A new era of carbon-free natural gas is arriving. In a press release posted to its website on Nov. 7, clean energy technology firm NET Power revealed its plan to build the world’s first zero-emissions utility-scale natural gas power plant near the small town of Odessa, TX. The project, expected to come online in 2026, will deliver emissions-free electricity to a quarter of a million American residents once completed.
After achieving first-fire of its 50-megawatt (MW) demonstration plant in La Porte, TX in May of 2018, NET Power managed to successfully synchronize its test facility to the ERCOT grid in the Fall of 2021. Now, NET Power plans to develop a 300-MW commercial-scale plant near Odessa with support from energy technology giant Baker Hughes. NET Power will also lean on industry heavyweights including 8 Rivers, Constellation, and Occidental for new project financing and investments.
“Having demonstrated the capability of the technology at La Porte, and having partnered with Baker Hughes to commercialize the NET Power system, we are excited to accelerate the deployment of this game changing technology,” CEO of NET Power Ron DeGregorio said in the press release. “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.”
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The announcement follows years of technological experimentation since the company’s founding in 2010.
The science is simple. Instead of burning natural gas with air (the conventional method of producing electricity from natural gas), NET Power utilizes pure oxygen as the primary oxidant in the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle. The resultant supercritical carbon dioxide is then used as a working fluid in a combustion turbine to generate energy. The only byproducts? Water and pipeline-ready CO2, which can be sequestered underground or sold for use in high-value industrial processes.
The plants also use significantly less space than your standard gas plant. Whereas existing gas plants need approximately 20 to 25 acres of land on average, NET Power plants require only 13 acres or about 40% less land than a similar-output power plant. And because all emissions are inherently captured under the Allam Cycle, the facilities lack smokestacks. (Should a conventional gas plant actually capture carbon, it could only do so post combustion–not integrated as part of its cycle).
All of these features make NET Power’s technology ground-breaking.
“Existing natural gas plants burn natural gas with air, which is a mix of oxygen and nitrogen,” NET Power writes. “These technologies emit CO2, which is difficult and expensive to separate from the nitrogen and residual oxygen. Unfortunately, this has made carbon capture uneconomic for traditional power plants. NET Power addresses the cost hurdles of older technologies with a novel process—an oxy-fuel, supercritical CO2 power cycle—that produces electricity efficiently while inherently eliminating all air emissions.” With a “small reduction in efficiency,” the platform can also function without water, NET Power claims.
Not only could the new carbon removal technology support global efforts to reach net zero, but a carbon-free natural gas plant could also save the electric industry billions as the sector moves towards deep decarbonization. This is according to a new study published in August in the journal Nature, which found that natural-gas-fired generation combined with carbon capture and sequestration can reduce industry-wide decarbonization costs by up to $300 billion over the next 15 years.
The clean energy firm is actively licensing its decarbonization platform to customers worldwide. NET Power’s innovative carbon capture technology shows once again how the private sector is stepping up efforts to meet climate and clean energy targets.
Nathalie Voit is a freelance content creator and a graduate of the University of Florida. She is an alumni of The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program.