Port Arthur carbon capture project hits milestone

HOUSTON — The U.S. Department of Energy said Friday a carbon capture project in Port Arthur, Texas has reached a key milestone: a million metric tons of carbon dioxide blocked from being released into the air.

The project, which launched in late 2012, captures carbon dioxide emissions from a facility run by Air Products and Chemicals Inc. that produces hydrogen for a nearby Valero facility.

Special equipment to capture the carbon connects to devices known as reformers, which combine fossil fuels and steam at high temperatures to produce hydrogen. The Energy Department said the project captures more than 90 percent of the carbon dioxide released from two reformers. The carbon dioxide is pumped underground where it can be securely stored without being released into the atmosphere.

The technique also has the benefit of improving oil production in mature fields by forcing oil out of the ground. The carbon dioxide from the Air Products and Chemicals facility is transported to the West Hastings oil field, about 20 miles south of Houston, where it’s injected into a reservoir to boost oil production.

The Port Arthur effort is one of three projects — totaling $980 million in public and private investment — that are part of the Department of Energy’s pilot program designed to test the viability of the carbon capture technology. The $431 million Port Arthur project received a $284 million investment from the Energy Department.

The first half of the Port Arthur project began capturing carbon dioxide in December 2012. It continued in March 2013 when the second reformer came online.

To date, the Energy Department’s projects have captured and stored nearly 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the agency announced.

Developing the technology has been a priority for the department and fits into the Obama administration’s broader goals of dramatically reducing carbon emissions.