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BP and Edison Plan Major Hydrogen Power Project for California

Components of the Carson Project. Click to enlarge.

BP and Edison Mission Group (EMG), a subsidiary of Edison International, announced that they are planning a new $1-billion hydrogen-fueled power plant in California that would generate electricity with minimal carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The first-of-its-kind plant would be located alongside BP’s Carson refinery, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, and would be capable of producing 500 megawatts (MW) of low-carbon generation, enough power to serve 325,000 Southern California homes. At the same time, about 4 million tonnes of CO2 per year will be captured, transported and stored in deep underground oil reservoirs where it will enhance existing oil production.

The proposed Carson Project—which would be the largest hydrogen-fired power generation facility yet—would combine a number of existing industrial processes while emitting the lowest CO2 emissions in the world for an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant.

The core of the plant will be a gasification unit and carbon capture facility in which petroleum coke—the residue produced when all useful volatile hydrocarbons are removed from crude oil in the refining process—is converted into a hydrogen- and CO2-rich syngas.

Carson refinery’s coker units produce around 3 to 4,000 tons of coke a day.

The hydrogen gas stream will fuel a gas turbine to generate electricity. Captured CO2 (around 90% of the total) would be transported by pipeline to an oilfield and injected into reservoir rock formations thousands of feet underground, both stimulating additional oil production and sequestering the CO2.

The plant would use recycled and treated city waste water for its needs.

Final project investment decisions will follow further study by the partners and review by the California Energy Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. BP and EMG are beginning project discussions with state and federal government agencies and local stakeholders and are exploring options for selling the electricity the plant would generate. BP is in discussions with Occidental Petroleum to develop options for sequestering the CO2 in Occidental’s California oilfields.

The costs of hydrogen power are higher than those of traditional power plant fuels. As a result, the project will depend, in part, on incentives provided in the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 for advanced gasification technologies.

BP announced its first major hydrogen generation project in Peterhead, Scotland in June 2005. There, the plant uses North Sea natural gas as the feedstock for hydrogen production. CO2 is sequestered underground in oil fields in that system as well. (Earlier post.)

Both projects are part of the portfolio of BP’s new low-carbon power generation business, BP Alternative Energy.



Two questions
1) is the net CO2 output per energy unit of fuel (hydrogen and additional oil combined) less than say ethanol?
2) is it viable without ongoing subsidies? One day DoE's hydrogen fixation could wane.

Otherwise it looks like a PR exercise that depends on outside money and a handy location.


So...what happens when all that C02 perculates to the surface? Mass suffocation? What assurances are there that what goes down will not come up?


Looks like FutureGen but with petroleum coke instead of coal. I'd like to see them throw in dozen or so hydrogen stations fed via pipeline to justify the subsidy.


Calling this a hydrogen power plant is a bit misleading, I think it would be more accurate to call this a "clean" petro-coke power plant. Why hydrogen? Obviously they just want handouts.

I also find the claim that the CO2 is sequestered rather weak. The CO2 dissolves in the oil residue and then it gets pumped to the surface and burned. I don't think it should count if it gets released again, just like growing corn for ethanol should not count as sequestering CO2 from the air for obvious reasons.


Let's posit that the demand for elecricity is fixed in the sense that this additional supply will have no impact on demand and is merely a substitute for supply that would have been brought to market by some other fossil fueled based means. The electric portion of this project is clearly beneficial based on that assumption.

If we don't leave the oil in the ground, the CO2 released thereby from its burning will tend to cancel out the savings. If we assume that we are just meeting existing demand, then the project seems worthwhile because the total CO2 released is less per unit of energy than if we had acquired both sources of energy from business as usual practices.

However, if this project became common practice and enabled a significant expansion of our oil supply, perhaps we would be worse off in the sense that we would end up releasing more CO2 because we had delayed the necessary decrease in demand.

