Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Michael D. Mann


Rising oil prices and environmental concerns have increased attention to renewable energy. Geothermal energy is a very attractive source of renewable energy. Although low temperature resources (90C to 150C) are the most common and most abundant source of geothermal energy, they were not considered economical and technologically feasible for commercial power generation. Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) technology makes it feasible to use low temperature resources to generate power by using low boiling temperature organic liquids. The first hypothesis for this research is that using ORC is technologically and economically feasible to generate electricity from low temperature geothermal resources. The second hypothesis for this research is redesigning the ORC system for the given resource condition will improve efficiency along with improving economics.

ORC model was developed using process simulator and validated with the data obtained from Chena Hot Springs, Alaska. A correlation was observed between the critical temperature of the working fluid and the efficiency for the cycle. Exergy analysis of the cycle revealed that the highest exergy destruction occurs in evaporator followed by condenser, turbine and working fluid pump for the base case scenarios.

Performance of ORC was studied using twelve working fluids in base, Internal Heat Exchanger and turbine bleeding constrained and non-constrained configurations. R601a, R245ca, R600 showed highest first and second law efficiency in the non-constrained IHX configuration. The highest net power was observed for R245ca, R601a and R601 working fluids in the non-constrained base configuration. Combined heat exchanger area and size parameter of the turbine showed an increasing trend as the critical temperature of the working fluid decreased. The lowest levelized cost of electricity was observed for R245ca followed by R601a, R236ea in non-constrained base configuration. The next best candidates in terms of LCOE were R601a, R245ca and R600 in non-constrained IHX configuration. LCOE is dependent on net power and higher net power favors to lower the cost of electricity.

Overall R245ca, R601, R601a, R600 and R236ea show better performance among the fluids studied. Non constrained configurations display better performance compared to the constrained configurations. Base non-constrained offered the highest net power and lowest LCOE.