Clean Coal: Carbon Capture and Enhanced Oil Recovery, Part Deux

Guest post by David Middleton

Not quite a year ago (April 18, 2017) I authored a post on the completion of the Petra Nova carbon capture project at the W. A. Parrish coal-fired power plant in Fort Bend County, Texas.  Petra Nova was billed as “the largest post-combustion carbon capture project in the world.”  In addition to capturing CO2 from a very large coal-fired power plant, Petra Nova was also designed to serve a useful purpose: Deliver CO2 for enhanced oil recovery to West Ranch Oil Field in Jackson County, Texas.  The ultimate goal is to boost production in the field from around 500 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) to 15,000 BOPD and recover about 60 million barrels that would otherwise have been left in the ground.

EIA had an update on the carbon capture aspect back in October…

OCTOBER 31, 2017

Petra Nova is one of two carbon capture and sequestration power plants in the world

image of Petra Nova, as explained in the article text

Source: Petra Nova, a joint venture between NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration

The Petra Nova facility, a coal-fired power plant located near Houston, Texas, is one of only two operating power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the world, and it is the only such facility in the United States. The 110 megawatt (MW) Boundary Dam plant in Saskatchewan, Canada, near the border with North Dakota, is the other electric utility facility using a CCS system.


Petra Nova’s post-combustion CO2 capture system began operations in January 2017. The 240-megawatt (MW) carbon capture system that was added to Unit 8 (654 MW capacity) of the existing W.A. Parish pulverized coal-fired generating plant receives about 37% of Unit 8’s emissions, which are diverted through a flue gas slipstream. Petra Nova’s carbon-capture system is designed to capture about 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the flue gas slipstream, or about 33% of the total emissions from Unit 8. The post-combustion process is energy intensive and requires a dedicated natural gas unit to accommodate the energy requirements of the carbon-capture process.

graph of carbon dioxide emission intensity at W.A. Parish Unit 8, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Air Markets Program Data

The carbon dioxide captured by Petra Nova’s system is then used in enhanced oil recovery at nearby oil fields. Enhanced oil recovery involves injecting water, chemicals, or gases (such as carbon dioxide) into oil reservoirs to increase the ability of oil to flow to a well.

By comparison, Kemper had been designed to capture about 65% of the plant’s CO2 using a pre-combustion system. The capital costs associated with the Kemper project were initially estimated at $2.4 billion, or about $4,100 per kilowatt (kW), but cost overruns led to construction costs in excess of $7.5 billion (nearly $13,000/kW). Petra Nova CCS retrofit costs were reported to be $1 billion, or $4,200/kW, and the project was completed on budget and on time.

Principal contributor: Kenneth Dubin


Here’s an update on how the carbon capture project is affecting electricity output at the power plant and oil production in West Ranch Oil Field.


Figure 1.  Output is relatively unchanged.  The greatest demand occurs during May through September when temperatures are highest.  May-Sept 2016: Avg. Temp 82 °F, total output  7,802,898 MWh.  May-Sept 2017 Avg. Temp 80 °F, total output  7,655,403 MWh.   Nameplate capacity is about 4,000 MW and carbon capture only affects 240 MW; so this shouldn’t be a surprise.


Figure 2. The initiation of CO2 injection very quickly boosted oil production in the WEST RANCH (41-A & 98-A CONS.) unit from about 100 BOPD to 3-4,000 BOPD. The August-September period was adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey.

A win-win… Coal-fired power plant keeps the AC running and a thirty-fold increase in oil production from an old field… And the Obama maladministration actually paid for part of this with our tax dollars because of the carbon capture aspect… Priceless.



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Was all of the increase in well production from EOR or were the wells redrilled horizontally and fracked or a little of both?


Do not capture it, let it go. CO2 is life.


It will leak out eventually.

Loren Wilson

Probably not. The reason oil and gas accumulated in that formation is that is sealed above by an impermeable layer of rock. As long as they don’t overpressure the formation, the CO2 should stay there, just like all the methane did.

R. Shearer

Eventually the next glacial period will arrive.


I suspect it will be significantly before then.

R. Shearer

It all depends, for example on local geology and how well the it’s capped. Eventually your fire extinguisher may leak, it doesn’t have to for a very long time but Chinese ones leak sooner.


