If zero-emissions technology takes off, is there a need for the environmental movement?

Look out wind and solar, a North Carolina company, NET Power, LLC, has broken ground on a first-of-its-kind: a zero-emissions natural gas demonstration power plant.

A collaborative effort between Exelon Generation (ticker: EXC, ExcelonCorp.com) , CB&I (ticker: CBI, cbi.com), 8 Rivers Capital (8riverscapital.com) and Toshiba (ticker: TYO, toshiba.com), if it succeeds, this will be the first fossil fuel-powered generation plant to avoid putting any emissions to the atmosphere—including carbon dioxide. The company’s claim is to be able to provide low-cost energy to customers without any of the GHG side effects.

The Durham, North Carolina-based company has designed what its engineers call Allam Cycle technology (named for its lead inventor, Rodney Allam) – which it describes as a “patented thermodynamic cycle.” In plain language it’s a unique and innovative way to burn natural gas—sans emissions—and spin a turbine to make electricity without using steam.

It’s contrary to the way most coal or combined cycle natural gas plants have made electricity for many decades, but if successful the NET Power technology should allow human beings to power up their Maytags, iPhones, refrigerators, Volts and Teslas, and even enjoy watching television in an air-conditioned 5,000 square foot home on a late August afternoon in Houston, almost guilt free.

Walker Dimmig, spokesman for NET Power, said the technology’s “oxy-fuel, supercritical carbon-dioxide power cycle” burns natural gas with oxygen, rather than air, and uses high-pressure CO2, rather than steam, to drive a turbine.

“This means no carbon dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, SOX or NOX is released to the atmosphere,” the NET Power website says.   A NET Power plant’s only major byproducts are liquid water and a high-pressure, high-purity stream of carbon dioxide that is sent into a pipeline for sequestration or utilization in industrial processes.


The plant will only produce electricity, water, and pipeline-ready carbon dioxide. The CO2 will be trapped and transferred for future use in industrial applications such as enhanced oil recovery from legacy fields. Additionally, the NET Power system has the capability to function without the input of water, making it a net water producer.

NET Power explains that its power plants have low capital costs because they are smaller and simpler than traditional combined cycle and supercritical coal plants.  According to the company’s website, “NET Power’s high pressure means the system has a higher power density, and therefore the components can be smaller.  And while NET Power plants do have new components that other technologies do not, they also eliminate the entire steam process, and the associated equipment, that is common to traditional power plants.”

Power from NET Power’s plant will be consistent in efficiency with current natural gas plants and provide power to the grid. By reducing the need for expensive carbon capture equipment, the plant will operate at a portion of the cost of typical natural gas plants, the company said. Commissioning for the demonstration plant is expected to begin in late 2016 and is slated to be completed in 2017.

“NET Power is the first technology that allows policy and economics to work together, instead of against each other, to ensure the world meets its climate targets,” said NET Power’s CEO, Bill Brown.

“This marks a significant step for our world-class team, including Exelon, CB&I, 8 Rivers and Toshiba, towards delivering a technology that will be the cornerstone of a modern global energy infrastructure that is clean, affordable and flexible.”

Zero Emissions NatGas demand growth - Oil & Gas 360

Zero Emissions NatGas demand growth - Oil & Gas 360

The EIA released its assessment this week that natural gas will replace coal as the U.S. largest fuel for power generation. And that is calculated based on demand for gas from today’s combined cycle gas-fired plants. This bodes well for the Marcellus and other heavy natural gas producing regions, and this trend demand trend should only grow as new gas-fired generation technologies like NET Power begin to proliferate.

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