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Recent Updates on the Texas Clean Energy Project

July 19, 2011

One of the greatest challenges facing the nation is finding clean and renewable alternatives for generating electricity to power up industries and communities. The drive towards clean energy is taken up across the country and Texas takes a dynamic part at the helm with its progressive energy stance and initiatives such as the Texas Clean Energy Project (TECP).

Awarded a $450 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2010, the TECP involves the phase-out of old, smog-generating coal plants and replacing them with clean and low-carbon breakthroughs to generate Texas electricity. The project involves the creation of a 400-MW coal-fired Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) facility that would be capable of capturing up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – or approximately 3 million tons per year.

The project is an innovative endeavor that will bring together both new and already commercially proven technologies to capture carbon dioxide emissions. The captures CO2 will then be used to help enhance the recovery of oil from theWestTexasPermianBasin by compressing and injecting it underground. Aside from that, the project and resulting facility will also be capable of producing urea which will be used later as fertilizers.

Issues and Challenges 

Coal is a valuable resource used for generating electricity and about 45% of the total electricity consumed by theUnited States was generated from a coal-fired plant. Power generation using coal produces greenhouse gases that are harmful to the environment. However, concrete initiatives towards clean coal have been met with several issues and challenges, making theUnited States lag behind clean coal initiatives inChina,Germany and Japan.

One such issue is with regulations, with projects such as the TECP taking such a long time to get to the permit stage. Another hurdle is with investments in clean coal technologies as well as bringing together the technological developments in this area from clean-tech corporations and the federal government. Fortunately, the TECP received a significant financial boost from the federal government as well as from large multinational companies to make it the largest investment ever made in clean coal development by theUSgovernment.

Another issue that the TECP would be facing would be the support it would get from utility and Texas electric companies, particularly in their willingness to buy power from the TECP facility. With Texas consumers having the power to choose energy options, the TECP can show utilities that there is a market for clean coal plants, which is less expensive than current wind and solar energy facilities.

TECP Gains Momentum

After the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or TCEQ issued the final air quality permit to the TECP, the project has been steadily gaining ground and momentum in terms of adoption from utilities. One recent example is the 200 MW, 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) signed by the Texas Clean Energy Project and municipally-owned electric and natural gas utility CPS Energy ofSan Antonio.

The agreement will be the forerunner of several other similar agreements expected in the near future, as utility companies would realize the importance of including Texas electricity generated from ultra-low carbon coal power plants as part of their energy portfolio. The TECP, which is developed by the Summit Power Group in cooperation with Siemens, Flour Corporation and Selas Fluid Processing Corporation, is expected to generate up to 2000 new jobs and will be completed by late 2014 or by early 2015.

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