Lindsay Kalter and Tamar Hallerman
GHG Monitor


Residents of two Texas towns southwest of Houston raised questions this week about the placement and safety of a pipeline proposed to connect NRG Energy’s W.A. Parish Generating Station and depleted oil fields near the Gulf of Mexico. The Department of Energy held a pair of hearings this week in the region for the public to ask questions about the proposed project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement, published last month. “There were a few questions about the pipeline, and a few questions about health risks,” National Environmental Policy Act Document Manager Mark Lusk, who attended the meetings, told GHG Monitor this week. “There are valves that monitor pressure [to detect leaks], which we explained. No one really seemed concerned—it was more general questions.” The draft EIS says that the probability of a pipeline puncture is considered very low.

Aside from inquiries about the pipeline’s security, some attendees were curious about the specific route the pipeline will take, according to Lusk. The EIS says that about 85 percent of the route will run along an existing utility right-of-way, which will be expanded to accommodate necessary maintenance and inspection. David Greeson, vice president of NRG’s carbon capture company, Petra Nova, said there were a few residents who approached him at the meetings about possibly rerouting the pipeline so it would include their properties. “They wanted to reroute to their property so they could get the payments,” Gleeson told GHG Monitor. “They’re on that existing right-of-way, and they were hoping for a chance to sell that property again.” The anticipated route will include areas of Fort Bend, Wharton and Jackson Counties, which, according to the EIS, and will run along mostly “sparsely-populated rural and agricultural lands.” The project could begin construction as early as next summer, the utility said.

EOR Could be a Benefit in Gaining Public Support

Project authorities said residents who attended the meetings notably showed little serious concern about the project. This could be attributed to the project’s EOR element and the absence of new plant construction, according to Ted McMahon, the project’s manager at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. “We gave participants the chance to offer formal comments, but no one gave any. We didn’t get any really negative feedback,” McMahon said in an interview. “The EOR generally seems to be a benefit. It’s also an existing plant, so this is an add-on. So there’s no new disturbance to farmland or unused land. It doesn’t seem to provoke much controversy.”

Earlier this year, the capture component of the WA Parish project was more than tripled compared to its initially proposed size. NRG says it will now capture 90 percent of CO2 emissions from up to a 250 MW slipstream from one of the plant’s coal units and transport nearly 1.65 million tons of CO2 roughly 80 miles to Hilcorp's West Ranch oilfield near the Gulf Coast for EOR operations. The project received a $167 million grant from DOE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative in 2009 and is currently the only remaining post-combustion retrofit in DOE’s CCS demonstration project portfolio after American Electric Power pulled the plug on its Mountaineer CCS project in West Virginia last year.



Fluor Corp. said this week that it has been selected by Shell Canada as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the Quest carbon capture and storage project. The company said it will be utilizing its 3rd Gen Modular Execution approach for the $1.35 billion venture, which allows for many of the project’s large units to be constructed offsite and later trucked to the capture unit. “Shell’s confidence in choosing Fluor as its EPC contractor for this first-of-its-kind CCS project is a testament to our long-term, successful business relationships established by building Shell projects in Canada and throughout the world,” Peter Oosterveer, president of Fluor’s Energy & Chemicals Group, said in a statement. “Fluor has more than two decades of experience with carbon capture technologies and the Canadian oil sands industry, so this unique opportunity will demonstrate our project execution abilities to bring clean energy to the marketplace.” Fluor said it has been providing preliminary services and front-end engineering and design for the project since 2009. The company did not disclose the value of the contract but said it booked the deal during the third quarter of this year.

Last month Shell Canada and its project partners Chevron and Marathon Oil formally greenlighted the CCS project, the world’s first carbon capture retrofit onto an oil sands upgrader. The project will capture one million tons of CO2 annually from the consortium’s Scotford Upgrader located near Edmonton, Alberta. That facility processes roughly 250,000 barrels a day of bitumen, or heavy crude oil, produced from Shell, Chevron and Marathon’s Athabasca oil sands project. The CO2 will then be transported roughly 50 miles north via an underground pipeline for injection into a deep saline aquifer. The project, which received $865 million in provincial and federal funding, is beginning construction in earnest this fall and could begin operations by late 2015. In previous interviews, Shell officials said the modularization approach to construction, widely used in the oil sands industry, could help the project save money.