FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas - Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Texas Governor Greg Abbott came to Fort Bend County on Thursday to celebrate a $1 billion project they say is slashing carbon pollution.

With the turn of a valve, Energy Secretary Perry and Gov. Abbott helped turn new energy out of an old power plant.  

Perry, back in Texas from the G-7 summit in Italy, spoke Thursday in front of a project he says is the first of its kind in the United States.

The Petra Nova project at the WA Parish Power Plant near Richmond is a key part of the country’s clean energy future, Perry said.

Perry says the project is another step toward making America not only energy independent, but energy dominant.
“It shows we don’t have to pit the environment on one side weighing and the economy on the other side,” said Perry.

NRG partnered with Japanese oil and gas company JX Nippon on the project.

Officials say it captures more than 90 percent of carbon dioxide from a gas stream off an existing coal unit at the plant. It then pipes the CO2 81 miles to an oil field in Jackson County, pushing otherwise unreachable oil to the surface.

Within a few years, NRG officials estimate the project will push production from around 300 barrels a day to up to 15,000 barrels per day.

Officials with NRG say since CO2 began flowing through the pipes in September 2016, about 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per day have been captured, roughly the same as taking 350,000 cars off the road. 

“One-hundred sixteen years after Spindle Top, Texas is once again the epicenter of energy innovation,” said Gov. Abbott.

“All told, they’re capturing about ten percent of the CO-2 from the entire plant,” said Adrian Schelley, Director of Public Citizen Texas, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on energy, the environment, and ethics.

Schelley recently wrapped up a four-year stint as the executive director of Air Alliance Houston.

While he acknowledges limiting carbon dioxide to fight climate change is important, Schelley says this project lowers the efficiency of the plant and doesn’t remove the air pollutants that are causing health problems for Houstonians.

“If I were spending a billion dollars to clean up NRG’s WA Parish plant, I would be spending it on those pollution emissions that we know are shortening lives and harming public health today,” said Schelley. 

He says he and other environmental advocates are also skeptical that the carbon dioxide pumped into the ground will stay there.

In a fact sheet posted online, NRG officials say that any carbon dioxide that rises from the ground and is
“captured from the production well gets recycled, making CO2 emissions negligible.”

Neither Secretary Perry nor Governor Abbott took questions from the media during or after Thursday’s press event.