As distributed generation continues to evolve (technically and politically), microturbines continue to be one of the main technologies in the mix. Capstone, of course, is the only one with a truly commercial product and sizeable installed base. The collapse of the Honeywell Parallon program is well known. (Less well known–or so the story goes– to avoid any future liability for performance or maintenance, the company bought back and destroyed every unit they’d sold.) Meanwhile, other companies entering or about ready to enter the field with commercial units, such as Turbec, Ingersoll, Elliott, etc.
This note reviews a number of other contenders. Some are startup companies at various stages, actively engaged in fundraising. Others, less visible, have been built for defense applications with no active effort to pursue commercial uses. Two of these companies have aggressive near term plans to sell components for turbines, either replacement parts or OEM.
*available information at:
http://www.ufto.com/clients-only/turbines/ [password required]
M-DOT Aerospace http://www.m-dot.com
M-DOT is an engineering and manufacturing company in Phoenix, specializing in turbine technology, primarily for military/aerospace. With funding from DARPA, they have demonstrated the world’s smallest operating gas turbine and are developing a soda-pop can size gas-turbine driven 600-watt alternator intended to be a compact, carry-able power source for the soldier. They’re about to launch a development program for a 6 KW turbine with the requisite light weight and performance characteristics for commercial applications, particularly in portable power.
Bryan Seegers, CEO, 408-752-1911 x13, firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally built for military and civilian use, IHI’s Dynajet 2.6 KW microturbine genset is selling commercially in Japan is 1.2 million Yen (about $9000) "for use in Japan only" (kerosene fuel). There are no plans for export. They don’t have a natural gas version. Very little information is available, though I do have a 2-page product description and spec sheet (*available). The unit measures 30"x10"x11" and weighs 140 lb.
[The contact at IHI prefers not to be listed.]
ALM Turbine http://www.almturbine.com/
The Company is developing a new "Dual Stream Engine" (DSE) mini-turbine for small-to-medium size power generation and automotive applications. The DSE can be scaled to generate power between 25kW and 300kW, with efficiencies of 37 – 40%. The engine recirculates the exhaust–the intake is 5/6 exhaust and 1/6 makeup air.
Certain parts and components will upgrade existing installed turbines to make them cleaner and more and efficient. One of these replacement parts is a revolutionary combustion system for large, medium and small turbines (5kW ? 250MW) with NOx levels of 3ppm or less, without the use or need of a catalyst. ALM’s combustion system prevents the creation of emissions as opposed to after treatment or clean-up technologies such as SCR.
ALM is working with a number of companies to develop aftermarket combustors for the existing installed base of large heavy-duty turbines (i.e. GE Frame 7EA) and for other size turbines. (Utilities want an alternative to the GE monopoly on replacement parts.) ALM is seeking partners to develop combustors to retrofit Solar, Rolls Royce and GE LM series turbines. The combustor uses external premix with no dilution zone, and has no pilot nozzle. ALM has developed technology to run significantly leaner than conventional DLN combustors.
ALM, then, is addressing two goals; 1. to make and sell their small engines (preferably with a strategic partner), and 2. to sell parts for existing large turbines, which should begin to generate significant revenues in the near term.
ALM recently signed a $3 million contract with the California Energy Commission to deploy a number of miniturbine beta units in the field. They’ve presented at several venture conferences, and are actively seeking additional funding. An executive summary is available.*
Contact MartyKalin, CEO 202-778-8538, x134 email@example.com
The 1.6 MW all radial OPRA OP16 is a new engine evolved from operational and design experience of an earlier engine developed in Norway more than thirty years ago by a team led by Jan Mowill, the CEO of OPRA.
The old Kongsberg engine demonstrated high reliability and endurance in applications ranging from backup power for hospitals and banks to auxiliary power supply for merchant ships, off shore platforms and combined heat and power (CHP) applications for process industries. More than a thousand generating packages were delivered worldwide and some eleven million operating hours amassed.
Key features of the new engine include single stage highly efficient rotor components, and a unique burner design using a lower temperature lean burning flame.
Most of the combustion development on the engine was made with diesel fuel, significant for customers without access to natural gas infrastructure, for marine installations, and for dual fuel applications. Achieving low emissions on liquid fuels is also considered the most difficult by the turbine industry. Recent engine testing on natural gas demonstrated NOx levels as low as 5 ppm. Emission levels with diesel fuel #2 of 20 ppm NOx, 5 ppm UHC and 2 ppm CO is now well established. Even the typical "diesel smell" has disappeared from the exhaust of the OP16 engine.
Simple cycle shaft efficiency is 26%. A recuperated OP16R is under design and will yield an efficiency of 38%. Utilization of the exhaust heat will provide hot water and/or air conditioning, boosting the overall fuel utilization efficiency to nearly 90%.
