It’s a Gas: New Gas Power Plant Design Eliminates Carbon Dioxide Gas Emissions

Fretting about carbon dioxide gas is not just a way of life, it’s a religion, with wind turbines the proxy for crucifixes and eternal salvation.

STT largely leaves the debate about whether or not CO2 is killing the planet to other specialist sites. So, if you’re looking for a stoush, why not head over to JoNova or What’s Up With That?

Where STT does engage is in the energy domain, appreciating that – for as long as carbon dioxide gas is considered a ‘pollutant’ by those who pretend to govern us – meaningful power generation sources will remain under attack.

That proposition is one reason why STT promotes nuclear power generation, being the only stand-alone generation source that does not emit carbon dioxide gas during that process, and delivers power 24/7, whatever the weather.

Those hoping to keep coal and gas-fired plants in the game, despite CO2-phobia, have been talking about the cost-effective capture of carbon dioxide gas (carbon capture and sequestration), for years.

Results have been mixed – technical glitches, engineering problems and cost blowouts have all conspired against CCS. However, based on the report below, the prospects for CO2 emissions free electricity using gas appear to have improved, thanks to an entirely novel approach being road-tested in Texas.

Net Zero Natural Gas Plant — The Game Changer
James Conca
31 July 2019

An actual game changing technology is being demonstrated as we sit in our air-conditioned abodes reading this. And it is being demonstrated by North Carolina–based Net Power at a new plant in La Porte, Texas.

The process involves burning fossil fuel with oxygen instead of air to generate electricity without emitting any carbon dioxide (CO2). Not using air also avoids generating NOx, the main atmospheric and health contaminant emitted from gas plants.

Included in a group of technologies known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), zero-emission fossil fuel plants have been a dream never realized in practice, as it always seems to cost a lot, adding between 5¢ and 10¢ per kWh. This is probably because most attempts just add on another step after the traditional electricity generation steps, almost as an afterthought.

Some fossil fuel plants have tried, and failed, the most famous one recently being the $7.5 billion coal power plant in Kemper, Mississippi.

But this new technology completely changes the steps and the approach from the ground up. It is based on the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, Allam Cycle for short. This is a new, high-pressure, oxy-fuel, supercritical CO2 cycle that generates low-cost electricity from fossil fuels while producing near-zero air emissions.

All CO2 that is generated by the cycle is produced as a high-pressure, pipeline-ready by-product for use in enhanced oil recovery and industrial processes, or that can be sequestered underground in tight geologic formations where it will not get out to the atmosphere for millions of years.

The Allam Cycle also means the power plant is a lot smaller and can be sited in more areas than older plants can.

The Allam Cycle of Net Power’s new zero-emission natural gas plant.


This 50 MW Texas plant is demonstrating that the technology works, especially to investors. So the project has some heavy hitters as partners – Exelon Generation will operate the plant, the infrastructure firm McDermott International (formerly CB&I) will provide engineering and construction, 8 Rivers Capital, the inventor of the NET Power technology, will provide continuing technology development, and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, joined NET Power as an investor late last year.

Toshiba developed the combustor and the CO2-turbine and continues additional development.

Most power plants rely on thermal power cycles for energy production. These systems create heat by burning fossil fuel using the oxygen in air. In coal plants, this takes place in a large boiler, where coal is burned and water is boiled to create high pressure steam. This high-pressure steam then expands through a steam turbine, creating power.

In combined cycle gas turbine power plants, natural gas or coal syngas is burned in a combustor with compressed air. The heated gases then expand and drive a gas turbine. The turbine exhaust is extremely hot, so it is subsequently used to boil water to create high pressure steam and drive a steam turbine, thereby combining cycles. In both systems, aqueous steam is essential to the process as a working fluid.

Not so in an Allam Cycle plant like NET Power’s. At their Texas demonstration plant, the natural gas is burned with a mixture of hot CO2 and oxygen, known as oxy-combustion. The plant uses a standard cryogenic air separation unit to generate oxygen, integrating the heat of that unit.

The parasitic load of oxygen production is included in their efficiency numbers, and because of the Allam Cycle’s high inherent efficiency, it doesn’t change the economics much.

The resulting working fluid is a mix of high-pressure CO2 and water, which is subsequently expanded through a turbine and then cooled in a heat exchanger (a recuperator).

This is key. The turbine is not turned with steam, but with CO2.

The water then condenses and is separated out, leaving a pure vapor-phase CO2 stream. That stream is compressed and pumped back up to high pressure for re-use, but the excess CO2 is sent to a pipeline, ready for export.

The remaining fluid stream is reheated in the recuperator and makes its way back to the combustor, where the hot, high-pressure CO2 helps the combustor achieve a final inlet temperature of about 1,150°C as it combusts with fresh natural gas and oxygen, the high temperature raising the efficiency significantly.

The plant can also be air-cooled, at the cost of a little efficiency, to avoid water use in arid regions and to actually produce water from the methane and oxygen.

