The fossil fuel industry has long touted natural gas as a “bridge fuel”—abundant and reliable, cleaner than coal, and an essential stop-gap while the world transitions to renewable power. Now it is suggesting that gas can be a zero emissions power source all by itself.
Start-up NET Power has developed technology that differs from traditional power stations. It burns natural gas with oxygen instead of air and drives a turbine with high pressure carbon dioxide instead of water. The additional CO2 is captured for storage.
NET Power recently connected a 50MW demonstration plant to the Texas electricity grid. If its emissions were to be permanently sequestered, the plant might have a carbon footprint no bigger than a solar farm.
The company CEO called it “a Wright-brothers-first-flight kind of breakthrough for energy.” Other efforts such as start-up Clean Energy Systems are working along the same lines. And that raises an ironic possibility. Could a fossil fuel technology help launch the power sector to a low-carbon future? Or will we get burned as we did with so-called “clean coal”? [Continue reading…]