The company, now in the Netherlands, is expanding to the US. There are currently investment opportunities in OPRA.
Contact Jan Mowill, firstname.lastname@example.org
tel +31 (011) 74 245 2125 fax +31 (011)74 245 2139
Wilson TurboPower’s first product, a rotary regenerator, is based on MIT-patented technology (US Pat RE37,134). It raises the efficiency of microturbines from 30% to 35%.
Turbines typically use recuperators, or "air-to-air" heat exchangers, that recover heat from the exhaust to preheat incoming air. Because of the extremes of temperature and temperature cycling which are a challenge to materials, recuperators are high in cost if they are to be reliable. Effectiveness (efficiency) is typically 88-91%. (Heat must travel through the barrier separating the hot and cold sides.)
Another approach is a "regenerator", where a material is heated directly, and then the same material surface is exposed to the cold side. Effectiveness can reach 95-97%. A typical system (e.g. an air heater) has a ceramic honeycomb of porous disk which rotates slowly between openings to the hot and cold sides. In a high performance application, sealing against leakage is a problem that hasn’t been solved before. Wilson’s innovation consists of "stepping" the disk’s rotation. Seals are released momentarily when the disk moves, and clamped again when it stops.
Microturbine companies that represent Wilson’s customer base include GE, Ingersoll-Rand, Pratt & Whitney, Turbec (a Volvo/ABB joint venture), Elliott, and Capstone. The regenerator will be prototyped and tested in 2002 and field tested by prospective customers in 2003. Wilson will ship in 2004 and/or license manufacturing rights to one or more of its customers.
Wilson’s next product will be a microturbine (MIT patent applied for) that will be the first distributed power generation product with efficiencies at about 50% and costs at about $500/KW. This performance is possible with the regenerator, which in turn permits a lower pressure ratio and lower rpm, so cheaper ceramics can be used compared with "high-performance" turbines. The ceramic regenerator also operates at higher temperatures than turbines using stainless steel recuperators.
The company believes it can reach profitability in 2 years with a total investment of under $3 million, which they are now raising.
Contact Bruce Anderson, 617-290-9913, email@example.com
"Turbine in a turbine" –The engines being developed by Candent Technologies do not require a recuperator, but will use instead a high pressure ratio (> 16 atm), simple cycle turbine to achieve the desired performance.
The engine has two spools, low pressure and high pressure; one sits "inside" the other one.
— LP Spool: centrifugal compressor (single stage) and axial turbine (2-stage), with the shaft directly coupled to an alternator
— HP Spool: centrifugal compressor (single stage), combustor (Catalytic), and turbine (radial inflow)
The LP compressor supplies pressurized inlet air to the HP spool, whose output is directed back to the LP turbine and then exhausted. The HP spool thus acts as a kind of supercharged combustor for the LP spool.
Based on detailed design modeling, this simple cycle system is expected to have lower production costs than an equivalent recuperated system, as well as lower operating cost and higher reliability (lowest reliability component is typically the recuperator itself). The cost of the additional spool will be less than the cost of the recuperator (in a 750 kW system, $25K for the additional turbomachinery versus $75K for a recuperator). Operating life will increase to around 30,000 operating hours, versus less than 10,000 hours.
The engine configuration, while unique, does not push performance, cost, or design envelopes. The company’s plan relies on simplicity and proven technology imported from the aero engines, which routinely run at pressure ratios much higher than current power generation turbines. The operating temperatures have been kept low in order to prolong component life and allow utilization of common and less expensive materials, while the choice of higher pressure maintains quite competitive thermal efficiencies for the system. They expect their "alpha" will essentially be the "beta", since the modules and subsystems used are substantially similar to thousands already in service in many engines.
The team has deep experience in all aspects of the turbine industry, and has designed dozens of aircraft and land-based turbines using proven design codes and components.
The company needs partners and capital.
Contact: Hernando Munevar, 317-442-0624, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Bobbi, 203-758-7702, WaldoBobbi@aol.com
Rolls is developing a 1 MW hybrid SOFC-Turbine system. The company is now satisfied that its IP-SOFC possesses the necessary performance characteristics for commercialisation, and is starting to bring the technology out of the lab. Rolls is beginning to develop a low cost production process, and has designed a hybrid 1MW power plant, which combines an 800kW SOFC with a 200kW turbine, which will be developed very specifically for this application. Rolls expects to have prototype systems in place in 2004-5, and to begin selling units in 2005-6. Initially, it plans to target US power generation markets, and with this in mind it is not at present developing a CHP system. Rolls-Royce says that its stack cost target of US$300 per kW is already achievable. It is aiming for a maximum system efficiency of 65%.
[source: Fuel Cell Today, http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/
A detailed presentation on the program (found it with google)
Colin Berns, 011-44-1332-248382, email@example.com