Frequently Asked Questions
What are the proposed Las Brisas Energy Center and the Las Brisas Terminal projects?
Las Brisas is planning to construct and operate a 1,320 megawatt electric generating facility and upgrade the existing bulk terminal at the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas. The proposed electric generating facility will consist of four 330 megawatt circulating fluidized bed boilers that will use petroleum coke as the primary fuel. The bulk terminal will increase the port traffic by three-fold.
What is the estimated cost of the projects?
The total estimated cost of the projects is about $3.2 billion, making it the largest single capital investment in the history of Corpus Christi.
What is the expected impact on the local economy?
According to local economic development officials, this will be an economic “game changer” for Corpus Christi, Nueces County, neighboring communities. Information contained in separate economic impact studies commissioned by the Corpus Christi Economic Development Corporation and Chase Power, the project will have the following impacts on the local economy over the first 10 years:
- $900,000,000+ in local spending
- $400,000,000+ in local tax revenues
- 1300+ direct and 2600+ indirect jobs for local workers over the 4-5 year construction period
In addition, due to long term contracts these jobs are recession proof and will not be exposed to economic downturns.
What kind of job opportunities will there be for workers in the area?
Five Year Construction Phase
- Will create 1,300+ construction jobs
- Additional 2,600+ jobs to support construction
Long Term Employment
- Will create 80-100 permanent full time jobs
- 150-175 indirect jobs
- Starting annual salaries averaging $75,000
- Excellent healthcare and retirement benefits
How does this project compare to other past or potential future projects
in the Coastal Bend Region?
Compared to other projects such as back office, headquarters, or other high-employment/low capital investment projects, the Las Brisas projects will generate many times the tax revenue and will require much less burden on city, county, and school budgets. A comparison of the economic impact for a 500-employee back office project that was recently considering the Corpus Christi area versus the Las Brisas projects is below.
What is the fuel source for generating electricity at the power plant and
where does it come from?
Las Brisas Energy Center will be using petroleum coke, which is a byproduct of the refining process. The three local refineries generate petroleum coke that can be used by Las Brisas to produce low-cost base load power for the Corpus Christi region. Otherwise, this petroleum coke is shipped abroad as a fuel source to benefit international consumers. Additionally, the international facilities are not equipped with stringent emissions control technology, meaning greater global air quality impact.
What is an “attainment area” and how does this project affect the area
in Corpus Christi / Nueces County?
An attainment area is a zone within which the level of a pollutant is considered to meet United States National Ambient Air Quality Standards. With the use of state-of-the-art circulating fluidized-bed technology, Las Brisas is designed to minimize environmental impacts and therefore will not affect Corpus Christi’s local attainment zone.
Why can’t the project owners use gasification or IGCC technology in the plant?
Gasification technology is not new and has been used to convert a variety of hydrocarbons, coal, and petroleum coke into a synthetic gas (syngas) for more than 50 years. IGCC or Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants combine or integrate several technologies, namely gasifiers, combustion turbines, and steam turbines. Despite some public promotions by some sellers of the technology, the integration of these technologies is still new and evolving.
Uncertainties, including but not limited to the lack of performance guarantees or guarantees that are not at the same level as vendor guarantees for other technologies; the lack of a standard plant design; and significantly higher capital costs have delayed the development and implementation of IGCC. Other engineering challenges include but are not limited to long start up times, excessive downtimes, and unacceptably short service lives for the materials used to construct gasifiers. Also, because gasifiers are unreliable, redundancy, specifically, a second gasifier, is required to maintain any hope for successful commercial operation of IGCC plants. These factors limit the reliability and cost effectiveness of gasification as a means to generate electric power.
As of October, 2007 in the U.S., five planned IGCC projects had been cancelled, including one considered for the Corpus Christi site now planned for the Las Brisas CFB project, and four more had been put on hold. Many more planned IGCC projects have been cancelled during 2008, citing significantly higher capital costs, lack of performance certainty and reliability. In addition, the widely competed for DOE Future Gen project (Texas was a finalist but lost in the final round of DOE consideration despite adopting laws and rules to expedite the environmental permitting of such a project) was also cancelled in January 2008 when the predicted cost approximately doubled the original cost estimate.
It is indisputable that IGCC technology creates added risk and cost in the pre-construction engineering phase, construction of the plant, and the plant’s performance. Consequently, the remaining IGCC project proposals are to be in regulated markets where the additional costs can be passed onto the consumer. A recent, but by no means unique example is the Duke Energy Corp. 630 MW IGCC plant under construction near Edwardsport, Indiana. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune, November 22, 2008, reported that the plant's original cost was estimated at $1.3 billion but current estimates approach $2.35 billion (and are increasing) or about $3.7 million per MW. Furthermore, the article explained that Duke's customers can expect an approximately 18% percent rate increase to pay for the IGCC plant, despite over $460 million in government tax breaks. Ironically, in apparent disregard for the purported environmental benefits of IGCC and in opposition to the project, Sierra Club commented: “once you do all the cost assessments, the fact is this [referring to the IGCC project] is going to gouge ratepayers. The cost of this just continues to skyrocket.”
How will local schools be impacted by the project?
The project will be located in Corpus Christi ISD. As a result, CC ISD will enjoy a virtual “windfall” of new tax revenues.
Who supports the projects and why?
The Corpus Christi City Council, Nueces County Commissioners Court, and the Port of Corpus Christi have all passed resolutions in support of this “landmark project.” Many other local industrial and business organizations are behind the project, as well. All of these organizations and community leaders understand that this is a historic project, which can put Corpus Christi on the global map. They have expressed support because of the huge financial and economic impact, the opportunity for high-paying jobs and because they understand that the best available environmental technology approved by all environmental agencies is being utilized by the project.
