Carbon Capture Contemplated for CA Gas Plants

By Published On: January 22, 2010

California is attempting to get its arms around whether capturing carbon emissions from natural gas fired plants in the state and injecting them underground is feasible. “It is truly going to be a cost issue more than anything else,” said Mike Gravely, California Energy Commission public interest research group manager, during a January 14 Commission workshop. “California has a really giant sequestration capacity,” Sally Benson, Stanford University Global Climate and Energy Project director said January 21 at a separate California Public Utilities Commission meeting on carbon capture and storage. However, the jury remains out on carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The technique aims to reduce global warming by keeping some power plant carbon emissions from going into the atmosphere and exacerbating climate change. The hitch is that carbon capture and sequestration technologies under development for power plants decrease plant efficiency, increase fuel requirements, and raise water requirements for water-cooled plants--which are being phased out in the state. Another hurdle is that adding the technology requires additional plant permitting. Because of the high costs, carbon sequestration retrofits should be applied to gas fired plants that have a long life and run many hours, said Rich Myhre, a consultant with Bevilacqua Knight. The technology has been geared towards higher polluting coal-fired plants. But, the Energy Commission plans to test the technology in Pacific Gas & Electric territory where there are no coal-fired electricity plants. The economics and feasibility of retrofitting existing--and possibly new power plants in this area--with technologies to capture and sequester carbon is the focus of a $90 million study involving the CEC, the Department of Energy, and other states. Most of the money comes from DOE. California is considered to have several geological formations that could potentially hold CO2, including depleted oil and gas reservoir wells and underground saline formations. How long the carbon may remain underground is unknown. CO2 has an atmospheric life of 100 years.

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