Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Gas Technology Institute (GTI), GE Global Research (GE) and the US Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL) have achieved a milestone on the supercritical transformational electric power (STEP) pilot plant with a ground-breaking ceremony.

The 10MW supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) facility will be built with an investment of $119m and will demonstrate the next-generation of higher-efficiency, lower-cost electric power technology.

"This project will provide important data on the potential challenges of operating the technology on a larger scale."

DOE Fossil Energy assistant secretary Steven Winberg said: “We’re reaching a milestone in the future of power plant technology, thanks to the vision, technical expertise and determination of GTI, Southwest Research Institute, and GE Global Research.

“Their efforts will help lay the groundwork for even wider deployment of supercritical CO2 power cycles – and that means a smaller footprint, higher efficiency, reduced water usage, lower CO2 emissions, and less expensive power generation.

“With this pilot plant, the technology is moving from the lab to the field. This project will provide important data on the potential challenges of operating the technology on a larger scale.”

Fossil fuel accounts for nearly 60% of energy generated in North America and the majority of US power plants operate at 35% efficiency or less and contribute significant greenhouse gas emissions.

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By GlobalData

The new STEP facility has been designed to solve these challenges with efficiency increases approaching 10%.

SwRI, GTI and GE have collaborated with each other to design the STEP Demo project located on SwRI’s San Antonio grounds.

Construction of the facility expected to be completed in 2020, and will feature skid-mounted components that provide flexibility and a reconfigurable design.