A fire breaks out in your office’s server suite. You grab an extinguisher, aim its nozzle at the blaze, and hit it with a cloud of carbon dioxide. Out goes the fire.
Flames die when doused in CO2. And yet under just the right conditions, CO2can also sustain combustion. That counterintuitive fact is at the heart of a new power plant being built in the Houston industrial suburb of LaPorte. The natural-gas-fired plant’s novel design, from Durham, N.C.–based NET Power, uses a fuel mix that is 95 percent carbon dioxide at the point of combustion. What’s more, it captures and sequesters carbon dioxide at virtually no additional cost. According to NET Power’s calculations, once the company scales up and rolls out the technology commercially, its plants should cost no more to construct and operate than a traditional natural-gas plant, which simply vents its exhaust into the atmosphere.