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A step toward supercritical-carbon-dioxide power generation

By Scott Jenkins |

Construction is complete on a new building to house a fully integrated electricity-generating power plant that will demonstrate operability and performance of a 10-MW power-generation facility using supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) as the working fluid in a Brayton thermodynamic cycle. Known as the STEP (supercritical transformational electric power) Demo project, the pilot-plant test facility is located on the property of Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, Tex.), one of the STEP team members, along with project-leader GTI (Des Plaines, Ill.; www.gti.energy), GE Research (Niskayuna, N.Y.), and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (Morgantown, W.Va.). The sCO2 cycle (diagram) offers significant potential benefits in efficiency, cost and environmental performance over the steam Rankine cycle, a common method for producing electricity currently. Above its critical point, CO2 has properties of both a gas and liquid. “In a Rankine cycle, you have a liquid-vapor phase change,” explains John Marion, GTI senior program director. “In a Brayton cycle with sCO2, there is no phase change — sCO2, at the operating conditions of the cycle, is compressible like a gas, but has a high density like a liquid, which results in…
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