The Commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) voted unanimously to grant the air quality permits necessary for the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center under development near Sweetwater, Texas, to begin construction.
“This is a red letter day, for the project,” Tenaska representative Greg Kunkel, said, in an interview with the Sweetwater Reporter.
Trailblazer will be the first new-build carbon capturing coal plant in Texas to receive an air quality permit – a critical approval that opens the door for future construction of the energy center. State-of-the-art technology at the plant will capture 85 to 90 percent of the plant’s carbon dioxide (CO2) and greatly minimize other emissions.
“Trailblazer will provide electricity for Texans in a safe and environmentally responsible way,” said Tenaska Development President David Fiorelli. “At the same time, the plant will promote energy security by using the most abundant fossil fuel to generate baseload electricity and increase Permian Basin oil production in West Texas by providing a valuable supply of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.”
“Tenaska is proud to be leading the way, not only in the United States but across the globe, to commercialize this proven technology that can help provide the clean energy the world is seeking in a cost-effective way,” Fiorelli continued.
The project is already receiving international attention, having been awarded a $7.7 million grant from the Australia-based Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute and featured in a series about clean energy aired internationally by the British Broadcasting Company.
“This is basically the key construction permit,” Kunkel said. “It will allow us to proceed with the engineering and contract work.”
Among the environmental features of the project is Tenaska’s commitment to use dry cooling technology to reduce Trailblazer’s water use by 90 percent. The Trailblazer Energy Center would be the first large-scale coal project in Texas to use dry cooling. Citing the contributions the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center would make to more environmentally responsible, water-conserving energy production, the Environmental Defense Fund in April this year withdrew its opposition to the project’s air quality permit application.
Construction and operation of the $3.5 billion 600-megawatt (net) plant will provide an immense economic boost to West Texas, bringing up to 1,500 jobs at the peak of construction, more than 100 permanent jobs when the plant is in operation, and at least another 70 full-time jobs in the community itself.
Nolan County Judge Tim Fambrough and Sweetwater Mayor Greg Wortham attended the TCEQ meeting to make statements of support for the plant’s permit.
Trailblazer’s air quality permits are required in order to begin construction on the power plant. However, a number of other tasks and contracts must be completed before construction can begin, including engineering and design studies, securing customers for the electricity and CO2, and securing state, federal and local incentives designed to encourage development of carbon capture and storage projects. Internationally recognized energy contractor, Fluor Corporation, based in Irving, Texas, is performing engineering and design work.
“We are excited to be moving forward,” Kunkel said.
According to Kunkel, the next hurdles will be lining up the contracts and getting the economic impacts in place.
Tenaska has developed approximately 9,000 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity across the United States. Tenaska’s affiliates operate and manage eight power plants in six states totaling more than 6,700 MW of generating capacity owned in partnership with other companies. Tenaska Capital Management, an affiliate, provides management services for stand-alone private equity funds, with nearly $5 billion in assets, including nine power plants (with approximately 5,400 MW of capacity), and multiple natural gas midstream assets, including storage gathering and processing facilities.
Tenaska is applying proven pre- and post-combustion technologies on a commercial scale in its two environmentally responsible clean coal projects. Taylorville Energy Center will convert Illinois coal into clean-burning substitute natural gas, use it to generate electricity and capture more than 50 percent of the plant’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Trailblazer Energy Center in Nolan County, Texas, is expected to be the first commercial scale, conventional coal-fueled power plant in the world to capture 85 to 90 percent of its CO2 after combustion. This plant’s success would demonstrate how existing plants in the U.S. and China could be retrofitted cost-effectively with this carbon-reducing technology. Tenaska is repeatedly cited in benchmarking studies by the Natural Resources Defense Council as having among the best fleet-wide records in the United States for controlling emissions. For more information about Tenaska, visit www.tenaska.com .