Emission reductions, reliability and increased fuel diversity are central to our vision for a sustainable energy future. Over the course of the next decade, new power generation in the U.S. will shift rapidly toward renewables and natural gas. Coal, however, will remain part of the mix as a significant part of the electricity generation portfolio around the world. We believe taking carbon out of existing coal plants is the best way to maintain base-load fuel diversity over the long term.
We've already made significant progress in cleaning up our existing coal power-generating facilities, and we'll further reduce overall emissions by:
- Taking carbon out of key existing coal plants post combustion
- Continuing to install environmental controls at our coal plants
- Repowering inefficient older coal plants with natural gas
In a 50/50 joint venture with JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration, we built the world's largest post-combustion carbon capture project on schedule and on budget at our WA Parish Generating Station southwest of Houston. Petra Nova will use MHI's carbon capture technology known as the KM CDR Process to separate CO2 from coal plant emissions.
But CO2 capture is just the first step. The Petra Nova project will combine carbon capture with enhanced oil recovery to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, increase domestic crude oil production and provide revenue to help pay for the entire system.
NRG and JX teamed with Hilcorp Energy Company to inject captured CO2 from WA Parish into an oil field about 80 miles southwest of Houston. The CO2 acts as a solvent that loosens oil stuck on rock surfaces and enables the oil to flow freely to production wells. Much of the injected CO2 returns to the surface with the recovered oil, where it is separated, recovered and recycled back for reinjection. With each injection, a significant percentage of it is trapped and sequestered underground.
Retrofitting and repowering
Another example of how we're modernizing older coal plants is with backend emission controls (BECs). These post-combustion, emission-reduction technologies, such as scrubbers or desulfurization equipment, eliminate the majority of several contaminants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and particulate matter.
In 2015, we finished installing BECs on the coal units at our 797- MW Waukegan Generating Station. We also retired coal Unit 3 at our Will County Generating Station. At our Powerton plant, we installed BECs on one unit and expect to complete installation on the second unit by the end of 2016.
In the summer of 2015, we completed the conversion of Big Cajun II Generating Station's Unit 2 in New Roads, Louisiana, from coal to natural gas. The conversion significantly reduces mercury, particulate matter and sulfur emissions from the unit and cuts CO2 emissions by nearly 50 percent.
We have natural gas conversion projects underway at two additional locations: New Castle Generating Station in West Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and Shawville Power Plant in Shawville, Pennsylvania. We expect to begin renewed operations at both facilities in 2016.