Carbon dioxide plus natural gas (or coal) equals zero-emissions electric power?

Gustavus Swift once said about his meat-packing operations that they used "everything but the squeal."

We have just seen the world's politicians meet in Paris to sign a worthless piece of paper aimed at reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide in a questionable belief that man-made global warming threatens our existence.  There was endless promotion of wind and solar renewable power, and there were promises to end the use of fossil fuels.

What if the global nemesis, carbon dioxide, can play a role in providing clean, reliable, efficient electric power?  A consortium of companies is currently building a 50-MWt (megawatt thermal) demonstration power plant in Texas to find out.

The plant is due to begin operations in 2016.  Here is the gist from Power Engineering:

CB&I (NYSE: CBI), Exelon Generation (NYSE: EXC) and 8 Rivers Capital have teamed to build a $140 million demonstration power plant that produces zero emissions from natural gas.

The plant will be built in Texas using a supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) turbine from Toshiba. The plant will demonstrate NET Power's Allam Cycle technology, which uses CO2 as a working fluid to drive a combustion turbine and produces pipeline-quality CO2 that can be sequestered or used in various industrial processes such as enhanced oil recovery.

The project includes technology development, plant design and construction, and a full testing and operations program. CB&I will provide engineering, procurement and construction services, 8 Rivers, which invented the Allam Cycle, will provide the technology development and intellectual property for the cycle, and Exelon will operate and maintain the plant. Design activities have been ongoing since 2010, and commissioning is expected by 2016.

The key innovation is using supercritical carbon dioxide as the working fluid rather than steam.  You can read the details at NetPower technology and RTO Insider.  The fossil fuel (natural gas or coal) is burned in oxygen, rather than air, yielding carbon dioxide and water plus power, with saleable byproducts pipeline-quality carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid.  The power plant doesn't even have a smokestack.  No more pictures of emissions to rile up the masses!

There are also discussions about using another nemesis of the AGW crowd, coal, as the fuel via a coal gasification process to replace the natural gas fuel used by 8 Rivers.  Previous advances in using supercritical steam have already provided evidence that we can use coal for efficient green power. Here is my 2010 AT article with the proof.

Now we are seeing the beginnings of the next technical advance.  The Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota noted interest in co-locating such a plant adjacent to the Bakken shale oil play for enhanced oil recovery.

North Dakota is uniquely situated because the coal fields of North Dakota are adjacent to the Bakken shale oil play. While advanced drilling techniques and fracking have opened up this oil-bearing shale for production, only about 3 to 6 percent of the oil is currently being produced. By introducing CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, we believe the production could increase significantly, thus providing much greater economic development opportunities.

To summarize, we seem to be on the verge of being able to use America's vast fossil fuel resources to achieve real energy independence from affordable, clean, reliable fossil fuel power plants.  There is no need to worry if the wind is blowing or the sun is shining to get electricity.  And given that America is becoming the world's top producer of oil and already is the "Saudi Arabia of coal," we could become the World's Only Energy Superpower Powered by Fossil Fuels!

Full disclosure: the author owns some Exelon stock in his IRA.

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