Review Article

Organic Rankine Cycle Power Systems: From the Concept to Current Technology, Applications, and an Outlook to the Future

[+] Author and Article Information
Piero Colonna

Propulsion and Power,
Delft University of Technology,
Delft 2629 HS, The Netherlands
e-mail: P.Colonna@TUDelft.nl

Emiliano Casati, Carsten Trapp, Tiemo Mathijssen

Propulsion and Power,
Delft University of Technology,
Delft 2629 HS, The Netherlands

Jaakko Larjola, Teemu Turunen-Saaresti, Antti Uusitalo

Laboratory of Fluid Dynamics,
Institute of Energy Technology,
Lappeenranta University of Technology,
P.O. Box 20,
Lappeenranta 53851, Finland

External with respect to the power system, as opposed to the internal combustion of reciprocating engines or gas turbines.

Carbon dioxide is an organic compound, as it contains carbon, therefore systems based on supercritical CO2 thermodynamic cycles entailing working fluid condensation, as it is the case in some proposed configurations, qualify as supercritical organic Rankine cycle systems.

The prize was awarded by the Libyan governatorate of Italy and the National Association of Combustion Control. Such solar ORC plant would have been used to pump water in the arid areas of North Africa.

June 2013, personal communication.

The data for the U.S. industry summarize waste heat from selected process exhaust gases: iron/steel ovens and furnaces, industrial steam boilers, cement kilns, ethylene furnaces, glass furnaces, aluminum furnaces, and metal casting. The temperature ranges for the U.S. data are defined as <230 °C (low), 230–650 °C (medium), and >650 °C (high). The data for Japan comprise waste heat from the following industry: food, paper, petroleum, ferrous and nonferrous, mechanics, transportation, electricity, fiber, chemical, ceramics, household appliance, gas, and others. The data for the UK account for 73 unique industrial sites from eight sectors: iron and steel, refineries, chemicals, cement, food and drinks, pulp and paper, glass, and ceramics.

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the ORC Power Systems Committee of the ASME International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI) for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENGINEERING FOR GAS TURBINES AND POWER. Manuscript received December 8, 2014; final manuscript received February 9, 2015; published online March 31, 2015. Editor: David Wisler.

J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power 137(10), 100801 (Oct 01, 2015) (19 pages) Paper No: GTP-14-1658; doi: 10.1115/1.4029884 History: Received December 08, 2014; Revised February 09, 2015; Online March 31, 2015

The cumulative global capacity of organic Rankine cycle (ORC) power systems for the conversion of renewable and waste thermal energy is undergoing a rapid growth and is estimated to be approx. 2000 MWe considering only installations that went into operation after 1995. The potential for the conversion of the thermal power coming from liquid-dominated geothermal reservoirs, waste heat from primary engines or industrial processes, biomass combustion, and concentrated solar radiation into electricity is arguably enormous. ORC technology is possibly the most flexible in terms of capacity and temperature level and is currently often the only applicable technology for the conversion of external thermal energy sources. In addition, ORC power systems are suitable for the cogeneration of heating and/or cooling, another advantage in the framework of distributed power generation. Related research and development is therefore very lively. These considerations motivated the effort documented in this article, aimed at providing consistent information about the evolution, state, and future of this power conversion technology. First, basic theoretical elements on the thermodynamic cycle, working fluid, and design aspects are illustrated, together with an evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages in comparison to competing technologies. An overview of the long history of the development of ORC power systems follows, in order to place the more recent evolution into perspective. Then, a compendium of the many aspects of the state of the art is illustrated: the solutions currently adopted in commercial plants and the main-stream applications, including information about exemplary installations. A classification and terminology for ORC power plants are proposed. An outlook on the many research and development activities is provided, whereby information on new high-impact applications, such as automotive heat recovery is included. Possible directions of future developments are highlighted, ranging from efforts targeting volume-produced stationary and mobile mini-ORC systems with a power output of few kWe, up to large MWe base-load ORC plants.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

The processes forming an exemplary superheated/regenerated ORC power plant in the T − s thermodynamic plane of the working fluid, see also Table 5, (a) together with the corresponding process flow diagram (b). (c) Q·-T diagram of the evaporator of the ORC system, assuming that the energy source is flue gas at 300 °C, compared to the Q·-T diagram of the boiler of a simple steam power plant (d) having flue gas in the same conditions as energy input. The thermodynamic cycles of the ORC and steam power plants have been optimized for maximum net power output having the evaporation pressure and turbine inlet temperature (TIT) as optimization variables, subject to a constraint on the same minimum pinch point in the evaporator (a minimum superheating of 5 °C is also imposed). The main cycle parameters are reported in Table 1.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Current and future fields of application of ORC versus steam power systems in terms of average temperature of the energy source and power capacity of the system. Boundaries are indicative and evolving in time. Adapted from Ref. [11].

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Earliest ORC engines. (a) Engine of the Ofeldt naphta launch, 1897. Fuel is pumped in the bows by air pressure, generated by a hand pump, and passes through a coil boiler. Part of the vapor issuing from the boiler is fed to the burner that heats the boiler itself and the rest drives a three-cylinder engine. The long U-tube at the bottom is the condenser [28]. (b) Shuman's solar ORC-based pumping system prototype installed in Philadelphia, 1907. The flat solar collector is also visible. It was called the hot box, with double glazing containing the blackened pipes acting as the vapor generator [29].

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Number of installed units per year (a) and cumulative power capacity (b) of the commercial ORC power plants commissioned between 1995 and the end of 2013, based on the data reported in Table 3

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Exemplary ORC power plants. Large systems—courtesy of Ormat Technologies Inc. [85]: (a) aerial view of the Ngatamariki 100 MWe geothermal plant in New Zealand, featuring four 25 MWe units. Geothermal fluid is available at 192 °C, brine and condensate return at 90 °C; (b) turbines of the axial type for similar applications during the assembly phase, approx. 15 MWe power output each. Medium scale systems—courtesy of Turboden s.r.l. [91]: (c) aerial view of a 5600 kWe geothermal plant installed in Germany; (d) 2 MWe ORC unit, i.e., turbine and regenerator/condenser, for the hybrid plant built in Ait Baha, Morocco, recovering heat from a cement plant and integrating it with a solar thermal source. Small scale systems—courtesy of Triogen BV [89]: (e) 160 kWe unit installed in Belgium, recovering thermal power from a biogas engine; (f) hermetic turbo-generator assembly for the same system, with single-stage radial expander.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Annual industrial waste heat in the U.S. [124], Japan [125], and UK [126]. The data are not strictly homogeneous and are shown here together to indicate that the potential for useful conversion is in any case large.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Normalized number of published journal articles or conference papers in English per year since 1980. Dashed line: articles having engineering and energy as subject area. Solid line: articles on ORC power systems within the same subject area, i.e., with the acronym ORC appearing in the article title, abstract, or among the keywords. The values are normalized with respect to the maximum value, which is indicated in the figure [138].



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