The Texas-based Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been awarded $4.9 million by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of a $9.9 million continuation contract to manufacture and test a high-efficiency supercritical CO2 (sCO2) hot gas turbo-expander and compact heat exchangers for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants.
The award, given through the DOE's SunShot Initiative, continues a previous DOE project to design the sCO2 expander. The SwRI will lead an industry team that includes Aramco Services Co., Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp., the Electric Power Research Institute, General Electric and Thar Energy.
According to the SwRI, the highly cyclical nature of CSP plant operation requires a sCO2 hot gas turbo-expander to operate at high temperatures and pressures over a wide range of load conditions while maintaining high efficiency, handling rapid transient heat input swings and offering very fast start-up to optimize the plant's online availability. There are applications for the technology in other industries, as well.
‘Over the last two years, SwRI and its industry collaborators have developed a highly efficient, multi-stage axial flow sCO2 hot gas turbo-expander that advances the state of the art from laboratory size to a full megawatt-scale prototype,’ says Jeff Moore, principal investigator of the project and manager of the rotating machinery dynamics section in SwRI's mechanical engineering division.
A second objective of the project is to optimize novel compact heat exchangers for sCO2 applications to drastically reduce manufacturing costs.
The project is scheduled to continue through mid-2016.