Considerations when Designing Turbomachinery with sCO2 as a Working Fluid

Supercritical CO2 (sCO2) power cycles offer higher efficiency for power generation than conventional steam Rankine cycles and gas Brayton cycles over a wide range of applications, including waste heat recovery, concentrated solar power, nuclear, and fossil energy. sCO2 cycles operate at high pressures throughout the cycle, resulting in a working fluid with a higher density, which will lead to smaller equipment sizes, smaller carbon footprint, and therefore lower cost. However, the combinations of pressure, temperature, and density in sCO2 power cycles are outside the experience of many designers. Challenges in designing sCO2 cycles include turbomachinery aerodynamic and structural design, bearings, seals, thermal management and rotordynamics. According to the report from Sandia National Lab, compressors operating near critical point and turbines have received only TRL (technical readiness level) 4 and 5 out of 9. This blog discusses the impact on turbomachinery design.

Radial or Axial

The selection of radial or axial for turbomachinery is typically performed based on the operating conditions (adiabatic head H and inlet volumetric flow Q). Non-dimensional turbomachinery parameters of specific speed Ns and specific diameter Ds can be selected from NsDs charts to estimate size, speed, and type of turbomachinery. Turbomachinery types for a sCO2 recompression cycle with scales ranging from 100 kW to over 300 MW have been studied and concluded that systems below 10 MW will likely feature only radial turbines and compressors with a single-stage or low stage counts. Such recompression cycle can be simulated in AxCYCLE™ tool which is shown in Figure 1. As size increases, the most efficient configuration for the turbine and recompressor transitions from radial to axial at approximately 30 MW and 100 MW, respectively. Suitable types of turbomachinery and its components for different power range can be reviewed in Figure 2. A radial configuration for the main compressor was expected at all scales due to its lower volume flow and wider range to facilitate variation in gas properties due to operation near the critical point.

Recompression Cycle simulated in AxCYCLE
Figure 1 – Recompression Cycle Simulated in AxCYCLE

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