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Federal funding critical to energy tech like carbon capture, industry execs say

Federal funding is critical to the development of new, competitive energy technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, according to industry executives speaking at a U.S. Senate hearing.

David Greeson, the project lead of Petra Nova, LLC and the vice president of development at NRG Energy Inc., spoke as a witness at the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on studying cost reductions in emerging energy technologies. He said that the 20% federal funding share through the Clean Coal Power Initiative operated by the U.S. Department of Energy was critical to the development of the plant, which celebrated its grand opening in April.

SNL Image

The Petra Nova carbon capture plant.

Credit: Eric Kayne/Invision/AP

"I can't tell you how important this grant was to the success of the project," he said, adding that "world's largest carbon capture system attached to a power plant" came in on time, and on budget.

Carbon capture project development in the future is facing a number of challenges, particularly with regards to drastically reduced budget request for the 2018 fiscal year from the Trump administration and the announced withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate.

Greeson said Petra Nova is currently capturing 5,000 tons of CO2 a day and injecting it into an oil field that was "almost played out," and through gains in the oil recovery, the plant does not add extra cost to electricity to consumers. This carbon sequestration makes the coal-fired plant's emissions equal to a gas-fired plant, he said.

He thanked lawmakers at the event that supported the 45Q tax credit extension as it would assist companies in coping with the dual challenges of high upfront capital costs and the volatility of oil prices.

"This program, if extended, would help the Petra Nova project and future CCS projects through those two tough challenges."

A number of states and energy groups have spoken out in support of extending the 45Q tax credit benefits for carbon capture projects recently.

Greeson said that the Petra Nova plant is receiving worldwide interest in the project and technology, with a number of international delegations and foreign leaders visiting the plant.

Other witnesses who supported government grants for developing technologies at the event included Greg Merritt, vice president of marketing and public affairs at Cree Inc., and Kevin Yates, president of energy management at Siemens USA.

"Siemens hopes that the U.S. will continue to be a world leader in innovation. Due to the partnerships between universities, laboratories such as those at the world-class Department of Energy, with the U.S. Government, and companies like Siemens, we have experienced ground breaking technological advancements. Continued success in such partnerships is critical to our shared future," Yates said in his written testimony.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said that federal investment in technology helped to develop a number of different new technologies at the hearing. Cantwell and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, both said the government should support investment to the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy rather than cutting funding to the office as the Trump administration proposed in its 2018 fiscal-year budget request.