Canadian project to develop supercritical CO2 turbine

Carleton University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering recently announced that Natural Resources Canada has invested $1.44 million through the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative for a research project that will create a pilot-scale gas turbine facility to develop technology for efficient electricity generation. The funding is part of ongoing research and development efforts to reduce capital and operating costs, and increase the energy efficiency of, cleaner coal and carbon capture and storage systems.

The objective of the project is to construct a pilot-scale facility based on a closed, indirectly-heated gas turbine cycle using supercritical carbon dioxide as the fluid circulating through the machinery. This type of gas turbine is one of the options being developed as a new key, high-efficiency component in next generation cleaner coal systems.

The next generation systems could offer substantial system size reduction, reduced capital and operating costs, and increased energy efficiency when compared to current best available coal-fired electricity generation with carbon capture and storage. Other potential application areas for supercritical carbon dioxide gas turbines include solar, geothermal, waste heat and nuclear, promising higher efficiency power generation from a variety of heat sources.

The project work will involve nearly all aspects of gas turbine design, including thermodynamic performance analyses, aerodynamic and structural design, heat exchanger and materials selection, dynamic modeling and control systems design. Most of this work will be carried out by teams of undergraduate and graduate students in mechanical and aerospace engineering, as part of their fourth year capstone design projects or their thesis research. The overall project is managed by Prof. Henry Saari, with students being supervised by faculty members from the department.

The project will also receive support from SaskPower, Saskatchewan’s principal supplier of electricity and Canada’s lead coal-fired utility developing new clean coal technologies. SaskPower will provide engineering and technical support, especially for future commercial applications and larger scale testing of the technology.

Prof. Henry Saari said the project will provide an excellent opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to apply the technical skills they have learned to a ‘real-world’ problem in an environment that realistically emulates what they will find in industry. “It builds on, and expands, a long history of gas turbine and turbomachinery education and research that has been one of the pillars of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.”