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Southern California Edison Requests Regulatory Approval for Hydrogen-Fueled Power Generation with CCS

The Clean Hydrogen Power Generation process. Click to enlarge.

Edison International’s electricity utility Southern California Edison (SCE), has requested state regulatory approval to conduct the nation’s first feasibility assessment of Clean Hydrogen Power Generation (CHPG) in a full-scale, 600 MW commercial generating facility.

SCE’s CHPG will gassify coal to produce hydrogen, capture and sequester (CCS) about 90% of the carbon dioxide resulting from the process, and burn the hydrogen in a combined cycle generating system. This is conceptually the same approach that will be taken by the new BP-Rio Tinto company, Hydrogen Energy. (Earlier post.)

The technologies in SCE’s proposed study are being considered or tested in clean coal projects elsewhere. The SCE plan would be the first assessment of a full-scale, 600-MW facility using all of them. It is an effort to advance the technology of low-emission power generation using coal.

Edison believes that if California and the nation are to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants while increasing power supplies using domestic fuels, companies like ours must take the lead exploring the feasibility of these advanced technologies.

—John Bryson, Edison International Chairman

SCE is seeking authorization to commit $52 million of revenues it collects from customer rates during a two-year period to an advanced technology feasibility study. If approved, this would represent less than a quarter of one percent of current customer rates.

In the CHPG process, a gasifier converts coal and water to a syngas, which undergoes additional processing to remove sulfur, mercury and carbon dioxide. The CO2 is sequestered in underground geologic formations. The hydrogen gas is piped to gas turbines for power generation. Exhaust heat form the turbines is used to create steam and drive additional turbines, resulting in maximum power-generation efficiency.

Southern California Edison is one of the US’ largest electric utilities, serving a population of more than 13 million via 4.8 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within central, coastal and Southern California.



I think a possible problem in this is that the feasibility assessment may conclude it 'sorta works' then proceed to the 600MW plant. Once a bigger plant is built all sorts of problems could arise like CO2 escape, excessive energy penalties and the need for permanent subsidies or percentage clean energy targets. Legislators could excuse the deficiencies and it could be another road-to-nowhere like ethanol. The assessment needs to be tough.


How is this different from burning the coal directly? Or burn the syngas directly if you want to run a gas turbine and steam turbine together. you can skip out the hydrogen process.

You can always throw away the CO2 to whereever you want.


Looks like the second step is using steam (H2O) to convert the carbon monoxide (CO) into CO2 and release more H2. So it might be much easier to get the CO2 from this concentrated stream of CO2 and H2 than it would be if the CO and H2 were burned using air and then exract CO2 from the exhaust gas.

Roger Pham

Yes, and how about making some extra Hydrogen for H2 vehicles, everybody? Disperse these plants by putting one in each community, and bingo, we will have solved the H2 production cost, transportation and distribution problem that all the naysayers are touting about Hydrogen transportation system!

Hydrogen produced this way can be cheaper than petroleum per unit of energy equivalence. Waste biomass can later augment coal to reduce net CO2 production. Why does everybody always cite how inefficient it is to make H2 from electrolysis of water, when it can be made cheaply in bulk quantity from coal and waste biomass gasification?



As I understand it, it is much easier to remove the CO2 upstream by gasifying the coal first than it is to scrub it from the post-combustion exhaust stream.

Personally, I don't like trading permanent sequestration (coal in the ground) for partial, not-time-tested sequestration of pressurized CO2. Renewables is the way to go for GHG reduction.


Renewables can't meet more than a tenth of our electricity demand for the foreseeable future, Nick, if that much. And there is already opposition to new wind farms and solar facilities because they "destroy the beauty of the landscape", or they kill birds, or some other reason for not putting wind generators on hilltops or solar units in the desert.



The main concern is price. People wont give a damn to those minority bird lovers or desert lovers if solar and wind energy is cheaper and better.

And a tenth? You are too optimistic, it is less then 5%, maybe i am too optimistic too.


Thanks for the clarification, does it works the same way for biogas? I did a biogas digester experiment with a PET before and I found that:
- part of the gas from the built up pressure burns with a blue flame
- later part of the gas does not sustain combustion
Looks like the CO2 sink to the bottom.

Burying CO2 clearly not a cure to the disease, its just a pain killer.

Paul Dietz

How is this different from burning the coal directly?

The CO2 comes out in pure form, rather than diluted with large amounts of nitrogen, so it becomes practical to dispose of it underground. Also, other pollutants, such as sulfur and mercury, are more completely removed. Sulfur removal is a particularly important consideraton for petroleum coke, which is often loaded with the stuff.


Its also rather cheap as h2 from coal is only 70 cents a kilo and with the tech bush funded they can afford to deal with the co2. In fact after they test it out full scale they likely will convert all the coal plants to ccs in rapid order.



You wrote: "Renewables can't meet more than a tenth of our electricity demand for the foreseeable future..."

