GTI Energy and its partners, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and GE Research, announced that the Supercritical Transformational Electric Power (STEP) Demo project, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), successfully achieved supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) fluid conditions at its 10-megawatt electric sCO2 pilot plant facility in San Antonio, Texas. Supercritical CO2 power technology enables next-generation indirectly heated (like concentrated solar and nuclear energy) as well as directly fired natural gas electric power plants to be more efficient and help meet the global demand for a low-cost, environmentally friendly, flexible, and resilient energy transition.
“We are pleased to lead this critically important STEP Demo project to advance sCO2 toward commercial applications, and this milestone represents significant progress toward readying the facility for system-level testing,” says Don Stevenson, Vice President of Energy Supply and Conversion at GTI Energy. “We are grateful for the funding support and collaboration with the U.S. DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and many industry partners from across the world to bring this project to fruition.”
Supercritical CO2 technology is applicable to a broad variety of low- and zero-emission heat sources, including waste heat from industrial sources, geothermal, biomass, concentrated solar, and natural gas with and without carbon capture. The cycle lends itself to highly compact turbomachinery, resulting in lower capital costs and reduced power plant size and footprint. It improves grid stability and resiliency with quicker response to changes in power demand that can occur with increased production of power from wind and solar. Water consumption for cooling can also be significantly reduced or even eliminated with the cycle, which can improve grid reliability during extreme weather events.
“The sCO2 power cycle is a breakthrough clean, compact, and high-efficiency power generation technology that can deliver significant environmental performance. We look forward to continued operation of the current test to demonstrate control and operability of this power cycle while validating system performance over long periods of time,” notes Bhima Sastri, Director of Energy Asset Transformation, DOE Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.
The $155M STEP Demo project is funded by an industry consortium and a $124.5 million Cooperative Agreement from DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. The STEP Demo pilot plant, built at SwRI’s campus in San Antonio, is among the largest demonstration facilities for sCO2 technology in the world. The pilot plant will demonstrate the efficiency and performance potential of the indirect fired, sCO2 Brayton power cycle. The facility is configured to enable optimization of system performance and characterization of critical components and subsystems. With a flexible design, the facility can be reconfigured as a testbed for future sCO2-cycle-based power systems and component development. Organizations with an interest in gaining a better understanding of how sCO2 technology can improve high-efficiency power generation are welcome to join the STEP Demo pilot project.