STEP Demo Team Welcomes CSIRO to Transformational sCO2-Based Power Generation Project

November 17, 2020
Des Plaines, IL


GTI is pleased to announce that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science research agency, is now part of the Joint Industry Partnership (JIP) of the Supercritical Transformational Electric Power (STEP) project known as STEP Demo.

The STEP project seeks to demonstrate power generation plants enabled by supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) technology that can offer dramatically improved efficiencies, economics, and environmental performance, and can play an important role as low-carbon energy evolves. CSIRO’s contributions will improve understanding of how sCO2 power plants can enable lower and zero emission technology solutions, and how those plants might be used in remote mining and community locations as a low-cost alternative to diesel fuel power generation.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (U.S. DOE/NETL) and numerous other industry partners, GTI is leading the Step Demo project team in collaboration with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and GE Research. The pilot plant has been designed, building construction has been completed, and equipment installation is underway on the SwRI campus in San Antonio, TX. Operational start-up is anticipated next year.

This first-of-a-kind 10 Megawatt-electric (MWe) sCO2 pilot plant will demonstrate a fully integrated functional power cycle in a test facility configured to enable optimization of system performance and characterization of critical components and subsystems. When completed, it will be the largest sCO2 demonstration facility of its kind in the world, and will represent a significant step toward technology commercialization.

The STEP Demo pilot plant will be used to advance the sCO2 Brayton power cycle and demonstrate performance over a range of operating conditions. Using sCO2 as a power cycle working fluid instead of steam/water will lower capital expenditures and reduce plant size and footprint. Supercritical CO2 cycles can operate using a wide range of heat sources, including fossil fuel (natural gas), renewables (concentrated solar, biomass, geothermal), next-generation nuclear, industrial waste heat recovery, and shipboard propulsion. By combining higher cycle efficiencies with lower cost and highly compact turbomachinery, substantial emissions benefits, versatility, scalability, and responsiveness can be achieved.

As Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO undertakes a wide range of research, development and demonstration activities in sectors such as energy, mineral resources, land/water, and manufacturing, that are directly related to the application of advanced sCO2 power plants. Many of CSIRO’s activities are undertaken in collaboration with industry, which also provides potential commercial uptake pathways for sCO2 power plants.

“CSIRO is strongly focused on the development and application of emerging technologies as a means to achieve more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable solutions for society. When used with low-emission energy inputs, advanced sCO2 power plants have the potential to be a transformational technology that can accelerate the world’s transition to a low-carbon future,” says David Harris, CSIRO’s Low Emission Technologies Program Lead.

The Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI) and Graphite Energy, a developer of modular graphite-based thermal energy storage, are part of CSIRO’s team, highlighting the importance that the country places on end use applications and the desire to assess how sCO2 power plants can be embedded within Australia’s future on and off-grid connected power systems.

“CSIRO is a pioneering and highly respected organization that shares our focus on technology innovation. We have aligned interests in reducing costs and providing cleaner sources of electricity, and Australia has one of the best environments to test the use of sCO2 power plants with renewable energy technologies,” notes Michael Rutkowski, GTI Senior Vice President, Research and Technology Development. “We’re pleased to have CSIRO join this collaboration and expand our impact worldwide.”

The industry, academic, and government partners in this open JIP help to guide the test activities and move the technology from the lab to the field. Developing and maturing the technology at pilot scale spurs the development of designs, materials, components, and systems necessary for larger-scale sCO2 power systems.

Post project, it is planned that STEP Demo will remain a testbed for sCO2-cycle-based power development. The plant design allows flexibility to be reconfigured to accommodate ongoing testing and technology optimization. The project team welcomes additional partners with interest in the technology.

CSIRO was established in 1949 to carry out scientific research in support of the Australian government, industry, and the broader community. CSIRO also works closely with international research entities and corporations. CSIRO is focused on innovation and science as a key enabler for the creation of economic, environmental and social benefits that better our world and Australia’s place in it. CSIRO employs more than 5000 experts based in 59 centres and has well established local and international networks. CSIRO works in close partnership with industry, with over 1700 private-industry customers, including: 400 major Australian companies, more than 1000 Australian small to medium enterprises (SMEs), and almost 300 overseas corporations.

About STEP Demo
The STEP Demo pilot facility will demonstrate a fully integrated electricity generating power plant using transformational sCO2-based power cycle technology that can offer dramatically improved size, performance, economics, and operational flexibility, with less environmental impact. OEMs, engineering companies, and power plant owner/operators from around the globe are invited to join this open project to gain a better understanding of how sCO2 technology can improve high-efficiency power generation.

About National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)
The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) only Government-Owned, Government-Operated (GOGO) Laboratory. NETL focuses on the discovery, development, and deployment of technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. These advanced technologies enable fossil fuels to produce the clean, reliable, and affordable energy needed to support increased domestic manufacturing, improve infrastructure, enhance global competitiveness, revitalize the workforce, and free the U.S. from dependence on foreign oil.

About GTI
GTI is a leading nonprofit research, development and training organization that has been addressing global energy and environmental challenges by developing technology-based solutions for consumers, industry, and government for nearly 80 years. GTI leads the STEP Demo project as the prime contractor with the U.S. Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL).

About SwRI
Southwest Research Institute is a premier independent, nonprofit research and development organization using multidisciplinary services to provide solutions to some of the world’s most challenging scientific and engineering problems. Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, SwRI occupies more than 1,500 acres, providing over 2.3 million square feet of laboratories, test facilities, workshops, and offices for approximately 3,000 employees who perform contract work for government and industry clients.

About GE Research
GE Research is GE’s innovation powerhouse where research meets reality. It is a world-class team of 1,000+ scientific, engineering and marketing minds (600+ Ph. Ds), working at the intersection of physics and markets, physical and digital technologies, and across a broad set of industries to deliver world-changing innovations and capabilities for their customers.

Become a project partner

This open project is welcoming new partners from around the world. OEMs, engineering companies, and power plant owner/operators are invited to join to gain a better understanding of how sCO2 technology can improve high-efficiency power generation.


For more information, contact Markus Lesemann directly.