Hydrogen Energy California

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Hydrogen Energy California is a proposed 405-megawatt (MW) power station in Kern County, California. The plant would include carbon capture and storage.


The map below shows the proposed location for the power station in Kern County.

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Hydrogen Energy, a joint venture of BP and Rio Tinto, has proposed a new project for the oilfields of Kern County, north of Los Angeles. The 390-megawatt plant would generate electricity by burning hydrogen made from petroleum coke, an oil-refinery byproduct. The facility is designed to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide created in the process. The carbon dioxide would then be injected into Occidental Petroleum oilfields to increase oil production, which the companies say would cut 2 million tons of CO2 emissions per year.[1]

Hydrogen Energy has applied for the certification permit for the project. Construction is expected to begin in 2011.[2]

In February 2009, the California Public Utilities Commission ruled that Southern California Edison (SCE) cannot pass on to its customers the estimated $30 million in costs to join the project. SCE had proposed to charge higher electricity rates to cover the costs of the study. The CPUC suggested that SCE could be compensated after the study, and urged PG&E and Sempra Energy, owners of the state's other large utility companies, to participate in the project.[1]

In July 2009, the plant was awarded a grant of up to $308 million from the $787 billion federal stimulus package.[3] It is the largest grant to date from the Department of Energy's Clean Coal Power Initiative, as well as one of the single largest grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a whole. Commenting on the federal grant, Lewis Gillies, CEO of Hydrogen Energy, said, "Both the DOE and Hydrogen Energy recognize that this project may become the model for new power generating facilities throughout the world."[4]

In September 2011 SCS Energy completed acquisition of the project from BP and Rio Tinto. In June 2013 the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was issued by the California Energy Commission and the US DOE. Commercial operation of the capture facilities is anticipated in 2019. The captured CO2 would be compressed and transported to the nearby Elk Hills oil field approximately 3 miles from the power plant where it would be used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).[5]

In late 2014 Occidental Petroleum spun off its California operations into a new company, California Resources Corporation, and that company broke off negotiations with HECA, leaving HECA with no place to put the CO2 created by burning coal. In December 2014, the Energy Commission recommended the entire project be terminated.[6]

Construction was expected to begin in 2015, but contracts to sell the CO2 for enhanced oil recovery had not been finalized by January 2015. According to MIT's CCS Tech, the project may be cancelled if the sale of CO2 is not finalized by spring 2015 when the project goes before the California Commission for the final vote.[7]

On July 7, 2015, the California Energy Commission (CEC) agreed with company officials to suspend work on the proposal so that SCS Energy could seek out a purchaser for the carbon dioxide. Under the suspension, the company must secure a buyer by January 2016, otherwise the CEC may terminate the project’s application for certification.[8] On July 10, 2015, the DOE said it was withholding US$250 million in stimulus funding that had been allocated for HECA, saying the project had not met certain benchmarks such as securing customers for the enhanced oil recovery portion of the project.[9]

In March 2016 Jim Croyle for Hydrogen Energy California told the California Energy Commission that it was officially withdrawing from the project, citing time delays and regulatory uncertainty.[10] A KGET analysis of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information act showed the $153 million of stimulus funds allocated to the project was spent to create 27 jobs, mostly for consultants--more than $5 million per job.[6]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: SCS Energy
  • Location: Elk Hills (west of Bakersfield), Kern County, CA
  • Coordinates: 35.2274, -119.321 (exact)
  • Status: Cancelled (sponsor withdrew application in March 2016)
  • Capacity: 405 MW
  • Type: Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) with carbon capture and storage
  • Projected in service:
  • Coal Type:
  • Coal Source:
  • Source of financing:



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