Goodbye smokestacks: Startup invents zero-emission fossil fuel power

Between the energy hub of Houston, Texas, and the Gulf Coast lies a sprawling petropolis: a sea of refineries and oil storage tanks, power lines, and smokestacks, all dedicated to converting fossil fuels into dollars. They are the reason why the Houston area emits more carbon dioxide (CO2) than anyplace else in the United States.

But here, on the eastern edge of that CO2 hot spot, a new fossil fuel power plant showcases a potential remedy for Houston's outsized greenhouse gas footprint. The facility looks suspiciously like its forebears, a complex the size of two U.S. football fields, chock-a-block with snaking pipes and pumps. It has a turbine and a combustor. But there is one thing it doesn't need: smokestacks.

Zero-emission fossil fuel power sounds like an oxymoron. But when that 25-megawatt demonstration plant is fired up later this year, it will burn natural gas in pure oxygen. The result: a stream of nearly pure CO2, which can be piped away and stored underground or blasted into depleted oil reservoirs to free more oil, a process called enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Either way, the CO2 will be sequestered from the atmosphere and the climate.

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