Or, what if we went ahead and produced the hydrogen, injected the CO2 into the ground and didn't produce the oil? Would this make the whole project econonomically unviable? Does BP really need a subsidy considering the fact that they have access to oil that would otherwise stay in the ground?

Frankly, I'm having trouble coming to a definitive conclusion on whether this project makes sense.


The CO2 emissions from this plant are probably about 1/3 of a gas-fired combined-cycle plant, given the claim of 90% carbon capture, relative efficiency and the per-mole heat of combustion of methane and solid carbon.

Using the petcoke here instead of in China means greater efficiency and lower CO2 emissions overall.


Umm, how are they so sure in these CO2 underground pumping projects, that the CO2 is just going to stay where they put it? I am no scientist and do not claim to fully understand what is being discussed here. Yet I find it hard to imagine the gas wouldn't find a way out. How do we know what's deep underground? Is there a way to find that out? Wouldn't it build up all sorts of pressure down there that could find an (explosive, sudden, dangerous) exit?

This reminds me of a discussion on the Alberta, Canada, tar sand project...Perhaps some of you have read it...


Well, the NG that was associated with the oil stayed down there, trapped by the low porosity/conductivity layers. CO2 is also heavier than Methane so gravity would help some too. They don't say in the article how deep these oil deposits are. I'm guessing at least thousands of feet if not tens of thousands. Then you'd need to calculate diffusion rates and the effect on the capping layers on diffusion. The pressure underwhich the CO2 is stored would probably also be a factor in its ability to escape.


ProgGrrl:  Consider what would happen if the CO2 was only trapped for, say, 10,000 years (vs. 1e8+ years for the oil). Even 10k years is enough time to get us past the looming climate problem with ease; if we do things right, we'll be running the world on carbon-negative systems by 2050 and fine-tune the climate as we go.


hmmm... The climate is a self-organizing-sustaining system. Let's just get to carbon neutral or carbon free energy generation and let the atmosphere/biosphere/etc adjust itself.


Learn to walk before you run, i think this project is a very good start! Only that we need to make sure that we are moving toward a carbon neutral economy.

Another question, if this kind of plant mushroomed to every corner of the world, do we breath less oxygen in the atmosphere?

Harvey D

Only 4 million tonnes of CO2 a year, of which, 90% or 3.6 millions tonnes may be pumped in underground oil reservoir to increase oil production. Refining, transporting and burning the extra OIL in ICE vehicles will most probably produce another 4 to 6 million tonnes of CO2 for a total of about 10+ million tonnes a year. A very clean activity. How does it compare with cellulosic ethanol?


This BP coke plant sounds like a good start at reducing CO2 gas emissions in the area of electrical power production. NatGas already stays in place underground without any problems today, so a properly design underground CO2 gas storage area will be workable as well. With the FutureGen--Coal Based Zero Emissions Power, the US will continue to have inexpensive, independent and (Yes) cleaner power supply. Also, fuller development of BEV and PHEV could further help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil and greatly reduce yearly CO2 gas emissions.

Roger Arnold

Regarding the issue of CO2 brought back to the surface with recovered oil:

Oil and CO2 are miscible under hign pressure, when the CO2 is a supercritical semi-liquid. Solubility of CO2 in crude oil at atmospheric pressure is essentially zilch. So when the oil / CO2 mix is brought to the surface and depressurized, the CO2 boils out. But it's done in a closed pressure chamber. The CO2 is captured and reinjected.

Up to 80% of the CO2 pumped into the injection wells, after a few years of EOR operation, is CO2 recovered from oil extraction. But there's nonetheless a large inventory buildup of CO2 sequestered below ground, in the rock pore spaces formerly occupied by oil. As long as the wells are cemented in at the end of operations, it will remain trapped for a close approximation to forever.


The reason they know they can do it and that it works folks is they have been doing it for years. They are just adapting co2 based oil recovery tech to sequestration by pumping even more co2 then is needed to pressurize the field.

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