What Turbomachinery does to Avert Climate Change (Part 2 of 2)

Last week I described two ways which the turbomachinery industry addresses climate change. This week, I explain two more:

  1. Waste Heat Recovery

Even though processes are becoming more and more efficient they are still mostly wasteful (Figure 1).

Figure 5 Typical energy distribution in a system
Figure 1 Typical energy distribution in a system

The excess energy from processes is eventually released into the environment but bringing down the temperature of the exhaust allows multiple things; direct reduction of the global warming potential as well as possibility to utilize this heat to boil a working fluid before running it through a turbine where it can generate some power without requiring burning additional fuel. A well-known example of such a system is the traditional gas-steam cycle that allows turning a 45% efficient gas turbine cycle into a 60% system by utilizing the gas turbine exhaust heat to boil some water in a secondary loop before passing the resulting steam through a different turbine. In the same manner waste heat recovery can be applied with different fluids (including the trending refrigerants like R134a & R245fa, steam and the state-of-the-art supercritical CO2 as shown on Figure 2) and a multitude of applications; internal combustion engines, steel production plants, marine transports, etc.

Figure 6 Example of a simple, recuperated Brayton, supercritical CO2 cycle that uses the exhaust flow of a gas turbine to heat its working fluid
Figure 2 Example of a simple, recuperated Brayton, supercritical CO2 cycle that uses the exhaust flow of a gas turbine to heat its working fluid
  1. Selection of the best working fluid

Whether it’s deciding to design the main energy conversion cycle or its waste heat recovery system one of the critical parameters to pay close attention to is the working fluid selection; good selection of the fluid will often lead to make a compromise between cost/availability, thermodynamic performance (see Figure 3) and environmental friendliness. One must make sure that the performances of the designed cycle with the chosen fluid are high enough and the fluid cheap enough to make the concept financially viable without sacrificing pollution considerations which can prove devastating in case of leaks.

Figure 7 Example of a fluid performance comparison at different temperatures
Figure 3 Example of a fluid performance comparison at different temperatures

The working fluid selection is also performed so that in addition to the environmental footprint being reduced the physical footprint is minimized as well; this is done through the selection of high density fluids (helium, SCO, etc.) which allows for a reduction in component size and therefore cost (as portrayed on Figure 4), – indirectly it also allows for less material being produced which also “saves trees”.

Figure 8 Example of difference in power density between supercritical carbon dioxide (left) and steam (right) for a 10 MW power turbine
Figure 4 Example of difference in power density between supercritical carbon dioxide (left) and steam (right) for a 10 MW power turbine

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