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A Small Power Plant in Texas May Revolutionize the Energy Industry

Texas produces the most energy in the US and its not even close. In fact, the state produces nearly twice as much as Florida, the 2nd highest energy-producing state. With all that energy production comes a lot of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. But, just a few miles outside of Houston off Highway 225, past the refineries and coal stacks, there is a small plant that may revolutionize the industry.

The plant, developed and operated by a company called NET Power, generates electricity without emissions. No air pollution making it hard to breathe and no contribution to climate change.

How does this small plant do this? Instead of emitting carbon dioxide, the plant heats it to drive the turbines that make electricity. All but 3 percent of the carbon dioxide is recycled to produce more electricity;

“This is a game changer for the way we make power,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at the University of Houston and a chemical engineer. “It’s a beautiful engineering feat, but it also makes it a clean system that is energy efficient and capital efficient.”

This is far from the first attempt to carbon-capture. Many systems have been, or are currently, being tested but none have been commercially viable or affordable for mass-production.

NET Power, backed by a North Carolina investment firm 8 Rivers Capital and other investors, such as the Houston oil company Occidental Petroleum, uses a technology called the Allam power cycle, which heats up carbon dioxide in a combustion chamber to an extremely high temperature — a point known as supercritical carbon dioxide, at which the C02 gas becomes like a liquid. The process uses the heat and mass of supercritical carbon dioxide to turn the turbines. The carbon dioxide, still very hot, then cools and is recycled through the plant.

The excess Co2 captured can be transport via pipeline where it is in high demand in Texas. Oil and gas companies can pump carbon dioxide into aging oil wells to increase production, a process known as enhanced oil recovery. It can also be used to make cement.

The plant will soon begin selling power to the electrical grid as it completes the final phase of its operational testing over the next few months. The next step, building plants that can produce power on a commercial scale, should get underway in the early 2020s, company officials said.

Currently, the small plant is able to produce 25 megawatts of electricity. That is roughly enough to power 5,000 Texas homes with clean energy free from emissions.

Aaron is a content writer and organic marketer with extensive experience in the energy industry. He frequently writes for Power Target on Electricityrates.com and CompareElectricity.com.

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