On what basis do you claim that? I could claim that conservation alone could meet 10% of demand. Where is the national program to increase the pathetic efficiency of lighting, which is a huge chunk of electricty use? Our lifestyle is extremely energy intense, meaning there are huge opportunities for conservation. As for renewables, considering only solar, the amount of solar energy available in the Southwest US is vast. Where is the Manhattan project to double the efficiency and lower the cost of solar cells?

Digging coal out of the ground so we can continue our profligate ways is a poor choice for us and for the planet.


Environmentalists: do you want to stop global warming, or not?

It's that simple. If you want to stop global warming, then there are three simple things we could do in the US to cut our emissions dramatically, in five years:

1. Conservation: Establish standards for vampire electrical devices that reduce vampire usage by 25%, and tax incandescent bulbs $2 each. No cost, little change in behavior (lots of jokes about outlaw light bulbs on the evening talk shows)

2. Clean up coal: Upgrade existing and new coal power generation facilities to dramatically reduce CO2 output, and sequester the outputs. I don't know the cost, but it can't be more than $100-200B over the next five years. (maybe lightbulb taxes and overweight vehicle taxes fund this?)

3. Drive vehicle mileage up, hard, fast, with pushing start-stop hybrids like the Saturn VUE, and clean diesel, for all vehicle segments, and strong discouragement of high vehicle weights (strong penalties that start at 3500lbs and rise dramatically for nonfarm vehicles above 5000lbs).

These three changes could cut our carbon output by double digit percentages in five years.

They would prove that we can impact global warming in a cost-effective way.

They would show that the US can lead, and would shame Europe, Russia, India and China into taking similar steps.

But I am afraid that many environmentalists can't get behind this. They want perfect, clean noncompromising solutions: urban solutions that ban vehicles in cities, mandatory electric cars, banning urban sprawl, laws against corporate agriculture, banning coal mining, etc. Bottom line, they want mass behavior change.

They actually don't care about global warming (that much). They want to use global warming as an excuse to forbid behaviors that they don't approve of. That way lies failure.

I say, let's show how effective we can be with clear direction and a light touch. Then let's figure out how to incent the right behavior. Clucking disapprovingly at people just shows how environmentalists can be just as annoying as fundamentalists.


The diagram looks grossly inefficent. At least they could use the heat produced from gasification and carbon monoxide oxidation to power a steam cycle.


I'd like to see these big budget experiments for once include hydrogen recycling in a hydrogasification system and surplus electricity used for hydrogen generation on-site for that use. Add-on a GTL plant for marginal capital expansion side-stepping new refinery regulations and we have ourselves a start at synergy within business-as-usual industrial economics.


Cervus, fresnel lens photovoltaic-concentrator greenhouses over the millions of acres of cropland already in existence, not to mention desert (like that outside Las Vegas city limits) yet to be exploited, can provide all the electricity we will ever WANT let alone NEED.

The "foreseeable future" energy demands can be met with marginal improvements in effeciency and pricing (high prices cure high prices) and with a 100% exploitation of the surplus grid energy situation. Look up Gridpoint's solution.



The Green-Freaks are just Socialist/Marxist who are using the GHG scare to bring about the new utopian society under their control.

Anyhow, all this talk about coal to H2 power plants is great news because it would be cheaper to convert these power units over to C-T-L plants to produce clean transportation fuels. And with say about 500 new nuclear power plants (with reprocessed nuclear fuel as is done in France) in the works; these two technologies could go along way towards providing US with real cheap electrical power and fuel.



This is a link to a story about a new method of hydrogen distribution. Spraying pellets of Aluminum/Gallium Alloy with water to release hydrogen. Seems pretty doable. Didn't know where else to post it.

Kerry Buehrt

I see that finally California is getting serious about carbon emissions and no longer talking up their impotent solar roof nonsense and windmill technologies. Wind is a big, expensive joke : unsightly, a real estate devourer and a really stupid way to make small amounts of unrelaible and uncontrollable electricity. (Don't pay attention to those wind industry frauds about 100 megawatt windfarms - those can't put out more than 30 MW on a regular basis and virtually never when it's needed). One of these days, California may actually devote some though to their brainless energy
programs before they rush to judgment. Naw, that would be so unlike the Golden Staters.


They should convert the CO2 into some useful material instead of burying it. If they go with the burial route, it would turn into a "not in my backyard" discussion.

Cheryl Ho

There are developments in DME in China now:

Currently, the market trend today is such that many Chinese coal chemical companies are moving towards optimising low cost and abundant coal feedstock for expansion into DME production.

If you would like to know more on COAL to Syngas to DME developments, join us at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

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Why is that CO2 is often associated with "dirty fuel" especially "dirty coal"? What you breathe out is not dirty; SOx, NOx or particulates from coal burning are.

I am not sure if the concepts of air pollution and global warming have been tangled with each other unintentionally, or there are people who would love to see this happen.

A cleaning burning power plant can still contribute to global warming, if there is such a thing.

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