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Geothermal Heat Pump and Heat Engine Systems: Theory and Practice

Andrew D. Chiasson
Andrew D. Chiasson
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We extend our discussion of heat pumps now to heat engines. A discussion of heat engines employing the Rankine Cycle is appropriate here because of the strong similarities to the mechanical vapor compression cycle. Further, there is a continuing interest and trend to employ power cycles in low-temperature geothermal applications similar to those previously discussed for absorption cooling (i.e., <100 °C). Even at geothermal resource temperatures up to ∼175 °C, closed-loop Rankine cycles are typically employed in a binary-type configuration. Such cycles are referred to as organic Rankine cycles (ORCs) because a secondary fluid is employed as the working fluid. The ‘organic’ working fluid is typically a hydrocarbon with a boiling point lower than water.

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