JX Nippon to restart world’s largest carbon capture plant in Texas

Kevin Crowley, Bloomberg February 08, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Owners of the world’s largest carbon capture facility plan to restore operations at the $1 billion plant three years after it shut down, providing a test case for a nascent industry that experts believe is essential in achieving climate goals.

JX Nippon aims to restart the Petra Nova facility in Texas after NRG Energy Inc. finishes repairs on the coal-fired power unit to which it is connected, the company said in an emailed response to questions. NRG said it’s scheduled to complete the work in June.

The resumption would mark a significant step forward for U.S. carbon capture, providing a new lease of life for a project that critics saw as one of the industry’s highest-profile failures. The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act provides major tax incentives to boost development of the technology that would scrub emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Some environmentalists contend that even if it works, carbon capture extends the life of oil and gas extraction. Supporters say there’s no other viable option to decarbonizing high-polluting industries.

Petra Nova, which cost $1 billion to build, including $195 million from the U.S. government, shipped carbon it captured from burning coal to an oil field operated by Hilcorp Energy Co. There, the carbon was used to extract crude through a process called enhanced oil recovery. In that process, the carbon dioxide acts like soap to squeeze out oil and is then stored in reservoirs deep underground.

During its three years of operation, it was the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture plant by tonnes captured annually, according to NRG.

But the system faltered in 2020 after plunging oil prices and crude production “made the project economics challenging,” NRG said in a statement. NRG sold its 50% stake in Petra Nova to JX Nippon for $3.6 million at the end of last year, making the Japanese company its sole owner.

Advocates claim Petra Nova was a technical success. The plant, located in greater Houston, captured 92.4% of the carbon dioxide from gas processed from the coal unit and demonstrated that a commercial-scale project can be built, former owner NRG said in a report sponsored by the Department of Energy.

However, the report also revealed that the amount of carbon captured in the first two years of operation “fell well below expectations” due to extensive downtime of various system parts.


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