Mark, natural gas formations have held methane for millions of years without it leaking out. Same with natural CO2 fields. What is a ballpark number in millions of years for your ‘eventually’?


“Mark, natural gas formations have held methane for millions of years without it leaking out. Same with natural CO2 fields”
The ones who didn’t aren’t around any longer. The age distribution of oil/NG reservoirs shows that it all leaks away ultimately.


This isn’t a natural gas field, it’s an oil field.


CO2 is a larger, more polar molecule than methane and should have a lower tendency to leak. It’s movement can also be inhibited by capillary action.


From the above numbers it takes 38% of the energy produced by Unit 8 to remove 90% of the CO2 from the 37% of the flue gases.
This means that 33% of the CO2 is removed by using 38% of the energy produced. To removed 66%, it would take 76%, and to remove 99% takes 115% of the power.
In other words, the net energy out of the system would be -15% of the system power production to sequester all the CO2 produced.
Wow, that’s such a plan, let’s do it more and everywhere!!!!!!!

“Petra Nova CCS retrofit costs were reported to be $1 billion, or $4,200/kW”
I read recently that a new power plant costs around $1000 per KW (not sure how current that figure is). So, the capital expense of this retrofit is FOUR+ TIMES as much as just to generate the electricity! What a waste. (Yes, there is some benefit from the use of the captured CO2, but sill, what a waste.)

If Co2 was other than a life-giving benefit, plant food, and irrelevant to weather and the Climate, this would all make sense.

So they captured 33% of the CO2 from Unit 8’s emissions, while producing extra emissions from the Natural Gas used in the capture process. I see that the CO2 per kWh has come down a bit. What if they installed 2 more of these systems to get the CO2 captured to 90%? Would it just be better to use the natural gas generators to produce electricity?


Diminishing returns gets you, the close you get to 100%.
If the value of the extra oil recovered exceeds the electricity used to capture and compress the CO2, then it makes sense. They were using CO2 to boost oil production long before the global warming nonsense took off.

R. Shearer


Carbon Bigfoot

This is an engineering project that fits the category “….we did it because we could.” I’d love to see the maintenance costs over time recalculating the ROI on a more realist basis. These wet dreams were created in a time of $140/bl.oil created by intermittent shortages. They are no longer relevant or necessary.


I don’t understand the excitement surrounding this project. Dakota Gasification in North Dakota has been doing more or less the same thing since 2000.


Many are talking about the advantages of using 45Q in the new tax law to increase the bottom line. But I always am concerned about subsidies, they can be repealed just as easily as they were enacted.

Bruce Cobb

What happens with the $1 billion CCS system when the West Ranch Oil Field runs dry in about 11 years?

It is interesting that they used the output from all of the Units as the base so that the impact to the output would be minimized. If I am reading this right, it takes 240 MW of power to capture and sequester 90% of the CO2 from 37% of the flue gas for a 654 MW Unit. That does not sound like it will be feasible as a stand alone CO2 removal option for the future. There may be a use for this type of system as long as it is located where the captured CO2 can be used for enhanced oil recovery.
It is also poorly written. The article references the Boundary Dam plant as having CCS, then near the end of the article Kemper is thrown in without reference to what it is.


The steam needed to regenerate the solvent is approximately 20-25% of the 240 MW (MHI, the solvent supplier, keeps the exact numbers close to the chest). So that is a penalty of 48 to 60 MW. The have a combined cycle gas turbine that generated both power and steam for the process. Anything left over goes to the grid.


Saskatchewan’s carbon capture isn’t economic because of the low price of natural gas. link
Saskatchewan is on a collision course with Trudeau Jr. over the carbon tax. link
As always, I’ll be sitting on the sidelines with a big tub of popcorn. It’s nice to see Saskatchewan standing up to the feds. Anyway, I don’t think Trudeau actually cares about ‘carbon pollution’. He just wants to make energy more expensive so he can rescue the world from the big scary ugly capitalist system. The young twerp should really have something viable to replace it with before he tries to get rid of it. Just saying.[/rant] (smoke issues from ears)


I cannot believe that people in Saskatchewan want to prevent their region to be 2º C warmer.
Heck, If I were living in Saskatchewan and if I believed in CAGW, I would be pumping CO2 into the atmosphere like crazy, to make winters shorter and more tolerable. Mean temperatures are below freezing during the whole winter.


