This article is part of Startseries about young companies using new science and technology.
LA PORTE, TEXAS – It was not like it was in the movies. No one lowered the main switch to the wall, emitting a satisfying “sound” and an electric current. Instead, one evening last November, the shift superintendent of NET Power, a clean energy technology company, repeatedly pressed a mouse into a control room mounted on a two-way trailer. At the last click, the company’s generator was aligned with the Texas grid, a major step towards empowering homes and businesses. Twenty-seven minutes later, the supervisor disconnected.
It may not sound like much, but the short demonstration at this exhibition plant – which is part of the full potential of the station – showed that a new way to generate electricity that burns natural gas but does not produce the same greenhouse gases. emissions like fossil fuels, can play well with the energy grid.
Cam Hosie, who leads 8 Rivers, a first-time shareholder at NET Power, said he was monitoring the experiment that evening on his laptop. When the plant was balanced, he recalled, “I cried.”
It was an important step for NET Power, which had been working towards technology for 12 years. NET Power technology. Potential customers have announced plans for new plants around the world, including the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.
“If this were to be used commercially, it could play an important role, among other things, in our ability to achieve zero goals in the United States, as well as globally,” said Carrie Jenks, executive director of environmental and Harvard Law School. energy law program.
Many power plants boil water by burning coal or natural gas, or through a nuclear explosion; steam that emits then circulates around the turbine. The burning of these fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases, the key players in climate change. Scientists warn that if we do not stop this production, more and more bad disasters will come.
Renewable energy (such as solar, wind and geothermal) has increased significantly as its price has dropped. But many experts suggest that the grid will still need electricity sources that can be set up quickly – what the business calls “renewable energy” – to fill gaps in solar and wind distribution. And although some researchers have suggested that the power grid could be built entirely on renewable energy and conservation, Professor Jenks said, “I think fossils will continue to be in our energy system in the near future.” And so “you need a lot of solutions so we can continue on the path we need to go now. We still do not know what a silver bullet is – and I doubt we will ever get a silver bullet,” he said.
That’s when NET Power fans say the company can make a difference: its technology burns natural gas without causing the biggest problems that fossil fuels do. It burns a mixture of natural gas and oxygen in a circulating stream of high carbon dioxide under high pressure. The resulting carbon dioxide runs on a turbine in a shape known as a very insignificant fluid.
In some energy plants, capturing carbon dioxide means adding different materials that absorb more energy. The NET Power system traps carbon dioxide that forms as part of its cycle, not as an additive. Excess carbon dioxide can then be extracted and stored underground or used in other industrial processes. Plant activity does not produce harmful molecules, or flammable gases such as nitrogen oxides and sodium, from which coal plants vomit.
Is it just another product? Water.
With commercial success, NET Power believes it will fully reduce global carbon emissions, said Ron DeGregorio, the company’s chief executive. Many prospective consumers can still choose coal energy, but “bring this to market, and this will change the world.”
The company licenses its technology to its customers, and its partners and investors will build and operate machinery. It includes the largest oil company Occidental Petroleum, which is placing a huge stake in carbon capture; Constellation, which runs power plants; and Baker Hughes, which manufactures the type of precision equipment that the process requires. Such investments, said Rick Callahan, president of Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of Occidental, “show that people are putting their money where their mouth is with this project.”
Technology, like any other energy-producing device, can be used in a number of ways, including generating energy for industrial processes. Potential customers think. One repetition of the process, planned by the energy company TES, based in Belgium, proposes to incorporate NET Power technology into a complex chain of energy conservation and production as a way to deliver hydrogen-powered energy. “NET Power technology fits perfectly” with the proposed system, said Jens Schmidt, TES chief technology officer.
Another proposed project in Louisiana will use NET Power technology to produce a wide range of products, including hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Known as the G2 Net-Zero, it will also include a molten gas station, or LNG Charles E. Roemer IV, chairman of the company, said that while many LNG shipping stations were planned or built off the coast of Louisiana, building a refinery. an alternative could create a new concept.
The technology has sparked criticism, particularly its reliability on methane infrastructure and modern limitations of carbon storage. Many environmentalists oppose LNG stations, in large part because they expand fuel consumption; The Sierra Club recently targeted those targeted at Cameron, Southwest Louisiana, including the G2 Net-Zero, saying it would cause serious environmental damage in the area.
“As long as the power plant is powered by methane gas, it will continue to harm the climate and our communities,” said Jeremy Fisher, senior consultant for strategic research and development for the Sierra Club. “This technology will do nothing to protect families living from pollution from collapsing wells or near dangerous gas pipelines, and would continue to allow large – and often uncountable – amounts of thermal methane to leak from wells, pipelines and plants. ”
Bw. Roemer referred to research showing that proper monitoring and immediate action could significantly reduce methane leaks and said he would work with natural gas suppliers who are “committed to reducing emissions.” Regarding transporting LNG to be burned elsewhere, he said that a person receiving his LNG could burn it at another NET Power plant and avoid emitting pollutants. “I will sell my product to people who are dedicated to the same things I volunteered for,” he said.
“The problem we are trying to solve is a lot of cheap and clean energy,” he said. Roemer said. “I don’t see how you can be the opposite of what I’m doing.”
If, through regulation, states benefit from capturing carbon dioxide and depleting it, technologies such as NET Power will be even more attractive. Yet while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has repeatedly cited the capture and storage of carbon as part of the climate change solution, the details have not yet been worked out – with many in the climate science community citing technology as an excuse to continue burn fat. energy, not the effort of good faith to deliver carbon.
“What do you do with CO2?” asked Michael Mann, a meteorologist at Penn State University. “If it is used to enhance oil recovery, it still contributes to problems. If it is buried, how safe and durable is it?”
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Virginia Burkett, a prominent scientist in the American Geological Survey, said that carbon dioxide in the deep geological structure is a “proven technology” and noted that the National Scientific Colleges called it ready for mass deployment “in 2019.
Julio Friedmann, an expert in carbon removal technology, called NET Power technology “a very elegant solution to complex problems.” However, Drs. Friedmann, a former consultant for the company, said that success in the commercial field was uncertain.
“I’ve had many conversations with physicists who say, ‘Physics has been solved; the rest is just engineering.’ In fact, engineering is very complex. In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is, “he said.” It is still possible that they will fail – but I do not think so. “