Net Power LLC announced plans Monday to build the world’s first utility-scale gas power plant with carbon capture, which it said would generate electricity with close to zero emissions.
Construction on the roughly 300-megawatt project will start during the third quarter of 2024 near Odessa, Texas, according to the company. The North Carolina-based Net Power expects the facility to be online in 2026, putting it in a race to become one of only three full-sized power plants ever equipped to capture carbon dioxide emissions.
The announcement comes about a year after Net Power demonstrated its carbon capture technology in a 50-megawatt demonstration project, delivering emissions-free electricity to the grid (Energywire, Nov. 17, 2021). The company says its technology captures close to 100 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions — and does not release other pollution, like nitrogen oxides — by combusting natural gas with pure oxygen and using “supercritical” CO2 as a working fluid to drive a turbine and generate electricity (Energywire, Feb. 23).
Ron DeGregorio, Net Power’s chief executive, said the plant would provide “the trifecta of clean, dispatchable and reliable cheap power.”
“The move toward a cleaner energy environment is important and while carbon emissions are bad, fossil fuels necessarily aren’t,” he said in an interview. “Now we’ve got a machine that can use our cheap and resourceful and abundant natural gas in a clean way to reliably … be able to power our world.”
Some energy analysts have questioned Net Power’s claims of zero emissions, since natural gas production can emit — and pipelines can leak —
The company has not decided on who will provide the plant’s natural gas, said Jeff Philips, a senior director at the public relations firm Kivvit, which is representing Net Power. Asked whether the captured emissions will be used for enhanced oil recovery, Philips said that “multiple options” for CO2 sequestration are being discussed with Occidental Petroleum Corp.
Texas-based Occidental is Net Power’s largest shareholder, according to DeGregorio. The new power plant — named “Serial #1 Utility Scale Plant” — will be built near Occidental’s Permian Basin operations. It will help power Occidental’s planned direct air capture facility in Texas’ Ector County, which the oil and gas company started construction on this year (Energywire, Aug. 26).
Occidental wanted Net Power’s new plant to be “dispatched and deployed alongside of — and in support of — their strong play on direct air capture,” DeGregorio said. “They wanted to pull this forward and help to accelerate it.”
Net Power did not provide a project cost. Philips said that will be determined at the end of the front-end engineering and design process, which will start in the first quarter of next year. Net Power expects to capture and store roughly 860,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, according to Philips.
For years, Net Power’s technology has attracted a high degree of attention, particularly in the power generation sector, where only one commercial-scale CCS project — at the coal-fired Boundary Dam Power Station in Canada — is now operational (Energywire, Nov. 27, 2019). The only other power plant globally that has ever run with carbon capture, Petra Nova, entered mothball status in May 2020.
Natural-gas fired electricity generation has increased over time, while coal’s share of the mix has shrunk, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Doug Vine, director of energy analysis at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an environmental policy think tank, said Net Power’s facility could have an impact on how new natural gas plants are built.
“I think it’s important on a couple of different levels — primarily, if Net Power can demonstrate that new natural gas power plants can be constructed with significantly lower emissions, then that will have, I think, a significant impact on future construction on uncontrolled natural gas plants,” Vine said.
Net Power has pointed to the importance of the Inflation Reduction Act — signed by President Joe Biden in August — in getting the plant greenlighted. The new climate law increased the value of the federal 45Q tax credit, a key incentive for carbon capture projects. At least one other company has pointed to the increased tax credit in unveiling plans to build a natural gas power plant with CCS (Energywire, Sept. 19).
On Monday, some groups slammed the tax credit for encouraging such projects.
“The only reason wasteful and dirty projects like this are going forward are massive public subsidies for carbon capture included in the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Jim Walsh, policy director at Food & Water Watch, in an emailed statement.
“Carbon-capture technology in the energy sector is always more expensive and dirtier than building clean renewable energy, no matter how many lies the fossil fuel industry spins about CCS,” Walsh added.
This story also appears in Climatewire.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Jeff Philips’ name.