Good point, I have long said it is difficult to understand why any Canadian would be stupid enough to worry about global warming. I lived in northern Alberta for a full year and endured minus 40 degrees F. The benefits of warming would be huge for Canada.

R. Shearer

also minus 40 degrees C

John Harmsworth

Speaking as a proud Saskatchewanian I can only take 5 minutes out from shovelling to thank you all for your efforts to halt ASS (Anthropogenic Stupid Spending) but I must also point out that whatever we do with regard to CO2 it appears to have almost nothing to do with temperatures.

IF global warming was real, we should all drive a Peterbilt.

Alan Tomalty

The problem is Trudeau wants to tax carbon high enuf that it will be like a poison to possess.or produce.


What color socks was he wearing? There are only two things he is worried about, his socks and hair.

See essay Clean Coal in ebook Blowing Smoke, or the previous substantially equivalent same title guest post over at Judith’s Climate Etc for backstory and context details. There are two parts to the backstory of the Petra Nova CCS project. First, even with large federal subsidies (in form of outright funding grants), only viable because partial capture of just one unit exhaust stack, sold for tertiary oil recovery in an old nearby field when oil was $100/bbl. (Technical note: most tertiary oil CO2 recovery is supplied from CO2 scrubbed from natural gas prior to pipeline injection using the amine process in a reducing environment—stack gasses are an oxidizing environment where the amine process becomes technically problematic at scale.) Second, large federal subsidies because Obama was desperate to have a working ‘commercially viable’ CCS as required by Clean Air Act (CAA)in order to justify his (unconstitutional) Clean Power Plan. Kemper didn’t qualify because a complete disaster. The CCGT is now fired by nat gas, no coal gasification/syngas fuel as originally planned, no subsequent CCS despite over a billion in federal subsidies. Multibillion losses to Southern despite their successful attempt to subsidy mine via Kemper. Boundary Dam (another partial CCS on one unit to enable tertiary recovery in an old oil field) didn’t quality under the provisions of CAA either. It was a commercial disaster; uptime was so bad that the oil field sued for breach of CO2 supply contract damages.

John Harmsworth

The boundary dam ccs was never designed to be commercially successful. It was installed as the only way to get an operating license to allow the renewal of an operating unit that was 50 years old. The local lignite coal operations are substantial employers and there are 3 plants dependent on a solution to the federal regulatory issue. Politics.


A considerable amount of the CO2 stays in the oil reservoir, and some is recaptured from the produced oil to re-inject it. But you are correct, it was supposed to demonstrate that the technology was “available” so it could eventually be imposed on coal units.

Sequestering CO2 is folly.

R. Shearer

Trees to houses do a pretty good job.

Neil Jordan

Tiny \sarc follows. For every evil atom of carbon sequestered, two beneficial atoms of oxygen are also sequestered. This doesn’t seem wise.


Yes I call it Oxygen sequestration since there is twice as much Oxygen as Carbon.
Makes no sense unless other energy is released and it is economic.

R. Shearer

about 67% O on a mole basis and about 73% by mass

Alan Tomalty

Seems a a real shame to not release the CO2 into the atmosphere. The plants around the world are crying for more CO2.

R. Shearer

Where is your pilot, demo or commercial plant?


So, now we’ve got a pressurized system ?
It might take more than duct tape 🙂


Nothing, not even the gargantuan renewables delusion, characterises the utter madness of the great global warming swindle than CCS. There it is, CO2. A beautiful, clean, invisible, odourless trace gas without which we’d all be dead. You would need an electron microscope to detect any causative correlation with global temperature, if indeed there is any. Certainly, for 2 decades there was none. Yet mad people want to spend billions BURYING it.
They talk about the HELE (high energy low emissions) alternative. Well I for one would be satisfied to see taxpayers’ dollars spent instead on HEHE technology. Let the CO2 go! And the more of it the better.


Much of the CO2 they are collecting will end up back into the atmosphere eventually. A much more effecient way to reduce CO2 emissions from these power plants is to shut them down completely and leave the fossil fuels that was going to be burned in them, in the ground.

