Wednesday, September 19, 2012

China Finances $2.5 Billion Texas Coal Carbon Capture Power Plant: What Are The Lessons?

Conventional wisdom holds that the 2010 demise of cap and trade in Congress  killed carbon capture and storage technology in the USA.  After all, why spend hundreds of millions of dollars installing CCS technology, when the captured carbon has no monetary value? Yet, the reported death of CCS technology in the USA is premature, ironically as a result of China. 

Last week, the Texas Clean Energy Project made a startling announcement that the Chinese Export-Import Bank would finance a  $2.5 billion, 400 megawatt coal plant that will capture 90% of its carbon emissions that will then be sold for enhanced oil recovery.  The plant has sold 200 megawatts of its output to CPS Energy, the municipal utility serving San Antonio, and states that its carbon emissions will be one-quarter of a gas plant and one-tenth of a conventional coal unit.  The plant also will produce large quantities of urea, enough to raise US production by 20%,  and has sold that product to an outfit in Minnesota.

Apart from the Chinese financing, the US Department of Energy is providing $450 million to finance the plant from the nation's Clean Coal Power Initiative.

So what do the latest developments of this project teach?  First, carbon capture and storage technology lives in the USA, thanks substantially primarily to Chinese and secondarily DOE financing.  The Texas plant will be the first commercial scale operation to deploy CCS here.

Second, the Chinese see both an environmental and economic opportunity in coming years, if they can be world leaders in  developing CCS.  The Chinese are flush with cash, but they are not wasting it.  They plainly judge CCS to be a good bet on the future.


  1. Seems to me Quigley may be right on this, that using CCS technology to capture co2 from gas would be a much better investment.

    1. CCS with gas will be cheaper. But the world is going to burn a lot of coal over the next 50 years and CCS for coal is essential if atmospheric concentrations of carbon are to be stabilized. China the world's biggest carbon polluter gets 70% of its TOTAL energy from coal. That fact alone drives home the need for coal ccs as well as further diversification to renewables, nuclear, gas, and efficiency.