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lunes, 15 de abril de 2013

A new generation of hybrid solar-gas plants: syngas and parabolic dish

CSP World -
12 April, 2013

The Department of Energy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory  is developing a system to improve performance of natural gas power plants with a solar booster. During the sunlight hours, the plant could use a 20% less of natural gas for the same production thanks to the addition of 'syngas', a more energy-rich fuel obtained via concentrated solar power.
"Our system will enable power plants to use less natural gas to produce the same amount of electricity they already make," said PNNL engineer Bob Wegeng, who is leading the project. "At the same time, the system lowers a power plant's greenhouse gas emissions at a cost that's competitive with traditional fossil fuel power."
The system uses solar heat to convert natural gas into syngas, PNNL's system has been developed using a parabolic dish with a reactor in its focus. The reactor converts natural gas into syngas, a fuel containing hydrogen and carbon monoxide. "Because syngas has a higher energy content, a power plant equipped with the system can consume about 20 percent less natural gas while producing the same amount of electricity", claims the research team. The first field tests will be conducted this summer at PNNL's campus in Richland, Washington.
The reactor
About four feet long and two feet wide, the device contains a chemical reactor and several heat exchangers. The reactor has narrow channels that are as wide as six dimes stacked on top of each other. Concentrated sunlight heats up the natural gas flowing through the reactor's channels, which hold a catalyst that helps turn natural gas into syngas.
The heat exchanger features narrower channels that are a couple times thicker than a strand of human hair. The exchanger's channels help recycle heat left over from the chemical reaction gas. By reusing the heat, solar energy is used more efficiently to convert natural gas into syngas. Tests on an earlier prototype of the device showed more than 60 percent of the solar energy that hit the system's mirrored dish was converted into chemical energy contained in the syngas.

Next step, the market
PNNL is refining the earlier prototype to increase its efficiency while creating a design that can be made at a reasonable price. The project includes developing cost-effective manufacturing techniques that could be used for the mass production.  The manufacturing methods will be developed by PNNL staff at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, a research and development facility in Corvallis, Ore., that is jointly managed by PNNL and Oregon State University.
Wegeng's team aims to keep the system's overall cost low enough so that the electricity produced by a natural gas power plant equipped with the system would cost no more than 6 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020. Such a price tag would make hybrid solar-gas power plants competitive with conventional, fossil fuel-burning power plants while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The system is adaptable to a large range of natural gas power plant sizes. The number of PNNL devices needed depends on a particular power plant's size. For example, a 500 MW plant would need roughly 3,000 dishes equipped with PNNL's device.
This system can also handle transient clouds or cloudy days since power plants can bypass the system and burn natural gas directly.
Though outside the scope of the current project, Wegeng also envisions a day when PNNL's solar-driven system could be used to create transportation fuels. Syngas can also be used to make synthetic crude oil, which can be refined into diesel and gasoline than runs our cars.
The current project is receiving about $4.3 million combined from DOE's SunShot Initiative, which aims to advance American-made solar technologies, and industrial partner SolarThermoChemical LLC of Santa Maria, Calif. SolarThermoChemcial has a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement for the project and plans to manufacture and sell the system after the project ends.
Another chance for parabolic dish
This technology is one of the less deployed CSP technology to generate electricity, but it's an ideal technology to produce high temperature heat with a scalable and cost-effective system -such as solar cooking or process heat systems-. With this innovative approach, parabolic dishes add more usability to its portfolio.

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