Calpine unveiled a carbon capture demonstration pilot project July 14 at its natural gas combined cycle plant in Pittsburg, California.  

The project at Calpine’s Los Medanos Energy Center will use a chemical solvent developed by ION Clean Energy to bind with carbon dioxide in the plant’s flue gas. In the case of the pilot, the project will not store the captured carbon and instead release it back into atmosphere. However, in future plants, the CO2 could be pumped and stored underground.

Officials expect the technology to capture up to 95% of carbon emissions while producing power.

“This pilot will help facilitate the energy transition by allowing us to test and come up with the most effective way to decarbonize modern combined cycle flexible natural gas plants,” said Thad Hill, who is Calpine CEO.

The $25 million project is bolstered by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The operational test period for the CCS technology at Los Medanos could take 13 to 15 months, said Andrew Awtry, VP of Engineering at ION Clean Energy.

From there, the findings could help bring the technology to other natural gas-fired plants in California and across the U.S.

“We’re pursuing projects at a number of our sites across the country,” said Hill. “Our goal is to be the leader in carbon capture and sequestration for power plants in this country.”

The unveiling ceremony featured California state, labor, and environmental leaders. 

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) involves removing carbon dioxide, either from the source of pollution or from the air at large and storing it deep underground. In some instances, the CO2 is transported across states through pipelines and stored at facilities and used for other purposes.

The Biden Administration believes large-scale deployment of carbon capture, transportation, and storage infrastructure could play a vital role in reducing emissions and has increased pressure on the CCS industry to show that the technology can significantly help combat climate change.

Proponents say CCS could have a huge role in reducing emissions, while environmentalists note the technology is far from scale and argue that focusing on it distracts from renewable energy solutions.

Rules announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year set caps on carbon dioxide pollution that most coal and gas-fired plant operators would have to meet. The EPA rules would not mandate the use of CCS but are expected to help usher it in.

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