Statements have been made regarding Mercury and Lead air emissions.
How will the company control these?
Mercury and other emissions from power plants have been studied extensively by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In fact, through the federal Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, Congress required EPA to conduct a thorough study of air emissions, including mercury, from power plants. EPA completed the study and concluded the following regarding mercury emissions:
- Mercury in the air is a global problem. While fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest remaining source of human-generated mercury emissions in the United States, they contribute only a small amount (about 1 percent) of total annual mercury emissions worldwide.”*
- “Recent estimates of annual total global mercury emissions from all sources -- both natural and human-generated -- range from roughly 4,400 to 7,500 tons per year. Human-caused U.S. mercury emissions are estimated to account for roughly 3 percent of the global total, and U.S. coal-fired power plants are estimated to account for only about 1 percent.”*
- “The United States is leading an effort within the United Nations Environment Programme to create a program that would establish partnerships designed to help developing countries reduce mercury emissions.”*
- “EPA has conducted extensive analyses on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and subsequent regional patterns of deposition to U.S. waters. Those analyses conclude that regional transport of mercury emission from coal-fired power plants in the U.S. is responsible for very little of the mercury in U.S. waters.”*
- “U.S. coal-fired power plants emit mercury in three different forms: oxidized mercury (likely to deposit within the U.S.); elemental mercury, which travels hundreds and thousands of miles before depositing to land and water; and mercury that is in particulate form.”*
- “Atmospheric mercury falls to Earth through rain, snow and dry deposition and enters lakes, rivers and estuaries. Once there, it can transform into, methylmercury, and can build up in fish tissue” and “Americans are exposed to methylmercury primarily by eating contaminated fish.” *
* All quotes are from EPA’s webpage found at http://www.epa.gov/air/mercuryrule/basic.htm
The Las Brisas main boiler technology is inherently lower in mercury emissions than other more conventional boiler designs. circulating fluidized-bed (CFB) boilers have a lower exhaust or flue gas temperature. This lower temperature causes mercury compounds to condense in the exhaust stream and allows potential mercury emissions to be captured by several emission control devices that will be “downstream” of the main boilers.
As a general matter, mercury can be emitted in flue gas in either a gaseous or particulate form. The reduced CFB flue gas temperature (described above) will result, through condensation, in a greater proportion of mercury in particle form and less mercury as a gas. The scrubber emission control system will also serve to condense mercury compounds and, together, these features of the Las Brisas design will considerably enhance mercury collection by the fabric filter particulate control. Mercury in the particulate form is removed very efficiently (upwards of 99%) by the fabric filter control (sometimes referred to as a “baghouse”) proposed by Las Brisas.
Finally, while a fabric filter will serve to absorb some of the gaseous elemental mercury, Las Brisas is not stopping with this method of control and is proposing the most aggressive method of mercury control commercially available. The proposed activated carbon injection system (ACI) will deliver powdered activated carbon into the flue gas to absorb the gaseous or vaporized mercury fraction. After the carbon adsorbs the gaseous mercury from the flue gas, it is captured by the highly efficient fabric filter with the other particulate matter.Lead
As part of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) air permit process, Las Brisas will demonstrate compliance with all National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) through conservative emissions modeling that tends to over-predict the actual offsite concentrations. Regarding lead, based on preliminary modeling, the conservatively predicted off-site ambient lead concentration attributable to the Las Brisas project will be approximately one-tenth of one percent (0.10%) of the new established lower NAAQS (0.00015 µg/m3 versus the 0.15 µg/m3 standard). The low lead ambient concentration derives from the fact that the Las Brisas main boilers will emit lead in the form of particulate matter that is very efficiently removed (upwards of 99%) by the fabric filter control (sometimes referred to as a “baghouse”) proposed by Las Brisas.
In sum, Las Brisas preliminary air dispersion modeling, at the emission rates proposed in the permit application indicates that lead emissions from the project will be less than 0.1% of the NAAQS. Thus, lead emissions from the project will not affect existing ambient concentrations of lead in the Corpus Christi area.
Why should local jurisdictions offer tax incentives to the projects?
All of the local taxing jurisdictions have existing property tax incentive policies, which are intended to attract new capital investment to the region. These policies take into consideration a cost versus benefit or return on investment analysis. Some of these jurisdictions are considering “phasing-in” property taxes for this project in order to insure the project is financially viable to the equity investors at a time of volatile financial markets and tight credit. It is important to realize that these tax “phase-ins” generally only provide tax relief for the first 7 years of the project. Considering the expected long-term life of the Las Brisas projects (35-45 years), the cost of a limited, short-term incentive will be far exceeded by the long-term benefits. Local governments will enjoy significant, no-risk tax revenues from this project for 25-35 years. Very few, if any, projects offer the certainty and significant level of future tax revenues that will be generated by the Las Brisas projects.
Will this project lower electric rates or increase electric reliability for area businesses and residences?
The Las Brisas Energy Center will produce reliable base load power for local citizens, allowing competitive pricing and overall consumer savings. This plant will help diversify the fuel sources for power production to insulate Texans from volatile natural gas prices. These volatile natural gas prices can lead to higher electricity prices for the consumer.
How would the Port of Corpus Christi benefit from these projects?
The Port of Corpus Christi is an extremely vital component of the regional economy. The Port stands to benefit from additional fees and tariffs, as well as from the new water line that will be built at the developer’s expense. The new water line will increase capacity at the Port’s west side, enabling future growth and revenue by attracting other industrial projects. This project could enable the Port of Corpus Christi to compete on a global scale and position Corpus Christi and the surrounding area as an international location for new business and commerce.