It is well known that the history of gas turbine engines has been characterized by a very clear trend toward higher and higher operating temperatures, a growth which in the past 40 years has progressed at the impressive pace of approximately 13°C/year. Expected improvements in blade cooling techniques and advancements in materials indicate that this tendency is going to last for long time, leading to firing temperatures of over 1500°C within the next two decades.

This paper investigates the impact of such temperature increase on optimal cycle arrangements and on ultimate performance improvements achievable by future advanced gas/steam cycles for large-scale power generation.

Performance predictions have been carried out by a modified, improved version of a computer code originally devised and calibrated for “1990 state-of-the-art” gas/steam cycles. The range of performances to be expected in the next decades has been delimited by considering various scenarios of cooling technology and materials, including the extreme situations of adiabatic expansion and stoichiometric combustion.

The results of parametric thermodynamic analyses of several cycle configurations are presented for a number of technological scenarios, including cycles with intercooling and reheat. A specific section discusses how the optimum configuration of the bottoming steam cycle changes to keep up with exhaust gas temperature increases.

Calculations show that, under plausible assumptions on future technology advancements, within two decades the proper selection of plant configuration and operating parameters can yield net efficiencies of over 60%.

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