Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants utilizing fossil fuels is expected to become substantially more important in the near- to medium-term due to increasing costs associated to national and international greenhouse gas regulations, such as the Kyoto protocol and the European Union Emission Trading Scheme. However, since net efficiency penalties caused by capturing CO2 emissions from power plants are significant, measures to reduce or recover efficiency losses are of substantial interest.
For a state-of-the-art 400 MW natural gas-fueled combined cycle (NGCC) power plant, post-combustion CO2 removal based on chemical solvents like amines is expected to reduce the net plant efficiency in the order of 9–12 percentage points at 90% overall CO2 capture. A first step that has been proposed earlier to improve the capture efficiency and reduce capture equipment costs for NGCC is exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). An alternative or complementary approach to increase the overall plant efficiency could be the recovery of available low temperature heat from the solvent-based CO2 removal systems and related process equipment. Low temperature heat is available in substantial quantities in flue gas coolers that are required upstream of the CO2 capture unit, and that are used for exhaust gas recirculation, if applied. Typical temperature levels are in the order of 80°C or up to 100 °C on the hot end. Additional low-grade heat sources are the amine condenser which operates at around 100–130 °C and the amine reboiler water cooling that could reach temperatures of up to 130–140°C. The thermal energy of these various sources could be utilized in a variety of low-temperature heat recovery systems. This paper evaluates heat recovery by means of an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) that — in contrast to traditional steam Rankine cycles — is able to convert heat into electricity efficiently even at comparably low temperatures. By producing additional electrical power in the heat recovery system, the global performance of the power plant can be further improved. This study indicates a theoretical entitlement of up to additional 1–1.5 percentage points in efficiency that could be gained by integrating ORC technology with a post-combustion capture system for natural gas combined cycles.
The analysis is based on fundamental thermodynamic analyses and does not include an engineering- or component-level design and feasibility analysis. Different ORC configurations have been considered for thermal energy recovery at varying temperature levels from the above-mentioned sources. The study focuses on simultaneous low-grade heat recovery in a single ORC loop. Heat recovery options that are discussed include in series, in parallel or cascaded arrangements of heat exchangers. Different organic operating fluids, including carbon dioxide, R245fa, and N-butane were considered for the analysis. The ORC performance was evaluated for the most promising organic working fluid by a parametric study. Optimum cycle operating temperatures and pressures were identified in order to evaluate the most efficient approach for low temperature heat recovery.