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Biggest U.S. Coal Carbon Capture Project Halted After Oil Price Crash

Low oil prices have made the only large-scale commercial project for carbon capture in the United States uneconomical, E&E News reported on Tuesday.

The Petra Nova project for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from a coal-fired power plant southwest of Houston is currently in a “mothball status,” because it needs higher oil prices than the current $40 a barrel to make the carbon capture operations financially viable, according to E&E News.      

According to a spokesman of NRG Energy, the owner and operator of the project, the carbon capture operations will resume once “economics improve,” Axios reports.

Low oil prices typically stall the development of more expensive energy alternatives, including carbon capture projects and electric vehicles (EVs).  

NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration Corporation launched at the end of 2016 the Petra Nova project, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of the U.S. government’s Clean Coal Power Initiative program. The project has received a grant of US$195 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to NRG, the Petra Nova project is the world’s largest carbon capture facility at a coal-powered plant. Every day, Petra Nova captures enough carbon dioxide to remove 350,000 cars from the road.

Petra Nova was designed to capture around 90 percent of the CO2 from a 240-megawatt equivalent flue gas slipstream—which is approximately 1.6 million tons of CO2 per year. The captured CO2 is compressed, dried, and transported to the West Ranch Oil Field in Jackson County, Texas, and later the CO2 is used to boost oil production via enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

Since coming online on January 10, 2017, the Petra Nova project has captured over 3.9 million short (US) tons of CO2, which were used to produce over 4.2 million barrels of oil through EOR, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. 

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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