Gas turbine research: GTL, detonation combustion and oxygen burning

The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a United Technologies Corp. company, to receive more than $5 million for three cost-sharing projects designed to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of gas turbines in commercial-scale power plants.

The first project, Turbo-POx For Ultra Low-Cost Gasoline, is designed to improve the production of liquid fuels from natural gas. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne wants to focus on burning natural gas in a high-temperature, high-pressure partial oxidation gas turbine. This technology, when combined with downstream gas-to-liquid processes, is expected to produce gasoline derived from domestic natural gas, rather than from foreign crude oil, reducing the cost of gas-to-liquid technology by as much as 25 percent.  It can also generate electricity from heat released in the process.

For the second project, the company plans to design and build continuous detonation combustors and test them in a simulated gas turbine environment, to establish the feasibility of incorporating 

the technology into natural gas-fueled gas turbine electric power generators. The Continuous Detonation Engine Combustor for Natural Gas Turbine technology is expected to save commercial-scale power plants $5 million annually in operating expenses per turbine.

For the third project, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne expects to develop an advanced gas turbine cycle designed to offer unmatched efficiency by using pure oxygen instead of air to burn fuel, creating extremely high temperatures. To prevent melting, the system would use the company’s expertise in liquid rocket engines to develop advanced cooling technology. This cycle is expected to produce zero emissions and have the potential to reduce the amount of fuel used to power natural gas turbines by as much as 50 percent, apart from increasing the power plant potential to more than double to 75 percent, and lower the cost of electricity by about 60 percent.