NET Power to install a zero emissions natural gas plant in Texas

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All eyes in the energy sector are on the La Porte power plant, Texas, where NET Power is getting ready to commission an experimental natural gas plant that, if all goes well, could produce electricity at a low cost and with zero emissions. This includes CO2 which, with this technology, can be captured and utilized to rotate the combustion turbine that generates electricity.

This initiative “will be the corner stone of a modern global energy infrastructure that is clean, affordable, and flexible,” said the company’s CEO Bill Brown. Prior to that, however, the firm must finish building this 50 MW unit, which construction work began in October 2016, and also demonstrate that, in practice, the system works as expected.

And the expectations are that this test constitutes a starting point for a new generation of clean energy power plants that have the capacity to produce quality CO2 that can be used in industrial processes like oil extraction. This will open the door to another income source that will help reduce electricity costs. Thus, the €35 per MWh reached with the first plant is expected to drop to €17 with the sale of sub products.

But beyond price competitiveness, the system that will be tested in this plant offers significant advantages in addition to a lower environmental impact. The abundance of natural gas at an attractive cost is one of them. Furthermore, in comparison to other proposals, this unit will utilize GHG for its own processes would generate electricity “without the development risks of nuclear, the geographical restrictions of hydroelectric or the intermittency issues of solar and wind,” according to the MIT Technology Review.

But, how exactly will this plant that intends to revolutionize the sector work? According to the same source, as opposed to the classic power plants that burn fossil fuel in order to transform water into steam, the system tested in Texas dispenses the use of the steam cycle and uses supercritical carbon instead.

Therefore, this innovative process burns natural gas with oxygen and uses high-pressure carbon dioxide instead of the “efficient steam used by many power plants” to power the turbine that generates the electricity. The procedure, assures the firm, only produces electricity, liquid water, and CO2 ready to be redirected to other industries.

“If it plays out as advertised, it could be an actual game changer,” says Jesse Jenkins, a researcher at the MIT Energy Initiative. His worlds advise caution in a field where, as the institute recalls, many initiatives have been explored and many failures accumulate among them.

To position themselves on the side of successful projects, NET Power put $140 million on the table to pay for the design and construction of this pilot power station, as well as to improve the technology and launching an entire testing program that will enable to examine the results.

Although the system is advertised are producing zero emissions, MIT sources provide some nuance. In addition to natural gas extraction and the environmental impact generated by it, the plant’s sub products derivation would add fossil fuel burning. “It is very likely that the total advantages offer an environmental net benefit as a result,” they nonetheless say about the technology’s potential effects.

Behind this initiative lies an alliance between 8 Rivers Capital, Exelon Generation, and CB&I that, united as NET Power, are positioned to operate as the licensees of this technology for the gas industry, as well as the electric and oil industries. Discussions have begun, and while heading to the conclusion of the Texas pilot power plant, the first commercial power plant is set to be commissioned in 2019.

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