DOE Green-Lights sCO2 Pilot Power Plant Project

The team of SwRI, GTI, and GE Global Research will design, build, and operate a 10 MWe pilot plant for demonstrating supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) power cycles. The plant, shown here in an engineering concept drawing, will be located at SwRI’s headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Gas Technology Institute (GTI), Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), and GE Global Research, have been selected by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) for a US$80 million award to design, build, and operate a 10 MWe supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) pilot power plant. The goal of this project is to advance the technology development of sCO2 Brayton power cycles.

In Brayton power cycles, high-power-density turbomachinery utilizes sCO2 as the working fluid. Historically, Brayton power cycles have only been used in spacecraft applications where compact, lightweight, high-energy-density power conversion is required, but these advantages are now being applied to terrestrial power generation for the step-change increase in efficiency and corresponding reduction in emissions they offer.

The partnership will design, construct, commission, and operate a 10 MWe sCO2 pilot-plant test facility located at SwRI’s San Antonio, Texas, USA, campus and tie into the power grid. The project will operate at a turbine inlet temperature of at least 1292°F (700°C) aimed at advancing the state-of-the-art high-temperature sCO2 power cycle performance from proof-of-concept to a validated prototype operational system.

GTI will lead the six-year project and provide system engineering and test management. GE Global Research will be responsible for turbomachinery design and fabrication. In addition to hosting the pilot plant, SwRI will be responsible for the test facility design, implementation, and operation as well as turbomachinery evaluation. Additional project support will be provided by original equipment manufacturers, international research and development organizations, universities, and power system utilities.

The project will address the research and development needs of the component vendors and support the risk reduction and commercialization needs of the systems integrators and end users. Developing and maturing the technology at pilot scale will spur the development of necessary equipment, understanding, and characterization needed for larger-scale sCO2 power conversion systems.

Over the last decade, GTI project staff (formerly with Aerojet Rocketdyne) established a leadership position in sCO2 technology with work in cycle modeling and optimization, economic evaluations, advanced materials characterization, and design studies of key components (such as turbines, compressors, and recuperators.) In early 2016, GTI completed conceptual plans to support the design, cost, and schedule for the 10 MWe sCO2 Brayton Cycle test facility with funding from the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, in cooperation with the Office of Fossil Energy and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.