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What research topics on cogeneration systems would design/development sector would like to see?

mohammad ali bagherian's picture
researcher Catholic University of Louvain

Dedicated, and experienced researcher on power generating units and renewable energy systems. Currently, doing research on energy systems integration, and comparative assessment of biomass energy...

  • Member since 2020
  • 7 items added with 2,135 views
  • Dec 21, 2020

Hi everybody. I hope everyone's doing well and enjoying the last two weeks of this challenging year, hoping for better in 2021. 

I've been thinking about this question a lot, and it might not be limited to cogeneration but rather includes the relation between R&D and Design/Development sector, particularly in energy industry. I really wanna understand how the R&D sector, publishing 1000s of research papers per year, is influencing the Design/Development sector. The question itself might sound a bit strange so I appreciate it if you bear with me till the end of my discussion. 

I've been doing research on CHP and Integrated Energy Systems (IES) for over three years (through my bachelor and now I'm a first year master student). Well the topic itself fascinates me as I believe that such systems would be the future of energy industry. We actually started by cogeneration when Mr. Edison decided to warm his house with the thermal energy he was recovering, and then we kinda distanced from the whole idea when centralized power systems were introduced, and now we are gaining interest again as whether we can develop such systems in a larger scale or not. But I do believe (completely personal and through my own research and the statistical reports I found) that in the next 20 years we will see considerable increase in implementation of such systems since this method is the fastest way to get to higher efficiency and improved flexibility, compared to waiting for more efficient power generating technologies. Also, I think with more distributed generation using CHP in the industrial sector it might create a competitiveness for developing centralized CHP (maybe this doesnt matter at all). I'm interest in this topic and I would like to gain as much information as possible in order to chose a research project (both for my master and then my PhD after that) that can actually have an impact on this sector. I do have my own ideas but I would like to know what are the current actual problems in practical development of such systems. 

Now back to my main question, I would like to know what factors are limiting the implementation of CHP systems as centralized generation in Design/Development sector. Is it just the absence of infrastructure? What research topics on cogeneration systems would Design/Development sector would like to see that it might answer some unsolved questions.

I truly appreciate your assistance in advance and I wish you a Merry Christmas too (in advance).         

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Hello. In East European Countries, in some of the big cities (eg. Bucharest, Romania) it was done by the state policy (in the '70) to build local CHP to provide electric energy and warm water, in the warm months of the year, and also to provide in winter additional heat for centralized heating system. The steam turbines and generators were designed to provide 50 or 60 MW, 50 MW in winter and additional steam for heat exchangers; in summer 60 MW and hot water. The steam turbines were engineered with an adjustment diaphragm to do this.

The most important challenge when it comes to "large" cogen projects is making sure there are combined heat and power needs - I mean the customer's requirement (process wise) includes for example steam and power.

Once this "boundary condition" is met then cogeneration might become a great solution from a technical, financial and management perspectives.

Let me give you an example. In the pulp and paper industry there is a need for steam and power. So coming up with a cogeneration system using biomass (wood chips is one possibility) it is feasible to generate steam at high pressure, deliver it to a high pressure steam turbine, generate power and the low pressure steam exiting the turbine  is then delivered to the production process. 

This arrangement is a potentially lot cheaper than purchasing power (using the local grid) and producing steam using a low pressure boiler.

Bottom line. It is not so much about technology associated with the cogeneration itself but having the need for steam and power (as in this above mentioned case).

An alternative cogeneration option I came up with for a paper industry is setting a natural gas driven turbine to generate power and the exhaust heat then used to produce steam. 

In both cases, the really sensitive issues were the biomass or natural gas contracting in the long run.

Conclusion: the most important issues for a cogen project are availability of a competitive and reliable energy source and the solid need for steam and power.

PS Back up power contract with the local utility company is only but a must as well.


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