BP and GE Plan Multi-Billion Dollar Clean Hydrogen Power Plants

BP and GE on July 18, 2006, announced plans to jointly develop and deploy 10 to 15 hydrogen power plants that dramatically reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from electricity generation. Vivienne Cox, BP’s Chief Executive of Gas, Power and Renewables, and David L. Calhoun, Vice Chairman of GE and president and CEO of GE Infrastructure, signed the agreement.

These electric power plants are clean alternatives to coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants. Each plant is likely to require an investment of $1 billion and create a new use of hydrogen – generating electricity on a large scale. BP and GE will collaborate on power, carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

Prior to this major announcement, BP had already announced plans for two such hydrogen power projects with carbon capture and sequestration in Scotland and California, both of which will use GE technology. In California, BP and Edison plan to invest $1 billion for a large scale plant in Carson near BP’s current oil-refining operations that heavily use hydrogen to produce cleaner, high-octane gasoline. As a byproduct, the plant is likely to be a low-cost source of hydrogen fuel for the hundreds of hydrogen cars and buses already on the road in California.

The planned 500-MW hydrogen-fueled power plant in Carson, near Los Angeles, would increase use of hydrogen in California by 2 million metric tons per year. Petroleum coke produced at California refineries would first be converted to hydrogen and CO2 gases, then 90% of the CO2 would be captured and separated.

BP and Edison Mission Group, hope to complete detailed engineering and commercial studies for the Carson project in 2006, finalize project investment decisions in 2008 and bring the new power plant online by 2011. Once operational, the Carson project would produce 500MW of low-carbon electricity, enough to power around 325,000 southern California homes. The facility would also capture and permanently store about 4 million tones of CO2 a year.

David Calhoun of GE, “This initiative will demonstrate that our companies’ leading-edge technologies can make hydrogen production efficient, reliable, and economical for large-scale, commercial power production. Our financial strength will ensure it happens now globally, changing the way we envision our energy future.”

“The combination of coal gasification and carbon capture and sequestration is crucial for clean coal development and presents great opportunities for countries with substantial reserves of coal such as the USA, China and India,” says Lewis Gillies, BP’s Director of Hydrogen Power.

If applied to just 5% of the new electricity-generating capacity that the world is projected to need by 2030, this combination of technologies could potentially reduce global CO2 emissions by over 500 million tones of CO2 a year by 2030, equivalent to removing more than 100 million cars from the world’s roads.

John Addison is publisher of the California Hydrogen Report, a Board Member of the California Hydrogen Business Council, and a frequent conference speaker.

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