Hydrogen Energy, a joint venture between BP and the Rio Tinto Group, will be developing the world’s largest hydrogen power plant in Abu Dhabi. The tiny oil producing nation stands to benefit from the hydrogen power plant with lower emissions and increased oil and natural gas production.
The 420 MW plant will steam reform natural gas into hydrogen and CO2. The hydrogen will be used to create clean electricity. The CO2 will be captured and piped back into the oil field. The CO2 will provide needed pressure in the fields to force out more oil and natural gas, increasing production. The CO2 will remain in the oil fields under impenetrable rock.
Hydrogen Energy says that 1.7 million tons of CO2 per year can be transported and stored back into the oil fields. The amount of electricity produced will be around 5 to 7-percent of Abu Dhabi’s needs, which are expected to rise to 16 gigawatts by 2014.
Hydrogen Energy also has similar projects in California and Australia. In California, Hydrogen Energy has teamed up with Southern California Edison, the local power company to build a 500 MW hydrogen plant at Carson, which will be fueled by petroleum coke. The plant, which could be online by 2012 will supply power to 325,000 residents, helping SoCal Edison to achieve their alternative energy mandate.
In Australia, Hydrogen Energy is constructing a hydrogen power plant in Kwinana, just south of Perth. This plant will use coal gasification for fuel and will be the world’s first power facility to store CO2 in a saline formation. A similar project is the U. S. government’s $1.4 billion FutureGen Initiative that will be building a hydrogen power plant in Mattoon, Illinois.
There is almost a poetic nature to this process. We extract fossil fuels from deep underground, capture the hydrogen for clean electricity and then put the remaining CO2 back underground where it has been for thousands of years. This energy cycle, while not renewable, may be useful transitional technology for many years to come.