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A business backed by big names in fossil fuels claims a milestone in zero-emission energy production

Can zero-emission natural gas power plants become a thing?

NET Power, a joint venture between the power company, Exelon Power; Occidental Petroleum's Low Carbon Ventures business; and an early stage technology developer, 8 Rivers Capital, thinks so. The company is claiming to have generated the first zero-emission electricity from natural gas.

"This is a Wright-brothers-first-flight kind of breakthrough for energy— zero-emission, low-cost electricity delivered to the grid from natural gas-fueled technology," said NET Power CEO Ron DeGregorio, of the LaPorte achievement.

Like the youth say: big, if true.

The technology would be a have your cake and eat it too moment for the fossil fuel industry that's trying to find any and every way to maintain its grip on the global energy economy.

At a facility in La Porte, Texas, the industry may have found its answer. NET Power claims that it has delivered electricity onto the ERCOT grid from its 50 megawatt pilot plant at a bay on the Gulf of Mexico in the southeastern part of Houston's mega-sprawl.

The pilot facility should pave the way for a rapid build-out of the company's two big natural gas power plants in Illinois and Colorado.

As Bloomberg reported earlier this year, the new facilities, which were set to receive a thumbs up or down in 2022, will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.

At the heart of NET Power's technology is a new kind of turbine that burns natural gas in oxygen, rather than air. The plants only byproducts are carbon dioxide and water, which can be separated by freezing the water and isolating the CO2 to be buried in used oil and gas wells.

fThe Illinois and Colorado plants will be Net Power’s first commercial-scale units. Each plant will be capable of generating 280 MW of electricity. The Colorado plant is also expected to use air cooling, which Net Power says will cut the amount of water required to zero. According to NET Power, any additional energy costs coming from the process used to supply the oxygen used in its turbine is offset by the higher efficiencies of the turbine itself.

NET Power's tech also has the added benefit of no nitrogen oxide pollutants, which are particularly damaging to human health, if not a contributor to climate change.

In Illinois and Colorado, NET Power will build commercial units capable of generating 280 megawatts of power.

To date, other NET Power projects are slated for development in Canada and the United Kingdom.

"Now we can expand on our deep bench of partners to accelerate development of commercial NET Power projects around the world that are urgently needed to help achieve aggressive climate targets at an affordable price," DeGregorio said in a statement.

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