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NET Power Natural Gas Generating Plant Captures Its Own Emissions

NET Power is developing a new process for capturing carbon emissions from a natural gas generating station.

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NET Power, based in Durham, North Carolina, has developed a new way to make electricity by burning natural gas that it says is cheaper than conventional gas generation. That’s good news, sort of, but the real benefit of the new Allam cycle technology is that it captures its own carbon dioxide emissions, which can then be sequestered or sold. The net result (hence the company name) is electricity from natural gas or renewable gas that doesn’t spew carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.

Here’s how it works, according to the company:

Step 1 — The Burn: Oxy-combustion is the process of burning natural gas with pure oxygen (instead of air). When air is used as the primary oxidant, nitrogen oxides (NOX) are released into the atmosphere. This isn’t only bad for the environment — it’s also less efficient. When pure oxygen is the primary oxidant, fuel consumption is reduced, and flame temperatures are increased, adding efficiency.

Step 2 — The Expansion & Cool Down: The high pressure CO2 moves along into the turbine, where it expands and goes into the heat exchanger. Any water is removed and the remaining CO2 is compressed and pumped back into high pressure.

Step 3 — Reuse & Recycle: Most of the high-pressure CO2 is reheated in the heat exchanger and returned to the combustor, where the whole cycle begins again.

Step 4 — Piping: The excess CO2 that comes from Step 2 is pipeline ready. It’s inherently captured, not released into the atmosphere. This step increases NET Power technology’s overall value by providing a valuable byproduct and eliminating any carbon-related liabilities.

NET Power Completes Test Facility

NET Power

NET Power demonstration facility in La Porte, Texas. Image courtesy of NET Power

Last year, NET Power connected its first test facility, located in La Porte, Texas, to the grid and is now developing a 300 MW Allam cycle generating station in Odessa, Texas, which it says will come online in 2026. “This plant allows for the quick ramp-up in NET Power’s global deployments, providing a clear and meaningful pathway to near-emission-free, reliable power,” a company spokesperson tells Canary Media. ​“It’s a huge step forward for the clean energy industry and for fighting climate change, helping the world reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

A gas-fired generating plant with no carbon emissions could deliver reliable power when solar or wind generation falters. In other words, this technology could permit so-called “peaker plants” that don’t pollute, or at least not as much as traditional facilities.

The company has found an anchor customer in oil and gas producer Occidental Petroleum, which is also an investor in NET Power. Occidental will host the project and use some of its electrical output to power the company’s Permian Basin extraction activities. Occidental also will use its existing CO2 pipeline infrastructure to pump the NET Power project’s emissions into the ground for sequestration. NET Power will sell any excess generation into the ERCOT market.

In building this facility, NET Power will avail itself of federal grant and loan opportunities from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. But it also is a prime contender for the 45Q carbon capture tax credits included in the Inflation Reduction Act. NET Power is confident it can beat the 75% capture rate required to qualify for those credits.

If all this comes together, NET Power will be selling clean power to a large industrial customer that wants to lower its emissions from power procurement, while monetizing captured carbon through the 45Q credit. That’s a recipe that may just make carbon capture financially viable, Canary Media says.

The Takeaway

We discussed this at the monthly CleanTechnica avocado toast breakfast recently, and here is our take. There may be something to this, but we remain reluctant to get excited about anything to do with extracting and burning methane. Occidental, quite frankly, has one of the worst reputations in the world of fossil fuel producers.

The idea that the CO2 from these facilities could be used to wrest more methane from beneath the Earth is troubling. Even assuming the plants themselves emit no emissions, the extraction and transportation of methane has such a dismal record of leakage and accidental discharges, it’s hard to get too excited about perpetuating that process.

We decided this news is like the existence of hybrid cars like the Prius — better than nothing but hardly earth shattering news. Carbon capture has been a crashing failure so far that has been used by the fossil fuel industry to justify continuing with business as usual while promising to do something about the damage caused to the environment at some future date. In other words, it’s a scam. To the extent that this system works and is commercially viable, that makes it worth one cheer — two cheers at best.

Anything that reduces carbon emissions is a benefit to the environment but there is a risk such new ideas may do little more than help keep the fossil fuel dream alive a little bit longer while the world sinks further and further into climate chaos. We give this a quiet “hip hip” but are withholding the “hooray” pending further information.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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