Investors have bet billions on developing new forms of energy, so far with mixed results. Engineers at GE Oil & Gas took a different tack. They focused on waste heat. Today, they are pulling clean power out of a lot of hot air.
A typical gas turbine wastes as much as two-thirds of the heat it generates by burning natural gas. Billions of dollars are lost as wasted heat in the U.S. every year. GE’s new technology, called ORegen, short for Organic Regenerator, uses an innovative way to trap heat and convert into megawatts of clean power. The technology does not need any additional source of energy to operate and generates zero greenhouse emissions.
ORegen has been approved by GE’s Ecomagination initiative focused on promoting clean technology. The new system can boost power plant efficiency by as much as 25%, when connected to GE’s PGT25+ gas turbines, and eliminate more than 38,000 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. That amounts to taking 14,000 cars off U.S. roads.
GE just announced that the first ORegen system will be based in Whitecourt in Alberta, Canada. The project will generate 14 megawatts of clean electricity. That’s enough electricity to power 14,000 Canadian homes for one year. It is slated to come on-line by 2013.
Other power generators, like combined gas and steam cycle power plants, trap waste heat to produce extra electricity. But ORegen is unique because it does not need any water to operate and works in freezing weather.
GE engineers found a way to scale up the Organic Rankine Cycle, a heat exchange mechanism. They transfer waste heat as hot as 900° Fahrenheit into oil and then to a special fluid, whose boiling point is just 127° Fahrenheit. The vaporized fluid then turns the power-generating turbine.
Engineers have calculated that the ORegen system operating for more than 8,500 hours a year will generate the same amount of power as a similar combined-cycle system, but save four Olympic-sized swimming pools of water annually.
ORegen can be attached to any regular gas turbine.