Enchant Energy’s San Juan project at center of debate over new carbon dioxide rules

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Enchant Energy will have to comply with the new carbon dioxide emission limits if it succeeds in acquiring the rights to own and operate the San Juan plant.

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Council on Friday approved a new carbon dioxide emissions rule for coal-fired power plants that will go into effect Jan. 1.

The decision came after two days of hearings in Farmington that led to several changes to the draft rule proposed by the New Mexico Department of the Environment.

The carbon dioxide regulations are the result of the Energy Transition Act, which limits carbon dioxide emissions to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour after January 1, 2023. This limit will be calculated on a rolling 365-day average.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Sargent & Lundy’s senior environmental consultant, Ken Snell, said Farmington and Enchant could operate the power plant at higher emission levels above 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour at start, then offset those high emissions by reducing emissions later. on. Engineering firm Sargent & Lundy performed contract work for Enchant Energy.

Enchant Energy announced plans to operate the power plant while installing carbon capture technology.

Board member Karen Garcia said the debate over whether to use net or gross power generation as the standard was the hardest part of the whole rule.

Since the operation of the carbon capture system will use a large portion of the electricity produced at the plant, it would be easier for Enchant Energy to meet the emission standards by using a raw standard that takes into account any electricity generated at the plant rather than just electricity supplied to the grid.

Enchant Energy has publicly stated that once the carbon capture upgrade is complete, the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions will be well below the 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour requirement and the equipment will be able to capture 90-95% of the carbon dioxide generated.

“This stuff is going to work and work big, or it won’t work… If they have a winning formula, a 30% handicap won’t really affect them, or it shouldn’t,” said William Honker, member of the board of directors. about carbon capture technology and baseline estimates that at least 30% of the energy generated will be required to operate the equipment. While 25-30% was mentioned at the meeting, a front-end engineering design study contains higher estimates.

Enchant Energy objected to using net – or considering only power sent to the power grid – rather than gross.

Snell said a net standard disadvantages facilities like San Juan that plan to use electricity generated by the coal-fired power plant.

In contrast, the Petra Nova project that operated for several years in Texas had a natural gas unit that fed the carbon capture system. Snell said an auxiliary power source like a natural gas unit to power carbon capture technology would not be subject to the same carbon dioxide emission caps that the coal plant must meet.

The council has rejected some of the emissions monitoring equipment requirements proposed by conservationists, including some aimed at quantifying fugitive emissions. Council members said these requirements could be overly burdensome.

The board also rejected a proposal that would have required Enchant Energy to cease operations until corrections could be made if the San Juan plant exceeded an average rate of 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour for two months.

Whether Enchant Energy will ever have the chance to prove that carbon capture technology could work at the San Juan plant remains to be seen.

Enchant Energy and its partner, the City of Farmington, have yet to negotiate a transfer of the 95% ownership shares that Farmington does not own.

The coal mine that supplies the power plant with fuel closed earlier this year and is being sealed.

The majority of power plant workers have been laid off and many have found new job opportunities.

Additionally, some of the infrastructure that brings water from the San Juan River to the power plant is being reallocated as part of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and water rights that the operator of the factory, Public Service Company of New Mexico, leased to the Jicarilla. Apache Nation will no longer be available. The Jicarilla Apache Nation will instead lease that water to the state to aid in the recovery of endangered species and to meet obligations under agreements like the Colorado River Compact.

The carbon capture upgrade will increase the amount of water needed to run the power plant.

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