UK oil major BP and US utility Edison Mission Group (EMG), a subsidiary of Edison International, have announced plans to develop a $1 billion hydrogen-fuelled 500 MW power plant in California.

The first-of-its-kind plant would be located alongside BP’s Carson refinery, about 30 km south of Los Angeles. Petroleum coke produced at California refineries would first be converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide in a gasification process. Around 90% of the CO2 would be captured and transported by pipeline to an oilfield before being injected into oil reservoirs for enhanced oil production and permanent storage of the greenhouse gas. The hydrogen gas would be used to fuel a turbine based gen-set.

BP and Edison hope to complete detailed engineering and commercial studies in 2006, finalise investment decisions in 2008 and bring the plant online by 2011. Final project investment decisions will follow further study by the partners and review by the California Energy Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. BP and EMG are beginning project discussions with state and federal government agencies and local stakeholders and are exploring options for selling the electricity the plant would generate. BP is also in discussions with Occidental Petroleum to develop options for sequestering the CO2 in Occidental’s California oilfields.

The costs of hydrogen power are higher than those of traditional power plant fuels. As a result, the project will depend, in part, on incentives provided in the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, says BP.