Hydrogen generation plant to be a welcome addition

BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA - The Obama administration's announcement that it intends to pump $308 million into a proposed Kern County energy project represents a potential economic shot in the arm for our region.

The Department of Energy's economic stimulus grant will go to help build and operate Hydrogen Energy California — a 250 net-megawatt power plant using an innovative energy and emission control technology that will provide electricity for over 150,000 homes. However, the matching grant really means a $600 million investment now, which will likely grow to be about $2 billion, should state officials approve the project. This will create a partnership between government and industry-leading energy companies which will translate into new jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues for the local economy.

Unlike conventional fossil fuel power plants, Hydrogen Energy California will use a safe form of hydrogen to power turbines. Using hydrogen for power generation means smog-forming emissions will be very low, so the facility should meet the most stringent clean-air standards established for our county.

The hydrogen is obtained by taking petroleum coke left over from refining, along with locally delivered coal, and then converting them to hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Ninety percent of the carbon dioxide — a potent greenhouse gas believed to contribute to global climate change — is then captured and stored deep underground in depleted oil and gas reservoirs.

This "carbon capture and storage" technology, endorsed by the Department of Energy, has been used for years to extend the life of oil fields from Texas to Canada to the North Sea, and it may prove to be helpful in prolonging the life of local fields as well.

The Hydrogen Energy California project is a perfect example why Kern EDC markets this county as part of the Southern California economy. While Hydrogen Energy International, the project's sponsor, had originally planned to site its project in Carson, adjacent to its Long Beach headquarters, the company concluded that Kern County was the ideal location due to its proximity to oil production facilities, appropriate geology for CO2 storage and the necessary infrastructure, including roads, non-potable water resources and electrical transmission lines. The plant is not the only Los Angeles Basin project that has relocated to Kern County over the last year. Men's Wearhouse recently leased the largest vacant industrial building in Bakersfield and brought 250 jobs from its former San Fernando Valley location.

In addition, the project positions Kern County as a cutting-edge leader because successful carbon-capture methods used here can be exported to the rest of the country and the world thanks to California's influence as an environmental innovator. More tangibly, and vitally important to our economy, is the fact that the Hydrogen Energy California power plant will provide 1,500 new jobs during the construction phase with over 100 permanent jobs at completion. With unemployment currently over 14 percent, Hydrogen Energy California represents a new form of energy for America and economic opportunity where it's most needed.


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