Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and GE executives including John Krenicki, CEO of GE Energy (right) at the May 24th “Green Is Universal” media event in Los Angeles. GE, BP "Answer The Call"
By Lyn Corum

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and GE executives including John Krenicki, CEO of GE Energy (right) at the May 24th “Green Is Universal” media event in Los Angeles.

GE Energy and BP, the oil company formerly known as British Petroleum, announced their alliance on May 24 at a “Green is Universal” media event in Los Angeles. They plan to jointly develop and deploy technology for at least five power plants that would produce and burn hydrogen and sequester CO2, thereby reducing emissions by 90 percent.

The first plant for the alliance is the $1-billion, 500-MW IGCC plant in Carson, California, adjacent to BP’s refinery. Petroleum coke from the refinery will be gasified to convert it to hydrogen and sequester the carbon. The hydrogen will fuel the turbines to produce power. An estimated four million tons per year of CO2 will be piped to and injected into oil reservoirs where it will be permanently stored. The CO2 storage will facilitate recovering oil previously unrecoverable. Enhanced oil recovery should provide the market needed for carbon capture and sequestration to be cost effective.

BP announced it was forming a new company, Hydrogen Energy, to be jointly owned with Rio Tinto, an international minerals group, to identify, build and operate hydrogen power plants with carbon capture and storage. Lewis Gillies, CEO designate of Hydrogen Energy, made the announcement at the media event. The agreement with GE Energy will be transferred to Hydrogen Energy when the company’s formation is complete.

BP also said the location of its proposed Kwinana IGCC plant, (see Hydrogen: Key For Climate Change, adjacent column) which is also near Rio Tinto’s Hismelt plant and other industrial operations, may allow it to enjoy revenue streams that will improve the commercial viability of the project. Increasing power demand combined with growth in the Perth area will provide an attractive market for new power generation there.

However, the project will not see ground-breaking soon, since BP is expecting some unspecified government support not yet available because of the project’s cost burden. The $1.5-billion development will begin with feasibility studies and proceed to detailed engineering and commercial studies. A final investment decision to develop the project is not expected until 2011, with the project becoming operational following three years of construction.

GE’s gasification technology utilizes a chemical process that forms CO2 and hydrogen out of a reaction of carbon monoxide with water. The CO2 is scrubbed into a separate concentrated stream and the hydrogen is burned in a combined-cycle turbine to produce power. Hydrogen fuel is now being burned in 24 GE gas turbines with content ranging from 50 to 95 percent. The goal is to integrate these key components into a total IGCC carbon capture power plant.

Several IGCC projects are being pursued in the midwest states by TECO and Duke among others. The region has an abundance of hard bituminous coal with sulfur content needed for the gasification process. Powder River Basin coal has low sulfur content and is not appropriate for current gasification technology.

In January 2007, affiliate GE Energy Financial Services announced it was taking a 20% stake in Erora Group’s 677-MW Cash Creek IGCC project in Kentucky. Construction is expected to begin in late 2007, pending financial close and required project approvals. Commercial operation is expected to begin by 2011. Erora decided to develop the project independently of GE and bought an IGCC license from the company.