Gas plants without the emissions? This startup says it’s cracked the code

North Carolina–based NET Power uses a novel combustion cycle that captures its own emissions. Now it’s building a 300MW plant in Texas to prove it works at scale.

a large industrial site
NET Power's test facility in La Porte, Texas (NET Power)
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NET Power is forging ahead with building an entirely new form of power plant: an economical gas plant that doesn’t emit carbon.

The startup, based in Durham, North Carolina, spent years testing its use of the Allam cycle, which combusts fossil gas in such a way that high-pressure CO2 emissions are sent straight into a pipeline to be pumped elsewhere for use or sequestration. After connecting its La Porte test facility to the Texas grid a year ago, the company is now developing a 300-megawatt plant near Odessa that it says will come online in 2026, it announced Monday.

This plant allows for the quick ramp-up in NET Power’s global deployments, providing a clear and meaningful pathway to near-emission-free, reliable power,” a spokesperson told Canary Media. It’s a huge step forward for the clean energy industry and for fighting climate change, helping the world reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

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A gas plant that doesn’t emit carbon could fill the role of clean, firm” power that academic modelers say is a vital component of developing an affordable, decarbonized grid. This refers to energy sources that can be called upon to deliver reliable power when solar or wind generation falters. 

Many technologies could play this role, but few of them show much commercial traction right now:

  • Hydropower and pumped hydro storage are in widespread use, but new project construction in the U.S. remains virtually nonexistent. 
  • Geothermal power works around the clock and could certainly play more of a role in the grid as innovation makes it cheaper and more scalable.
  • Nuclear is also carbon-free and firm, meaning it can always provide power when it’s needed. But existing plants are retiring faster than new ones are getting built; investors and some utilities have pinned their hopes on small modular reactors, which still need to go through years of regulatory scrutiny before they will have a chance to prove whether they’re competitive. 
  • A fossil-burning plant with conventional carbon capture could be considered clean and firm, but years of power industry attempts have so far yielded little more than expensive failures.
  • Long-duration energy storage could turn the ups and downs of renewable generation into a finite amount of on-demand power. Technologies in the market today can only deliver a few hours of discharge, though newer companies like Form Energy are targeting multiple days.

NET Power has tested its technology for gas combustion with carbon capture in the field. Now it’s largely self-financing its first commercial project, with help from its investors, to serve as a test case for broader deployment.

The company found an anchor customer in oil and gas producer Occidental, which is also an investor in NET Power. Occidental will host the project and use some of its electrical output to power the company’s Permian Basin extraction activities. Occidental also will use its existing CO2 pipeline infrastructure to pump the NET Power project’s emissions into the ground for sequestration. NET Power will sell any excess generation into the ERCOT market.

In building this facility, NET Power will avail itself of federal grant and loan opportunities from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. But it also is a prime contender for the 45Q carbon capture tax credits included in the Inflation Reduction Act. NET Power is confident it can beat the 75 percent capture rate required to qualify for those credits. 

If all this comes together, NET Power will be selling clean power to a large industrial customer that wants to lower its emissions from power procurement, while monetizing captured carbon through the 45Q credit. That’s a recipe that may just make carbon capture financially viable.

Julian Spector is senior reporter at Canary Media.