Coal-Burning Power Plant To Give New Life To Texas Oil Field

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About 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide will be captured annually from a coal-burning power plant near Houston. Then the CO2 will be injected into a nearby oil field to help boost crude production.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

There is a coal-burning power plant outside of Houston that ranks among the nation's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide. With pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the plant is hoping to capture that CO2 and use it to boost energy production in an old oilfield. Houston Public Media's Andrew Schneider reports.

ANDREW SCHNEIDER, BYLINE: Two big energy companies, NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas, are announcing the start of construction of the world's largest operation for turning carbon dioxide into something useful. They say the new billion dollar facility will capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide that otherwise would be escaping from the coal-fired W.A. Parish power plant. Instead, workers and equipment will capture the CO2 gas, compress it and then pipe it more than 80 miles away to the West Ranch oilfield near Victoria, Texas. There the gas will be pumped a mile underground. If all goes as planned, the pressure from that gas will be used to free up oil trapped in rock formations. Arun Banskota is CEO of Petra Nova, NRG's wholly-owned carbon capture business. He says West Ranch currently produces about 500 barrels of oil a day.

ARUN BANSKOTA: Once we are able to get carbon dioxide into the West Ranch oilfield, that fuel will produce something in the range of 15,000 barrels a day.

SCHNEIDER: The project marks the first time an existing coal-fired power plant is being refitted with coal gas capture technology. For NPR News, I'm Andrew Schneider in Houston.

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