CSIRO, GTI partner on supercritical CO2 plant

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is partnering with US energy research organisation Gas Technology Institute (GTI) on supercritical CO2 (sCO2) plants that could help mining companies realise their renewable energy ambitions.
CSIRO, GTI partner on supercritical CO2 plant CSIRO, GTI partner on supercritical CO2 plant CSIRO, GTI partner on supercritical CO2 plant CSIRO, GTI partner on supercritical CO2 plant CSIRO, GTI partner on supercritical CO2 plant

Construction has been completed of a pilot plant in San Antonio, Texas

CSIRO has agreed to take part in a Joint Industry Partnership (JIP) participating in a GTI-led Supercritical Transformational Electric Power (STEP) project known as STEP Demo.

Senior CSIRO staff said the project will explore how these plants could offer a low-emission, low-cost alternative to diesel fuel power generation for remote and off-grid mining locations.

"With many mining companies committing to large renewable energy targets, the use of sCO2 power could be the transformational technology that they are looking for," said CSIRO Research Director Energy Technologies, Dr David Harris.

STEP Demo, which has received funding from the US Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory and numerous other industry partners, aims to demonstrate the highly efficient so-called "Brayton power cycle" in a pilot-scale, grid-connected power plant.

"While most power plants use steam to produce electricity, sCO2 power plants use recirculating high-temperature CO2 instead," said Harris. "[And] sCO2 is a higher density working fluid which means sCO2 power plants can be smaller, more efficient and not reliant on water for steam."

A Brayton cycle circulates heated working fluid and compresses it, which spins a generator that creates electricity, as shown in the diagram below.

A pilot plant has been designed, building construction has been completed, and equipment installation is underway on the SwRI campus in San Antonio, Texas. Operational start-up is anticipated next year.

This first-of-a-kind 10 Megawatt-electric (MWe) sCO2 pilot plant will demonstrate a fully integrated functional power cycle in a test facility configured to enable optimization of system performance and characterization of critical components and subsystems.

When completed, it will be the largest sCO2 demonstration facility of its kind in the world.

CSIRO is a pioneering and highly respected organization that shares our focus on technology innovation. We have aligned interests in reducing costs and providing cleaner sources of electricity, and Australia has one of the best environments to test the use of sCO2 power plants with renewable energy technologies," notes Michael Rutkowski, GTI Senior Vice President, Research and Technology Development. "We're pleased to have CSIRO join this collaboration and expand our impact worldwide."

The project will also explore how concentrated solar thermal technologies could be used to provide renewable energy for these sCO2 power plants.