On completion, the project will capture 1.4 million metric tons (mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) from an existing coal-fired plant in Texas annually, according to officials. The captured elements, in turn, will extract additional, hard-to-access oil from a depleted field 80 miles away, safely storing the carbon underground.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz cited the development within a national mandate. “As part of the president’s approach, the technologies will ensure we develop all our abundant energy responsibly and sustainably,” Moniz said. “With coal to remain a significant part of energy in the U.S. and internationally, first-of-a-kind projects like Petra Nova will move us toward a low-carbon energy future.”

Originally conceived as a 60-megawatt (MW) project for which they received $167 million in support from the Department of Energy, the project sponsors expanded design to capture 240 MW of generation emissions at the Houston-area plant, quadrupling project size, minus additional federal investment.

Petra Nova, added officials, will capture 90% of CO2 based on successfully deployed Department of Energy-sponsored technology, wherein more than 150,000 mt of CO2 were captured from an Alabama power plant over three years.

With this capture rate, added officials, power generation will emit a greenhouse footprint far less than that of a conventional natural gas-powered plant. After compressing and transporting the captured CO2 via pipeline, the greenhouse gas will displace previously unreachable oil. Once the oil is separated from the CO2, the greenhouse gas will be injected back into the underground oil field for permanent storage.