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NRG Energy to get up to $154M from government to install carbon dioxide capture system

Mar 10, 2010 - Elisabeth Souder and Dave Michaels - dallasnews.com

NRG Energy Inc . won up to $154 million in funding from the Department of Energy to install a system to capture carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant.

The building plans fit with NRG's view that carbon dioxide emissions will eventually be regulated. And the award comes as NRG has ramped up its lobbying presence in Washington since signing onto a campaign to pass comprehensive climate-change legislation.

NRG plans to install the equipment at its WA Parish plant, near Houston , and to begin operating the system in 2013. The DOE funding would pay for up to half of the installation.

The company plans to sell the carbon dioxide to oil companies to inject into aging oil fields to boost production.

"Development and deployment of these carbon capture technologies at scale, not only in the United States but also worldwide as well, is essential if we are to meet successfully the challenge of global climate change," NRG chief executive David Crane said in a prepared statement.

Crane frequently testified before House and Senate committees writing the climate-change legislation. A House bill that passed in 2009 was widely viewed as softening the blow on utilities that use coal in their power plants.

The New Jersey-based utility spent $910,000 on lobbying in 2009, according to Senate records. It spent $300,000 just during the fourth quarter of 2009, when it lobbied on a host of incentives available to energy companies, including loan guarantees for nuclear plants and renewable energy projects.

NRG has maintained its membership in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of businesses and environmental organizations that played a big role in shaping the House bill.

The carbon capture unit NRG plans to build would take in flue gas from about 60 watts of power plant capacity, about one-tenth of the size of one coal unit at the Parish plant.

The new project, which will use Fluor Corp. technology, would capture about 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from the gas it takes in.

Elizabeth Souder reported from Dallas , Dave Michaels from Washington.