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SwRI and partners begin construction of supercritical CO2 pilot power plant

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and its partners have commenced construction of a $119m supercritical CO2 pilot power plant in San Antonio, Texas.

Gas Technology Institute (GTI), GE Global Research (GE), and the US Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL) are working alongside SwRI on the supercritical CO2 pilot power plant, which will have a capacity of 10MW.

The pilot project dubbed as Supercritical Transformational Electric Power (STEP) has an objective to showcase the next generation of higher-efficiency, lower-cost electric power technology.

SwRI, GTI and GE have worked together on the design of the STEP Demo project at SwRI’s San Antonio grounds. The supercritical CO2 pilot power plant is particularly designed to evolve overtime to keep up with industry advancements, said SwRI.

It will be equipped with skid-mounted components that give flexibility and a unique reconfigurable design.

Construction of the supercritical CO2 pilot power plant is slated to be completed in 2020.

DOE fossil energy assistant secretary Steven Winberg said: “We’re reaching a milestone in the future of power plant technology, thanks to the vision, technical expertise and determination of GTI, Southwest Research Institute, and GE Global Research.

“Their efforts will help lay the groundwork for even wider deployment of supercritical CO2 power cycles – and that means a smaller footprint, higher efficiency, reduced water usage, lower CO2 emissions, and less expensive power generation.”

According to SwRI, supercritical carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide held above a critical temperature and pressure, which makes it to act like a gas while having the density of a liquid.

Supercritical carbon dioxide is also nontoxic and nonflammable, and its supercritical state makes it a highly efficient fluid to produce power as small variations in temperature or pressure cause significant shifts in its density, said SwRI.

The research institute said that replacing water with supercritical carbon dioxide as a thermal medium in power cycles of power plants will improve their efficiency by up to 10%.

SwRI President Adam Hamilton said: “The STEP pilot plant is the home of a truly innovative technology developed in Texas that is about to change the way we think about power generation.

“This new facility’s ability to generate power in a way that is more efficient, cost-effective and less harmful to the environment is remarkable. This project has the potential to revolutionize the industry as we know it.”

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