Smoke rises from a natural gas power plant outside of Dallas, Texas, on January 04, 2018. Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A 50 megawatt, zero-emissions natural gas demonstration plant near La Porte, Texas, had its first successful fire in May. NetPower, the company that owns the plant, has set a goal to deploy 300-megawatt commercial-scale plants around the world beginning as early as 2021, and says its technology should work with coal, too.

Why it Matters: Researchers have sought for decades to realize the potential of carbon capture technology to make fossil fuels into a cost-competitive, zero-emissions power source. If NetPower's technology keeps working, this dream could become reality. Implementing such a technology could make a significant dent in global carbon emissions, given that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects fossil fuels to account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption through 2040.

The details: NetPower's project employs the Allam Cycle, an innovative process that enables the plant to run its turbine using its own sequestered, pressurized CO2 as working fluid rather than steam. This unique feature makes the emissions capture an integral part of the combustion process. (A technical explanation of the Allam Cycle is available here.)

Yes, but: The Allam Cycle is cost-effective in part because its main byproduct, commercial-grade liquefied CO2, can be sold for enhanced oil-recovery. There may not be enough market demand for liquified CO2 to allow for significant, cost-effective scaling of Allam Cycle plants. Others question the net environmental benefits of the technology, given that the sequestered carbon would primarily be used to facilitate further fossil fuel production.

What to watch: There is increasing interest in this technology among industry and policymakers, yet myriad questions remain on its implementation. Further deploying this promising technology will require significant coordination among researchers, industry stakeholders and state and federal policymakers.

Sarah E. Hunt is the co-founder and CEO of Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 12,220,166 — Total deaths: 553,438 — Total recoveries — 6,696,632Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 3,111,902 — Total deaths: 133,195 — Total recoveries: 969,111 — Total tested: 38,032,966Map.
  3. Public health: More young people are spreading the virus Cases rise in 33 statesFlorida reports highest single-day death toll since pandemic began.
  4. Science: World Health Organization acknowledges airborne transmission of coronavirus.
  5. 1 🐂 thing: How the world could monitor for potential pandemic animal viruses.
5 hours ago - Podcasts

Inside Joe Biden's economic plan

Joe Biden on Thursday returned to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to give his first major speech on economic policy since becoming the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Axios Re:Cap digs into Biden's plans, how they developed and how they may change, with former U.S. Commerce secretary and campaign surrogate Penny Pritzker.

5 hours ago - World

Countries grapple with whether to lock back down as hotspots emerge

Tokyo in the time of coronavirus. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty

Many politicians and public health officials sounded a similar lockdown refrain in the spring: let’s do this right so we only have to do it once.

Reality check: While some countries have thus far managed to keep cases under control after opening up, dozens of countries that had initially turned a corner are now seeing a worrying rebound. They have to decide if and how to return to lockdown — and whether their populations will stand for it.