| SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 4
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 4 NRG Energy on
Friday will begin retrofitting one unit of its WA Parish power
plant in Texas to capture its carbon emissions but the
technology has a long ways to go to reduce climate change, the
company's chief executive officer said.
The $1 billion Petra Nova project, a joint venture with
Japan's JX Nippon, will eventually trap 1.6 million
tons of carbon annually from the coal unit and pipe it 82 miles
(132 km) to an oil field, where it will be injected underground
to help push crude oil to the surface.
The revenue from the sale of that oil will eventually pay
for the installation of the expensive carbon capture equipment.
When completed in 2016, Petra Nova will be the largest project
of its kind in the world.
While the success of the project is important to proving the
nascent technology is workable, more breakthroughs are need if
carbon capture and sequestration technology is going to help
prevent runaway climate change, NRG CEO David Crane told Reuters
Only about 5 percent of the carbon emitted by all of the
coal-fired power plants in the United States could employ the
system used at Petra Nova, he said, since many coal plants are
not located near oil fields or carbon transportation systems.
"This isn't the panacea or the final solution in the climate
wars, but it's an important step," Crane said.
"The technology we're using comes from the chemical industry
and it's tried and true. But somewhere in the next five to 10
years they're going to find a completely different way of
isolating the carbon molecules. That's where you're going to
find a disruptive breakthrough in the sector that's going to
help save the world," he said.
Petra Nova previously received a $167 million grant from the
U.S. Department of Energy as part of a clean coal initiative,
money NRG said was instrumental in getting the project off the
Chris Smith, principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil
energy at the Energy Department, defended the use of captured
carbon to extract fossil fuels even as the administration
focuses on addressing climate change.
"You're not increasing oil consumption. Oil demand is what
it is," Smith told Reuters in a phone interview. "It prevents us
from having to import that quantity of oil from overseas."
Smith said linking enhanced oil recovery to carbon capture
is essential at this point to support large projects
demonstrating the technology that would limit the greenhouse gas
emissions from coal-fired power plants.
"Right now where you don't have a price on carbon, these
projects are critically important and they do a lot of good,"
"I think that you can't think about the sustainable clean
energy economy of the future without thinking about how you
manage emitting sources of today."
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in San Francisco and Ayesha Rascoe
in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)