The research deals with the possibility of effective exploitation of low temperature geothermal energy resources, which are generally much more widespread worldwide compared to conventional high temperature ones, typically available only in limited areas of the Earth. The basic idea is the application of an advanced binary cycle, only thermally coupled to the primary endogen heat source. The selected reference-power cycle is the well-known Kalina, which gives the possibility of optimizing the matching between heat capacities of the geothermal fluid (i.e. typically hot water or saturated steam) and the cycle working fluid, which is a non azeotropic NH3-H2O mixture with variable vaporization temperature at a fixed pressure.
The heat transfer diagrams of the main Kalina heat exchangers, namely the condenser and the evaporator, are analysed with the aim of minimizing the irreversibilities related to the heat transfer. At different fixed NH3-H2O composition and condenser pressures, the evaporator pressure shows an efficiency optimizing value between 40 and 55 bar, generally increasing at higher condenser pressure. At fixed geothermal heat source temperature, condenser/evaporator pressures and working mixture composition, the cycle efficiency increases with increasing evaporator temperature, because of the reduction in the approach temperature difference between the geothermal and the working fluid. Higher efficiencies are found at higher NH3 concentrations.
The proposed Water-Ammonia power cycle is further enhanced introducing a chiller (thus making the power cycle a CCP unit), thanks to the properties of the fluid mixture downstream the absorber, through an intermediate heat exchanger between the condenser and the evaporator.
Mainly due to the better matching of heat capacities between the geothermal and the working fluid, the proposed power cycle offers the possibility of interesting improvements in electrical efficiency compared to traditionally proposed binary cycles using ORCs, at fixed temperature level of the heat source. In the investigated proposal, values of electric efficiency between 15 and 20% are found.
An economic analysis is presented, demonstrating that the CCP system is able to produce electricity at decreased unit cost with respect to the power-only unit.