Net Power breaks ground on 50-MW demonstration power plant in Texas

Net Power said March 9 that it has broken ground on an advanced technology 50-MW (thermal) demonstration power plant in Texas that produces low-cost electricity with zero atmospheric emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2).

North Carolina-based NET Power is a joint effort between Exelon (NYSE:EXC), Chicago Bridge & Iron (CBI) and 8 Rivers Capital. The 50-MW demonstration plant is being built in La Porte, Texas.

NET Power’s 50 -MWth plant will be a fully operational unit that will generate power to the grid while demonstrating all key aspects of the Allam Cycle.  Commissioning is expected to begin in late 2016 and be completed in 2017.  The plant will also provide the validation to begin constructing the first 295-MWe, commercial-scale NET Power plants.

Net Power is referring to the project as 50-MW-thermal given that during the demonstration project phase, it will be probably be producing less than 30 MW at any given time, a company spokesperson told GenerationHub by phone. Even during this demo phase, La Porte will sell some electricity to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market, the representative noted.

The plant will demonstrate NET Power’s Allam Cycle technology, which uses carbon dioxide as a working fluid to drive a combustion turbine. This eliminates all atmospheric emissions without requiring expensive, efficiency-reducing carbon capture equipment, and ultimately produces pipeline-quality CO2 that can be sequestered or used in various industrial processes, including enhanced oil recovery, Net Power said in a news release.

Executives from each of the companies gathered on the site to mark the start of construction of the demonstration plant. The $140m program – which not only includes demonstration plant design and construction, but also ongoing technology advancement, a full testing and operations program, and commercial product development – is funded by a combination of cash and in-kind contributions from Exelon and CB&I. 

Toshiba has developed and is now manufacturing a new supercritical CO2 turbine and combustor for the project. CB&I is performing the engineering, procurement, and construction of the plant. Exelon is providing operations, maintenance, and development services. 8 Rivers invented and continues to advance the technology behind the project.

NET Power uses a novel process – an oxy-fuel, supercritical CO2 power cycle – to produce electricity efficiently while inherently eliminating all air emissions.  The system burns natural gas with oxygen, as opposed to air, and uses high-pressure carbon dioxide, as opposed to inefficient steam like most power plants, to drive a turbine.

NET Power said the process produces only electricity, liquid water and pipeline-ready CO2, all while operating as efficiently as the best natural gas power plants available today. Additionally, for a small reduction in efficiency, the technology can operate without water, actually becoming a net water producer.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.