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The Daily Times toured the San Juan Generating Station. Here's a look inside the coal-fired power plant at the center of the state's energy debate. Farmington Daily Times

Enchant Energy has contracted with three firms that worked together on the successful Petra Nova carbon capture project

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FARMINGTON — The same company that built the carbon capture technology now operating at the Petra Nova plant in Texas will provide the technology for the San Juan Generating Station retrofit.

Enchant Energy announced in a press release on Dec. 10 that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America — a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries — for the carbon capture technology. 

Enchant Energy officials have been teasing the announcement for more than a month and had told state legislators they would make the announcement by the end of the year.

In the press release, Enchant Energy CEO Jason Selch praised Mitsubishi's decades of experience.

More: Selch says plans for carbon capture at power plant will help develop an emerging technology

"MHIA brings world class technology and a record of success in carbon capture," he said. "Their record of successful projects using their amine-based carbon capture technology brings technological effectiveness and operating efficiency."

The patented amine, which Mitsubishi also calls an absorbent liquid, binds to the carbon dioxide and is sent to a regeneration tower where the carbon dioxide is stripped away. The amine can then be reused.

More: Enchant Energy CEO says San Juan Generating Station carbon capture may cost $1.23 billion

Mitsubishi has nearly three decades of carbon capture experience

This technology dates back to the 1990s when Mitsubishi completed its first carbon capture project in 1991 at the Nanko Power Plant in Japan, which is owned by Kansai Electric Power Co. The Nanko Power Plant is a natural gas-fired generating station.

Since then, it has implemented the technology on a dozen other facilities including other natural gas facilities and a fertilizer company in Malaysia

More: Enchant Energy CEO says 'This area could become a leader in CO2 in the world'

It branched out to test the technology on coal-fired power plants. It tested the technology on two demonstration plants in Japan as well as one in the United States — the James M. Barry Electric Generating Plant in Alabama. This led to Mitsubishi's first commercial application of carbon capture on a coal-fired generating station, the Petra Nova Project.

Enchant also partners with Kiewit, Sargent & Lundy

Partnering with Mitsubishi is only one way that Enchant Energy will mirror the Petra Nova Project if it retrofits San Juan Generating Station.

The company has also partnered with Kiewit Power Constructors Co. and Sargent & Lundy for engineering, procurement and construction. Both companies were involved in the Petra Nova Project. Selch highlighted Petra Nova's success, including being awarded power plant of the year in 2016 by the generation trade publication "Power."

Enchant Energy Chief Operating Officer Peter Mandelstam also praised the experience of the three firms Enchant Energy is partnering with on the retrofit.

"In addition, these firms have the stellar safety records and long histories of positive working relationships with labor unions, which are so important to Enchant Energy," Mandelstam said in the press release.

More: Environmentalist joins Enchant Energy's efforts to keep San Juan Generating Station open

Coal-fired power plants looking to carbon capture 

The San Juan Generating Station is one of several coal-fired power plants in the United States that could be retrofitted in the upcoming years with carbon capture technology.

If successful, it will be the largest carbon capture facility. A pre-feasibility report released by Sargent & Lundy earlier this year states the technology could capture 6 million tons of carbon dioxide annually at the San Juan Generating Station. 

Project Tundra in North Dakota aims to retrofit unit 2 of the Milton R. Young Station to capture 3.1 to 3.6 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Unit 2 generates 455 megawatts of power. Construction on Project Tundra is anticipated to begin in 2022 or 2023.

And, in Wyoming, Basin Electric Power Cooperative has plans to retrofit the 385-megawatt Dry Fork Station to capture 3 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Both projects were highlighted in the Global Status of CCS annual report released by the Global CCS Institute this week. The Global CCS Institute is an international think tank focused on promoting carbon capture and storage technology.

More: PNM: Carbon capture at San Juan Generating Station won't provide reliable, affordable electricity

Carbon capture proponents say it is a vital technology for addressing climate change while opponents describe it as an expensive, risky endeavor that is highly-dependent on tax credits.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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