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Innovative heat-to-power engine for very low temperature heat recovery applications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IE-E (Innovative heat-to-power engine for very low temperature heat recovery applications)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2016-12-31

Biogas plants mostly operate with Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) to convert heat of biogas to electricity. In average, this conversion is done with a thermal efficiency in the order of 30%, while the rest represents thermal losses, with flue gases and cooling water being the predominant waste heat carriers. Recovery of high-temperature flue gases, involves technical interventions to aspiration process of the ICE engines that could affect the engine’s operation and performance, and thus are avoided. On the other hand, cooling water is available at low temperature (~80-90 oC) resulting to low heat to power conversion efficiency. Currently, Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) technology is the most efficient technique to recover heat from low temperature heat sources and fits perfectly the conditions set by the cooling system of ICE engines. As a result several ORC products are already available in the market for this purpose, mostly of medium/large-scale.
The IE-E product is based on ORC technology. However, it is equipped with a beyond the state of the art expander experiencing higher efficiency compared to ORC market available products. A first prototype has been designed, manufactured and tested, revealing the potential of this technology. Further work is required to validate and improve this concept and up-scale the expander to the commercial size of 20 kW rated power, so that to meet the decentralized biogas ICE market. The identified markets for initial uptake of the new product are Greece, Italy and Germany due to favourable biogas electricity prices.
The new product will increase energy efficiency of biogas process. As that it directly contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and efficient exploitation of a low grade heat source. However, the IE-E product establishes a new expander design, and by developing different models a wide range of industrial waste heat recovery activities can be covered. Apart from that, the development and commercialization of this product contributes to the creation of new jobs (mostly technicians, engineers, and supportive staff for sales and promotion).
The overall objective is to develop a high-performing heat-to-power engine with a superior performance and affordable cost, bringing a short payback period (even 3 years depending on incentives) that can bring multiple benefits to society, the environment, and can ensure a high growth and profits to PSYCTO.
A first prototype has been designed, manufactured and tested (with capacity 7 kW), revealing the potential of this technology. Further tests are planned to evaluate with detail this concept, which can lead to the final industrial design.
Moreover, a detailed feasibility study has been conducted, including a business plan. The market study showed the number of potential installations in the target markets, the commercialization plan revealed the possible sales channels and the expected growth of PSYCTO after market introduction.
Other tasks have been also finalized, such as resolving any IP issues, the plan for mass production and the necessary upgrade of production facilities, and the stakeholders required to develop the final product (partners and subcontractors).
The new product has great potential for enhancing the efficiency of heat-to-power technology, initially aiming at low-temperature applications (below 100 oC). At such conditions it is expected to reach 7% efficiency, while similar state of the art units reach up to about 5%. This performance increase comes without increasing production cost (in Euros/kW) for a 20-kW rated power unit.
The feasibility study revealed that the potential market is high enough for this type of product, with the targeted market segment of decentralized power production of biogas engines below 500 kWe. The number of these plants has been identified in the target markets, with an increasing trend in the next years. This growth is supported with moderate/high incentives for the electricity production, making it possible to reduce the payback period to even 3 years.
Overall, the project aims at a higher utilization of the available thermal resources with important environmental benefits, increasing the energy efficiency, according to EU Directive 2012/27/EU.
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