In what eventually could be a breakthrough in reducing the carbon footprint of natural gas-fired and other fossil fuel power generation, the Shaw Group Inc. and Exelon have announced a project with an emissions control technology provider to demonstrate a potential zero-emissions process on a small-scale gas-fired plant during the next three years.

Baton Rogue, LA-based Shaw said it intends during the four-phase demonstration to take a 50% interest in NET Power LLC, the firm that has developed the new technology, which it contends has the potential to benefit power producers, consumers, energy security and the environment.

Called “NET Power,” the technology is based on what Shaw called “a high-pressure, supercritical carbon dioxide oxyfuel power cycle” that is supposed to be able to produce cost-effective electricity with “little or no” emissions, according to the global engineering/construction firm.

As the largest independent power producer in the nation, Chicago-based Exelon will have options for developing the first full-scale commercial plants when the demonstration project is complete. Exelon and Shaw are working with NET Power “to design, develop and manufacture an innovative turbine for this new technology,” a Shaw spokesperson said.

In the initial phases Exelon will identify an appropriate site for the demonstration plant, which could be at an existing generation site or elsewhere, a Chicago-based Exelon spokesperson said. Unlike Shaw, Exelon will not take any equity stake in the project; it will market the output of the 25 MW demonstration plant on a commercial basis.

NET Power’s technology does not carry emissions, nor does it require costly additional carbon-capture systems, according to Shaw. “The primary byproduct of NET Power is pipeline-quality, high-pressure carbon dioxide [CO2].”

The first two phases of the demonstration will involve front-end engineering and combustor rig testing, both of which are expected to be completed this year. The third phase will involve the construction and commissioning of the small gas-fired plant by mid-2014. It is expected to capture carbon and generate revenue from the sale of both electricity and CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

Development of the first full-scale commercial natural gas plant is expected to begin in late 2014 or early 2015.

While the initial application of the zero-emission technology will be based on a natural gas-fired turbine, future variations of the NET Power technology are expected to include the use of coal as the fuel source with existing, commercially available gasifiers, the Shaw spokesperson said. “The coal application is expected to yield similarly excellent environmental and cost benefits.”

Calling it a “next-generation” technology, Shaw CEO J. M. Bernhard said both power utilities and oil recovery/exploration companies should be interested in deploying NET Power. “In addition to being an emissions-free option for power generation, NET Power technology could aid in the recovery of 500 billion to 1 trillion bbl of oil worldwide.”

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