ORC with Regenerator

In thermal engineering, the organic Rankine cycle (ORC) is a type of thermodynamic cycle. It is a variation of the Rankine cycle named for its use of an organic, high-molecular-mass fluid (compared to water) whose vaporization temperature is lower than that of water. The fluid allows heat recovery from lower-temperature sources such as biomass combustion, industrial waste heat, geothermal heat, solar energy etc. The low-temperature heat is converted into useful work, that can be converted into electricity.

The technology was developed in the late 1950s by Lucien Bronicki and Harry Zvi Tabor.[1][2]

Naphtha engines, similar in principle to ORC but developed for other applications, were in use as early as the 1890s.

Working principle of the ORC

T-s diagram for the ideal/real ORC

The working principle of the organic Rankine cycle is the same as that of the Rankine cycle: the working fluid is pumped to a boiler where it is evaporated, passed through an expansion device (turbine,[3] screw,[4] scroll,[5] or other expander), and then through a condenser heat exchanger where it is finally re-condensed.

In the ideal cycle described by the engine's theoretical model, the expansion is isentropic and the evaporation and condensation processes are isobaric.

In any real cycle, the presence of irreversibilities lowers the cycle efficiency. Those irreversibilities mainly occur:[6]

Applications for the ORC

75 kW ORC turbogenerator used at an experimental power plant at the LUT University in Lappeenranta, Finland

The organic Rankine cycle technology has many possible applications, and counts more than 2.7 GW of installed capacity and 698 identified power plants worldwide.[7] Among them, the most widespread and promising fields are the following:[8]

Waste heat recovery

Waste heat recovery is one of the most important development fields for the organic Rankine cycle (ORC). It can be applied to heat and power plants (for example a small scale cogeneration plant on a domestic water heater), or to industrial and farming processes such as organic products fermentation, hot exhausts from ovens or furnaces (e.g. lime and cement kilns), flue-gas condensation, exhaust gases from vehicles, intercooling of a compressor, condenser of a power cycle, etc.

Biomass power plant

Biomass is available all over the world and can be used for the production of electricity on small to medium size scaled power plants. The problem of high specific investment costs for machinery, such as steam boilers, are overcome due to the low working pressures in ORC power plants. Another advantage is the long operational life of the machine due to the characteristics of the working fluid, that unlike steam is non eroding and non corroding for valve seats tubing and turbine blades. The ORC process also helps to overcome the relatively small amount of input fuel available in many regions because an efficient ORC power plant is possible for smaller sized plants.

Geothermal plants

Geothermic heat sources vary in temperature from 50 to 350 °C. The ORC is therefore perfectly adapted for this kind of application. However, it is important to keep in mind that for low-temperature geothermal sources (typically less than 100 °C), the efficiency is very low and depends strongly on heat sink temperature (defined by the ambient temperature). However, the geothermal-ORC units present a relatively low payback period.[9]

Solar thermal power

The organic Rankine cycle can be coupled with solar thermal collectors for producing renewable and sustainable electricity.[10] These plants are similar to the CSP with water-steam cycle but they work on lower temperature levels making possible the exploitation of solar concentrating technologies like the parabolic trough collector and the linear Fresnel reflectors. The ORC allows electricity generation at lower capacities and lower collector temperature, and hence the possibility for low-cost, small scale decentralized CSP units.[11][12] The ORC also enables hybrid CSP-PV systems equipped with thermal energy storage to provide on-demand recovery of up to 70% of their instantaneous electricity generation, and can be a fairly efficient alternative to other types of electrical storage.[13][14]

Windthermal energy

Recently so called windthermal energy turbines are discussed that could convert wind energy directly into medium temperature heat (up to 600°C).[15] They can be combined with a thermal storage and could suitably be matched with ORC to generate electricity.

However, due to the Carnot Efficiency of the Turbine, it may be more efficient to use the thermal energy as heat itself rather than to generate electricity.

Choice of the working fluid

The selection of the working fluid is of key importance in low temperature Rankine Cycles. Because of the low temperature, heat transfer inefficiencies are highly prejudicial. These inefficiencies depend very strongly on the thermodynamic characteristics of the fluid and on the operating conditions.

In order to recover low-grade heat, the fluid generally has a lower boiling temperature than water. Refrigerants and hydrocarbons are two commonly used components.

Optimal characteristics of the working fluid :

Since the purpose of the ORC focuses on the recovery of low grade heat power, a superheated approach like the traditional Rankine cycle is not appropriate. Therefore, a small superheating at the exhaust of the evaporator will always be preferred, which disadvantages "wet" fluids (that are in two-phase state at the end of the expansion). In the case of dry fluids, a regenerator should be used.

Unlike water, organic fluids usually suffer chemical deteriorations and decomposition at high temperatures. The maximum hot source temperature is thus limited by the chemical stability of the working fluid. The freezing point should be lower than the lowest temperature in the cycle.

A fluid with a high latent heat and density will absorb more energy from the source in the evaporator and thus reduce the required flow rate, the size of the facility, and the pump consumption.

The main parameters taken into account are the Ozone depletion potential (ODP) and the global warming potential (GWP).

The fluid should be non-corrosive, non-flammable, and non-toxic. The ASHRAE safety classification of refrigerants can be used as an indicator of the fluid dangerousness level.

