At GE’s Global Research Center near Munich, Germany, scientists have developed a breakthrough technology to help customers address the challenges of rising fuel costs and the increased demand for more efficient, environmentally friendly power systems and industrial plants. The solution is a new waste heat recovery technology called ORegen* — which is a device that converts waste heat from exhaust streams generated by equipment such as small gas turbines and industrial processes into usable electricity.

As Thomas Frey, research scientist at the Alternative Energy Lab of the GE Global Research Center Europe, explains: “Thousands of megawatts of heat are wasted through stacks, chimneys and coolers into the atmosphere every day via refineries, steel mills, cement plants, furnaces and power plants. The latter have only an average electrical efficiency of 33 percent in the U.S. The rest is thermal heat — a huge untapped source of energy. Experts have estimated that low-grade heat worth billions of dollars is wasted every year. Even a significant impact on CO2 emissions could be made, if only a fraction of that heat could be recycled to save fossil fuels rather than rejecting it to the atmosphere. ... However, cost-effective waste heat recovery systems for power production didn’t exist so far. This is exactly what motivated our waste heat recovery technology team at GE Global Research Munich to have a fresh look at an old technology: Organic Rankine Cycles (ORC). These systems have been known for more than a hundred years and operate very similarly to the conventional steam-based Rankine cycle — which is the basis of every conventional coal plant. The big difference is that ORCs don’t rely on high temperatures from burning fossil fuels but can use much lower heat input temperatures.”

Therefore, heat recovery now offers a great opportunity to conserve fuel by productively using waste energy to reduce overall plant energy consumption and simultaneously decrease CO2 emissions. For example, when an ORegen (Organic Regenerator) unit is joined to GE Oil & Gas’ PGT25 gas turbine, it can provide up to an additional 25 percent more power on top of the output of the turbine itself.

This breakthrough recently received GE’s ecomagination certification, in which a product is evaluated for its ability to significantly and measurably improve a customer’s environmental and operating performance. It’s the first ecomagination certified product to originate from GE’s Global Research Center in Munich.

* Read Thomas Frey’s full blog post about waste heat recovery
* Learn more about the ORegen system
* Read the technical details about ORegen
* Learn more about GE Oil & Gas
* Learn more about ecomagination
* Read about the Munich GRC’s other breakthroughs

* ORegen is a trademark of Nuovo Pignone, SpA