August 10, 2020 Read More →

Petra Nova shutdown raises more questions about carbon capture future

Washington Examiner:

The temporary shutdown of Petra Nova’s carbon capture unit, the first large-scale application of the technology at a U.S. power plant, is raising questions about whether carbon capture is an economically viable and effective way to reduce emissions.

Critics of the technology say Petra Nova’s pause, driven by low oil prices and demand during the [coronavirus] pandemic, should be a warning for others considering installing the technology on industrial facilities, especially other coal plants. Petra Nova is located just outside of Houston.

“The mothballing of Petra Nova highlights the deep financial risks facing other proposed U.S. coal-fired carbon capture projects,” analysts at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said in a report last week. Those projects include the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico and the Tundra Project in North Dakota, both exploring carbon capture retrofits to keep their coal plants running.

Carbon capture critics are also pointing to a technical report that Petra Nova’s operators, NRG Energy, submitted to the Energy Department back in March. That report, made public last week, shows that Petra Nova experienced 367 days of outages over the three-year period analyzed (2017-2019). The report also shows the carbon capture unit captured less than 10% of the coal plant’s total emissions in 2017 and 2018, the Energy and Policy Institute, a watchdog group, noted in a blog post Thursday. 

[Josh Siegel and Abby Smith]

More: New carbon capture controversy after shutdown of Texas unit

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