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The Grid

Got Carbon? This Innovative Natural Gas Plant Doesn't

Exelon’s pioneering partnership in NET Power achieves “combustor first fire”

​​​What’s a nonrenewable source of energy with zero carbon emissions? In a few years, you may be answering that question by saying natural gas. 

Exelon is a partner in an innovative, potentially game-changing project called NET Power​, located just outside Houston, Texas. Instead of using steam, the cycle uses high-pressure carbon dioxide (CO₂) to turn a turbine, in effect turning the CO₂ problem into the climate solution.  


In May, the 50-MW natural gas plant achieved “combustor first fire,” which is a significant step forward for the demonstration plant that is the world’s only industrial-scale supercritical carbon dioxide-based power plant.

“Imagine a world where instead of emitting carbon emissions, our natural gas plants re-captured those emissions and re-used them to drive the turbine,” said Ron DeGregorio, senior vice president, Exelon Generation and NET Power board member. “This plant is proving to the world that natural gas can be used as an affordable foundation for our clean energy future.”

The plant combustion system is similar to your car’s ignition system; it converts fuel into the energy that will turn the turbine. The first fire of the combustion system is a critical milestone for the demonstration plant, as it validates the fundamental operability and technical foundation of NET Power’s new power system.

This new plant is designed to demonstrate a power system that produces low-cost electricity from natural gas while generating near-zero atmospheric emissions, including full CO₂ capture.  The achievement also confirms the operation of Toshiba’s combustor at commercial scale, as several 50-MW combustors will be used together in NET Power’s 300-MWe commercial facilities.  

"This is the exciting culmination of a process that required the hard work and dedication of our investors,” said Charlie Bowser, NET Power’s President, an Exelon loaned executive. 

NET Power produces only electricity, liquid water and pipeline-quality CO2, as well as valuable argon and nitrogen, all while operating as efficiently as most natural gas power plants in operation today. The emissions can be piped for other commercial uses, such as oil recovery. 

According a recent Nature magazine article, “The result is a stream of pure CO2 that can be buried or put into a pipeline – rather than the atmosphere – at virtually no cost. That gives it an edge over existing technologies for stripping CO2 out of a conventional power plant’s exhaust; these drive up costs while sapping around 20​% of the plant’s power.”

For a more technical review of the project, read the story in IEEE Spectrum

Exelon partners with McDermott and 8 Rivers Capital on the project. Toshiba provided the turbine. 
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