took great pride in.

“They say everything is bigger in Texas, and this is exactly why,” Abbott said.

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