Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy (2018) 20:379–391
Exploring the role of natural gas power plants with carbon capture
and storage as a bridge to a low‑carbon future
· Daniel H. Loughlin
Received: 28 August 2017 / Accepted: 15 December 2017 / Published online: 22 December 2017
© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2017
Natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) turbines with carbon capture and storage (CCS) could be an important source of low-
carbon electricity in the future. Factors aﬀecting the market competitiveness of NGCC-CCS are examined by conducting a
sensitivity analysis using the MARKet ALlocation energy system optimization model. The results indicate that widespread
deployment of NGCC-CCS is better suited for a 30% energy system greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction trajectory than for a
more stringent 50% reduction trajectory. Methane leakage rate, eﬃciency penalty, carbon dioxide (CO
) capture rate, and
natural gas price are found to be the strongest factors inﬂuencing optimal NGCC-CCS deployment, in that order. NGCC
plays an important role in meeting mid-term GHG targets across all model runs. A large portion of NGCC capacity is later
retroﬁt with CCS, indicating that NGCC can be both a bridge to a low-carbon future and an integral part of that future. Thus,
retroﬁtability and siting near CO
storage should be considerations as new NGCC capacity is built. Regional results indicate
that NGCC-CCS deployment would be greatest in the West South Central region, followed by the East North Central region.
In a business-as-usual scenario, both regions have considerable electricity production from fossil fuels. Conventional coal
and gas capacity are displaced under a GHG reduction target, opening the door for NGCC-CCS in these regions. NGCC-CCS
market penetration is projected to have a mixed impact on air pollutant emissions and energy-related water consumption.
Whether impacts are positive or negative depends on the technologies displaced by NGCC-CCS.
Keywords Natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) · Carbon capture and storage (CCS) retroﬁts · Energy system modeling ·
Greenhouse gas mitigation
Natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) power plants have
grown to be a major source of US electricity production.
In 2010, electricity produced from natural gas was roughly
half that of coal. By 2016, natural gas had become the largest
source of electricity in the USA (EIA 2017). Many factors
led to this outcome. For example, new NGCC plants have
a lower investment cost, shorter construction time, and are
easier to site than new nuclear and coal plants (Stark et al.
2015). Also, while natural gas market share historically
has been limited by natural gas price and price volatility,
advances in gas extraction methods have largely negated
these issues (Lu et al. 2012).
Improvements in natural gas combustion eﬃciency have
also driven market share. The average natural gas technol-
ogy combustion eﬃciency in California in 2001 was 33%.
By 2010, this average had grown to 40% (Nyberg 2014).
In 2016, commercially available NGCC had reached an
Disclaimer The views expressed in this article are those of the
authors and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (http s://doi.org/10.1007 /s100 98-017-1479 -x) contains
supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
* Daniel H. Loughlin
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE)
Research Fellow, U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, 109 TW Alexander Dr., Oﬃce: E363-02,
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 109 TW Alexander
Dr., MD E305-02, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA