California holds public meetings on proposed Kern County power plant

Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:18pm EST

Nov 11 (Reuters) - California regulators will hold two meetings open to the public on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20 to discuss greenhouse gas emission issues with SCS Energy's proposed Hydrogen Energy California coal and petroleum coke-fueled carbon capture and storage project.

The California Energy Commission said on Friday the meetings will enable its staff and others to discuss issues it has found with the $4 billion plant's proposed carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions.

The facility, which U.S. environmental regulators have pointed to in proposed rules limiting carbon emissions from new power plants, will use an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) system to turn coal or petroleum coke into a synthetic gas that will produce and sell electricity, carbon dioxide, and fertilizer.

Commission staff and SCS, a privately held U.S. power plant developer, disagree over how the project should be evaluated for compliance with Senate Bill 1368, which limits long-term investments in baseload generation by the state's utilities in power plants that produce too much carbon dioxide emissions, the commission said.

The Commission said the meetings are an effort to determine if its staff and SCS can resolve their differences.

The staff released its preliminary environmental assessment on June 28.

That assessment is not a final decision by the Commission, but will be used to prepare the staff's final assessment, which California's Energy Department will use to decide if the state will award SCS funding for the project.

The final staff report will also serve as its testimony at hearings conducted by a Commission committee reviewing the project. The decision of that committee will be presented to the full Commission for final action.

SCS proposed to build the plant on 1,106 acres of private agricultural land in the town of Tupman in Kern County about 115 miles (188 km) north of Los Angeles near Bakersfield.

The plant would gasify coal and petroleum coke to produce synthesis gas used to generate up to 431 megawatts of electricity.

The project would also produce and sell urea fertilizer and other nitrogenous compounds and capture about 90 percent of the carbon dioxide produced. It would transport the gas by pipeline for use at the Elk Hills oil field. Occidental Petroleum Corp owns the Elk Hills oil field, located near the plant site.

SCS has projected construction will start in 2014 with commercial operation in 2018, the commission said. That schedule is dependent on receiving the required approvals from the Commission and the Energy Department.

The project is expected to create an average 1,160 construction jobs to build the plant and 200 full-time workers once the facility enters service, SCS has said.