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The future of fossil fuels? Zero-Emission natural gas power plants take off

Jeff McMahon, Forbes

NET Power’s prototype zero-emission natural-gas power plant works, the company’s CEO said today, announcing that construction will begin on the first four operating plants.

NET Power’s prototype zero-emission natural-gas power plant in LaPorte, Texas. Image: Net Power

“In 2018 we were successful, and in 2018 we also showed that the whole cycle worked,” said NET Power CEO Bill Brown. “At this point we have four different plants underway around the world.”

Brown said more details would be forthcoming “in due course” about the four plants, but that the company has experienced a “huge amount of demand” for smaller plants—25 Megawatts in size.

“We have multiple vendors wanting to build all the equipment that we have,” he said. “So we have multiple vendors and those plants will be announced in due course.”

The NET Power concept has been hailed as a game changer by many activists and experts. Brown was introduced today at an Atlantic Council webinar by Prince Charles, who is spearheading an effort to commit businesses to sustainable operation.

“I was most inspired to learn about NET Power’s breakthrough technology, the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, that converts natural and renewable gas into zero-emissions power using carbon dioxide, whilst at the same time lowering the price of energy,” Charles said. “Such a remarkable and ingenious feat of engineering is exactly the news we need here at one of the most critical and difficult times in the world’s history.”ADVERTISING

When NET Power’s concept was still on paper, S. Julio Friedman, a Columbia University expert on carbon capture, said, “If this plant works, nobody builds combined-cycle gas plants anymore. They build these things.”

Standard combined-cycle gas plants spin one turbine with a blazing mix of air and gas, using the heat to make steam that spins a second turbine. The NET Power plant dispenses with the inefficient process of heating water for steam.

The NET Power plant captures the carbon dioxide that traditional plants spew into the atmosphere. It uses that CO2 under pressure, when the gas acquires some of the qualities of a liquid, to capture heat from the plant.

This “supercritical” CO2 replaces the water used in traditional power plants.

Some of that CO2, heated to 720º C, returns to the combustion chamber, combined with pure oxygen, to boost the combustion of more gas. More CO2 is captured for commercial markets, where it can be used to carbonate soda pop, to decaffeinate coffee and tea, to make building materials, or to enhance oil and gas extraction.

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