Loren Wilson

Are you volunteering to either go nuclear or go without? There are billions of people who go without due to poverty and bad government. We live in one of the few countries that broke the mold. If you want to live without modern comforts and necessities, please do so, but don’t deny me the benefits of reasonably-priced energy.


Sure but rather than kill the world economy just kill half the worlds population guaranteed to reduce CO2 emissions and far easier.

R. Shearer

Or kill everyone and they won’t need heat, electricity, fuels for transportation, agriculture, food or fertilizer for crops for that matter.

Leo Smith

Yep, Disintemediation. Cut out the middle man. Just nuke the plebs NOW

Alan Tomalty

A lot of people will freeze to death without fossil fuel plants. Dont forget the nuclear plants only produce electricity at a price far higher than burning natural gas to heat your home. Only coal and hydroelectric power can compete with that.

Patrick MJD

I have been trying to find information and links to the IPCC where they state emissions from human activities account for ~4% of the ~400ppm/v CO2, but I can’t find any. I am sure there were before. Any ideas?

Patrick MJD


Patrick MJD

Not quite what I was looking for but thanks anyway.

Pre-industrial atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in the current interglacial period were approximately 280 ppm. We’re now at 400+ ppm and rising steadily. The overwhelming majority of that rise is from human activities.

“Just avout every other method of estimating preindustrial CO2 indicates that Holocene CO2 routinely exceeded 300 ppm.”
Such as the estimates of Zbigniew Jaworowski?

These Greenland ice cores?
“Initial measurements of CO2 concentrations (1530 to 1940 AD) in air occluded in the GISP 2 Ice Core from central Greenland”
“The results for preindustrial times indicate constant atmospheric CO2 levels of 280±5 ppmv between 1530 and 1810 AD.”

“There isn’t a single value…”
Of course there is. I’m asking you for the most probable *average* global atmospheric concentration for the 1000 years prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution.
So get whatever local concentrations you think existed over that time period, weigh them however you think is appropriate to determine a global average concentration for any particular year, average the whole mess over the 1000 years, and come up with a number.
Saying that there is no one single most probable average global atmospheric concentration over the 1000 years prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution is like saying there was no single most probable global average atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2017.

You’re saying that it is not possible to come up with a single value for the most probable average atmospheric CO2 concentration for the 1000 years prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution?!

There *is* a single value that represents the most probable average atmospheric CO2 concentration over the 1000 years prior to the Industrial Revolution.
What do you think that value is?

“Then show us the math, rather than babbling.”
You seem to be very confused about how science works. I quoted the scientific consensus that the pre-industrial CO2 concentration was 280 ppm. How much of a consensus is it? It’s so much of a consensus that people as disparate as the U.S. NOAA Earth System Research Lab (ESRL) and Craig Idso simply state it as fact: –>”Before the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, global average CO2 was about 280 ppm.” –>”Driven primarily by gaseous emissions produced from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal,
gas and oil, the air’s CO2 content has risen steadily from a mean concentration of about 280
parts per million (ppm) at the onset of the Industrial Revolution in 1800…”
*You* are the one objecting to the 280 ppm value. If *you* disagree with the consensus value, *you* should do the math. Or politely ask someone to help you if you’re unable to do it.
P.S. Just eyeballing all the data, I’d get maybe…282 ppm?

In the 1000 years prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution, what is your best guess for the average global atmospheric CO2 concentration?

And of that range, what is your guess for the most probable single value?

Oops. I put these comments in the wrong place:
“There isn’t a single value…”
Of course there is. I’m asking you for the most probable *average* global atmospheric concentration for the 1000 years prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution.
So get whatever local concentrations you think existed over that time period, weigh them however you think is appropriate to determine a global average concentration for any particular year, average the whole mess over the 1000 years, and come up with a number.
Saying that there is no one single most probable average global atmospheric concentration over the 1000 years prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution is like saying there was no single most probable global average atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2017.