Examples of working fluids

Modeling ORC systems

Simulating ORC cycles requires a numerical solver in which the equations of mass and energy balance, heat transfer, pressure drops, mechanical losses, leakages, etc. are implemented. ORC models can be subdivided into two main types: steady-state and dynamic. Steady-state models are required both for design (or sizing) purpose, and for part-load simulation. Dynamic models, on the other hand, also account for energy and mass accumulation in the different components. They are particularly useful to implement and simulate control strategies, e.g. during transients or during start & Another key aspects of ORC modeling is the computation of the organic fluid thermodynamic properties. Simple equation of states (EOS) such as Peng–Robinson should be avoided since their accuracy is low. Multiparameter EOS should be preferred, using e.g. state-of-the-art thermophysical and transport properties databases.

Various tools are available for the above purposes, each presenting advantages and drawbacks. The most common ones are reported hereunder.

Tool Causality Simulation type Distribution Examples Description
General thermodynamic modeling tools
AxCYCLE Acausal steady-state Non-free
Cycle-Tempo Causal steady-state Non-free
Engineering Equation Solver Acausal steady-state Non-free Simple ORC Model in EES Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
GT-SUITE Acausal steady-state & dynamic Non-free Cummins Super Truck WHR
LMS Imagine.Lab Amesim Causal

and Acausal

steady-state & dynamic Non-free Small Scale ORC Plant
ProSimPlus / steady-state Non-free
General modeling tools
MATLAB / Simulink Causal steady-state / dynamic Non-free
Scilab / Xcos Acausal steady-state / dynamic Open-source Simple ORC model Open-source alternative to Matlab.
General tools for thermophysical and transport properties of organic fluids
AspenProp / Non-free
CoolProp / Open-source
FluidProp / Free
Refprop / Non-free
Simulis Thermodynamics / Non-free

See also


  1. ^ Harry Zvi Tabor, Cleveland Cutler, Encyclopedia of the Earth, 2007.
  2. ^ Israeli Section of the International Solar Energy Society Archived 2009-01-11 at the Wayback Machine, edited by Gershon Grossman, Faculty of Mechanical Energy, Technion, Haifa; Final draft.
  3. ^ Arifin, M.; Pasek, A. D. (2015). Design of Radial Turbo-Expanders for Small Organic Rankine Cycle System. 7th International Conference on Cooling & Heating Technologies. Vol. 88. p. 012037. Bibcode:2015MS&E...88a2037A. doi:10.1088/1757-899X/88/1/012037.
  4. ^ Ziviani, Davide; Gusev, Sergei; Schuessler, Stefan; Achaichia, Abdennacer; Braun, James E.; Groll, Eckhard A.; Paepe, Michel De; van den Broek, Martijn (13 September 2017). "Employing a Single-Screw Expander in an Organic Rankine Cycle with Liquid Flooded Expansion and Internal Regeneration". Energy Procedia. 129: 379. doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2017.09.239.
  5. ^ Galloni, E.; Fontana, G.; Staccone, S. (25 July 2015). "Design and experimental analysis of a mini ORC (organic Rankine cycle) power plant based on R245fa working fluid". Energy. 90: 768–775. doi:10.1016/j.energy.2015.07.104.
  6. ^ Sustainable energy conversion through the use of Organic Rankine Cycles for waste heat recovery and solar applications (PDF) (Thesis). University of Liège, Liège, Belgium. 2011-10-04. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
  7. ^ T. Tartiere. "ORC World Map". Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  8. ^ Quoilin, Sylvain; Broek, Martijn Van Den; Declaye, Sébastien; Dewallef, Pierre; Lemort, Vincent (2013). "Techno-economic survey of Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) systems" (PDF). Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 22: 168–186. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2013.01.028. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
  9. ^ Loni, Reyhaneh; Mahian, Omid; Najafi, Gholamhassan; Sahin, Ahmet Z.; Rajaee, Fatemeh; Kasaeian, Alibakhsh; Mehrpooya, Mehdi; Bellos, Evangelos; le Roux, Willem G. (October 2021). "A critical review of power generation using geothermal-driven organic Rankine cycle". Thermal Science and Engineering Progress. 25: 101028. doi:10.1016/j.tsep.2021.101028. ISSN 2451-9049.
  10. ^ Loni, Reyhaneh; Mahian, Omid; Markides, Christos N.; Bellos, Evangelos; le Roux, Willem G.; Kasaeian, Ailbakhsh; Najafi, Gholamhassan; Rajaee, Fatemeh (October 2021). "A review of solar-driven organic Rankine cycles: Recent challenges and future outlook". Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 150: 111410. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2021.111410. ISSN 1364-0321.
  11. ^ "Solar micro-generator". Stginternational.org. Archived from the original on 2013-03-03. Retrieved 2017-04-29.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  12. ^ "Power From the Sun :: Chapter 12.2 Rankine Power Cycles". Power From the Sun. Retrieved 2017-04-29.
  13. ^ "RayGen focuses its energies on vast storage potential". www.ecogeneration.com.au. 2020-04-23. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  14. ^ Blake Matich (2020-03-20). "ARENA boosts funding for RayGen's "solar hydro" power plant". PV Magazine. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  15. ^ Okazaki, Tori; Shirai, Yasuyuki; Nakamura, Taketsune (2015). "Concept study of wind power utilizing direct thermal energy conversion and thermal energy storage". Renewable Energy. 83: 332–338. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2015.04.027. hdl:2433/235628.
  16. ^ "TURBODEN - Organic Rankine Cycle systems" (PDF).