By using a CO2 working fluid at very high pressures as opposed to steam, NET Power avoids the phase changes that cause steam cycles to be so inefficient. Instead of driving a steam cycle and losing heat energy up a stack, NET Power keeps heat within the system, meaning less fuel is needed for the turbine to reach the required operating temperature.

And they don’t even have a stack.

Federal tax credits for carbon-capture projects are helping get this demonstration off the ground, providing a $50 tax credit for every ton of carbon sequestered. The NET Power plant captures all of its CO2 as part of its process, recycles some and diverts some for sale.

Adam Goff, Policy Director for NET Power, discussed how this technology will really make a difference to global warming – in developing countries. These countries desperately need energy and are planning to install thousands of traditional coal plants, representing the largest potential increase in carbon emissions over the next several decades.

Said Goff, “…most projects aren’t going to be in the U.S. They’re going to be in your developing countries in Asia and in Africa, so you’re going to see China, India, Indonesia. To do that you have to be really cheap. You have to be at cost parity if not better than cost parity with conventional generation.”

The CO2 angle is very unique. NET Power’s plant produces a high-pressure, high-quality CO2 byproduct that is pipeline-ready. This CO2 can be sequestered or used in industrial processes, such as enhanced oil recovery. EOR is a decades-old process that uses CO2 to extract significantly more oil from old oilfields while permanently storing CO2 underground. In the United States alone, 85 billion barrels of oil are recoverable using EOR.

Most industrial CO2 capture technologies cannot produce cost-effective, EOR-ready CO2, despite the fact that the industry is tremendously CO2-starved. NET Power will have both the capacity and economics to enable the EOR industry to unlock this vast resource while simultaneously sequestering CO2 from thousands of power plants below ground.

And it is the geologic sequestering of CO2 that may be tough. Yes, we can use CO2 now, but if we go to these net zero plants in a big way, we don’t have enough industrial need for all the CO2 from generating trillions of kWhs every year.

So it will have to be injected underground, and sometimes there are side-effects, like earthquakes. But that is a geoengineering need we can address. Norway has stored over 20 million tons of CO2 with little problem, and Archer Daniels Midland is sequestering CO2 in Illinois with no big issues.

The cost of electricity generated by Net Power is even more interesting. The plant doesn’t just sell power like most plants, it also sells the CO2 and other cycle by-products including nitrogen and argon.

These sales bring the cost of electricity from NET Power’s plant down to 1.9¢ per kilowatt hour, Goff said, compared to 4.2¢ for a traditional combined cycle natural gas plant, making this the cheapest source of electricity, and with no carbon emissions.

If the plant in La Porte performs as expected, and as it has so far, this is a real game changer for natural gas. Since the United States is sitting on more natural gas than any country in the world, and it’s getting cheaper to get it out of the ground, this is no small game to change.

Good luck capturing that!

9 thoughts on “It’s a Gas: New Gas Power Plant Design Eliminates Carbon Dioxide Gas Emissions

  1. Greg:
    it’s not the just availability of natural gas that is important, there has to be some way of sequestering the excess CO2.
    The process is an offshoot of the Drayton cycle where external combustion heats (sealed cycle) CO2. Burning natural gas with oxygen inside the cycle makes me wonder how much efficiency is lost? You could arrange natural gas + oxygen to burn externally and still extract the combustion gases.
    The Drayton cycle is generally around 56-58% efficiency (the latest CCGTs are 62%). Separating the excess CO2 and water will reduce the efficiency further. Then there is the cost of oxygen.

  2. I am definitely no engineer so the detail above of how these plants work will remain a mystery to me, but if they work well and good.
    What I do know is Gas may be finite but they keep finding more of it – The Advertiser 5 September pg 32 “strikes gas find ‘staggering”. The find is in the Perth Basin at the deepest drilled well in Australia.
    All we need to hope for is it’s kept here in this country for our use. Whether to supply this new type of plant or for the plants we already have – helping to ensure the lights keep burning bright for everyone 24/7.
    And, if these plants can recycle it then no doubt it will mean we can look forward to many years of consistency in electrical supply.

  3. This is not good news. Now the Renewable Zealots can claim they have a way to produce emission free electricity when the sun don’t shine and wind doesn’t blow. Therefore they will increase the deployment of renewables not decrease. Just use gas you say? They’ll say gas is a finite resource and just a bridge to affordable storage developement.

    Sent from my iPad, Hank


      1. Turning CO2 into methane does not solve the storage problem. The methane also needs to be stored and burning it as fuel just releases the CO2 – Oh! And turning the released CO2 into Methane does not solve the … etc., etc.

  4. Zero CO2 gas plants in Australia would not leave the wind farm industry a leg to stand on. How could they justify subsidising wind farms backed up by OCGT and baseload, that produce at least as much CO2 as CCGT alone, if zero CO2 gas plant is available. The warmists, if they were a logical mob, would protest against any more wind farms and insist on zero CO2 gas plant (as well as nuclear).
    Build one in SA near the Victorian border where there is untapped conventional well gas available.

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