Gary Pearse

Take home: The much maligned USA leads the world in CO2 emissions reduction and the only two Carbon capture projects are in North America and the US one is making a profit! You gotta love em.That I didn’t know after all the Global yapping about Carbon Capture coming out of the UN/EUSSR.
Without the US, we would all tumble into a Dark Ages lasting a thousand years before we could remount the revolutions, rediscover the world is round to refind freedom and free enterprise in a second go at Enlightenment and re-emergence into prosperity. Thank Donald for saving a pitiful world from the brink.

GREG in Houston

I haven’t read through all of the comments, so forgive if this is repeat: How much CO2 is released by the otherwise unproducible oil? How does this compare to the CO2 captured? And how much of the captured CO2 is released during oil production?


Starving plants by capturing carbon?
Abject stupidity.
Indirect genocidal ignorance.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Naryn

I think this is on-topic:
From the IEA Clean Coal Centre
“We are pleased to announce that the IEA Clean Coal Centre’s 8th Workshop on Cofiring Biomass with Coal will be held at the Admiral Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the 11-13 September 2018, with sponsorship from COWI A/S. The workshop will begin on Tuesday 11 with an optional power plant visit, after which we will have a welcome reception. This is followed by two days of technical sessions and keynotes from leading figures in the industry. Our event offers an excellent opportunity for delegates to mix with other people from government agencies, regulators, utilities, consultants, equipment suppliers and academia.”
“The workshop will cover all topical issues on cofiring biomass with coal, and papers are invited on any aspect of the subject. As China, India and South Africa are keen to expand their cofiring, we especially welcome knowledge transfer to help them use farm and forestry wastes rather than wood pellets, as well as supportive policies from a developing country perspective. Large scale demonstration projects of cofiring in coal-fired power plants are always well received at our workshops. We invite you to submit your abstract by 30 April 2018 to Ms Xing Zhang (”
IEA Clean Coal Centre | Apsley House, 176 Upper Richmond Road, London, SW15 2SH, United Kingdom | +44 (0)20 3905 3870


It might sound stupid, but what about just cooling the exhaust of a coal power plant and feeding it into a greenhouse large enough?


I believe that is being done in The Netherlands.

R. Shearer

It’s being done globally right now. Some call it Gaia; some call it Earth.

Leo Smith

There is a way to get an almost pure CO2 stream off a coal fired power plant, such that the CO2 doesn’t need capturing -it is the total flue gas.
And that is done by extracting the oxygen from the air and using that alone to fuel combustion, using a reversible metal oxide reaction.
It’s known as chemical looping.
It actually makes coal burning more efficient too.
That’s why no one is using it.


The first mention of the words “fluidised bed processing” sends most engineers screaming for the hills!


Some “standard” fluidized-bed coal plants are actually running, show good performance and eliminate scrubbers, catalytic-conversion crap & even precipitators (replaced by simpler bag-houses). Unfortunately there’s little money/incentive to continue developing the technology, as CO2 itself is the bogey-man now. Class these wonderful engineering breakthroughs along w/nuclear plants as forbidden by our ecological-marxist masters.


Does it take more energy to extract the oxygen from the air, or the CO2 from the exhaust?


Chemical looping is still very much in the development stage.

Dave Kelly

To Leo Smith March 8, 2018 at 10:57 pm
Chemical looping is in the developmental stages. Like any other technology’s it has advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few of the perceived disadvantages.
1) The cost of the metal used matters. The source you cited uses nickel and provides copper as an alternative. Given the volume of metals required, that’s perceived as a too expensive. There is a iron version of the technology I tend to keep my eye on.
2) The wear and tear of the metallic catalyst on the vessels in which the fluidized beds are occurring are thought to be considerable. So, there are serious maintence/re-build concerns
3) The wear and tear of the metallic catalyst on itself, as it flows thru a fluidized bed, is a serious cost concern.
4) The thought of losing the fluid flow and ending up with a tall vessel full of settled metal oxidizes – which may not re-fluidize – is a shift engineer’s worst nightmare.


Interesting as always.
the post-combustion process is energy intensive and requires a dedicated natural gas unit to accommodate the energy requirements of the carbon-capture process.
Wow. As they say, it’s worse than I thought. I think what this is illustrating is the possibility, depending on eventually analyses of cost/benefits, that carbon-capture might be cost effective if a specific use of the CO2 is right nearby, such as this case. And only as long as the “use” is available — one has to wonder how long the CO2 injection into the wells will yield benefits.