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Kern Hydrogen Plant Would Use Coal


Withe the backing of the Obama administration a $2.8 billion Kern County energy project would use Utah coal in the San Joaquin Valley to make hydrogen and electric power as well enhance oil recovery and make fertilizer. How can they use coal in our polluted basin?

That’s what the Sierra Club wants to know raising objections about the innovative yet controversial project in recent months.

Its called Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) and here’s the pitch according to the applicant.

“The Hydrogen Energy California project (HECA) will generate clean energy for California while creating jobs and economic and environmental benefits for Kern County. This video describes HECA’s unique method of creating clean hydrogen from coal and petroleum coke, and its “closed loop” process for capturing and safely storing underground 90% of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.” says applicant SCS Energy.

The project is called HECA was formerly owned by Hydrogen Energy International (HEI) jointly operated by BP and Rio Tinto); Fluor, URS and GE Energy The location is Elk Hills  – west of Bakersfield.

SCS Energy agreed to take over the HECA project in May 2011. BP and Rio Tinto had both invested $55 million to lay the groundwork for HECA’s feasibility.
Department of Energy has invested $54 million in the project under a financial assistance agreement with HECA. HECA can access the remaining $354 million in financial assistance under HECA’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI-3) award which is a US $308 million awarded from the DOE in July 2009. The California State Public Utilities Commission also awarded $30 million in February 2009; $17 million of which had been received as of June 2010.
The project would gasify blends of petroleum coke (25 %) and coal (75%) to produce hydrogen to fuel a combustion turbine operating in combined cycle mode. The gasification component would produce 180 million standard cubic feet per day of hydrogen to feed a 400 megawatt gross, 288 MW net combined cycle plant providing California with baseload power to the grid.
The gasification component would also capture approximately 130 MMSCFD of carbon dioxide (or approximately 90 percent at steady-state operation) which would be transported and used for enhanced oil recovery and sequestration (storage) in the Elk Hills Oil Field Unit. The HECA project would also produce approximately 1 million tons of fertilizer for domestic use.
Pollution Questions
While the proponents emphasize the economic benefits- critics point to potential environmental consequences.

A  Sierra Club rally at the Kern County Administration Building
on Truxtun in July,20 residents gathered to speak out against the Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) project followed by a hearing where farmers and others raised serious concerns about the proposed plant. The critics pointed to the shipping of material to the Valley with the resulting pollution.

Sierra Club staff attorney Andrea Issod said “California doesn’t need the electricity that HECA would generate, but it does need better air quality. HECA is a bad investment in an old, dirty fuel that harms people from cradle to grave.”

Issod added, “Redirecting that investment to cleaner renewable technologies would be a much smarter move for California’s energy future.”

Farmers like Franz are also concerned about threats to livelihood. “HECA will cut their prime farmland in half with a rail spur and damage their crops with additional air pollution.” Franz was among several farmers who spoke at the hearing.

Sierra Club letters to the California Energy Commission have questioned the extent of air impacts from the project.

Sorting all this his out is the California Energy Commission who will make the decision if the project moves forward.The California Energy Commission staff will conduct a data response workshop for the proposed Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) project. All interested parties, agencies and members of the public are invited to participate in the workshop which will be held: WEDNESDAY, November 7,2012 3:00 PM 6:00 PM for public questions and comments at the Double Tree Inn , Bakersfield California Room , 3100 Camino Del Rio Court ,Bakersfield, CA 93308.

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