SuperCritical Technologies Improves Turbine Efficiency to Produce Energy from Heat

CleanTech Innovation Showcase Presenting Company Recap: SuperCritical Technologies

By Grant Williamson

CleanTech Alliance Contributor


Craig Husa, CEO of SuperCritical Technologies presented how the company’s technology can make power from heat at the 2017 CleanTech Innovation Showcase.  SuperCritical Technologies is focused on improving the efficiency of turbine technology at the small end of the size range.  Steam turbines, which provide 80% of the world’s power, are highly efficient at large sizes, but at smaller sizes become very inefficient and uneconomical.

Husa described how SuperCritical Technologies is using supercritical CO2 instead of steam, which enables them to efficiently operate at much smaller sizes, supporting a 5 MW “power cube.”  This cube takes heat and makes enough electricity to power around 3,500 homes.  In addition, it is approximately 1/100th of the size of a steam turbine that produces the same power and requires no water for evaporative cooling.

The SuperCritical Technologies team has operated multiple successful prototypes and is currently commercializing the technology.  They are focused on distributed power opportunities from 5 to 150 MW with a primary heat source of either gas turbine waste heat or biomass combustion heat.  In the future, they plan to optimize the technology for other heat sources.

Husa explained that a SuperCritical Technologies turbine can convert 35% to 40% of gas turbine waste heat, while a steam cycle would be uneconomical.  SuperCritical Technologies has focused on a partnership strategy for the gas turbine waste heat market, supplying this technology with solar turbines.

Husa also detailed how a SuperCritical Technologies turbine makes biomass waste to energy conversion more economical and safer than using a steam turbine.  The supercritical CO2-based turbine avoids problems with corrosive water chemistry, large turbine size, high transport costs, large water requirements and high-pressure steam leaks.  Thus, the supercritical CO2-based turbine supports more reliable rural power.  It also reduces emissions to less than 1% of the CO2 of burning the biomass outside the system.  For the biomass to waste business model, SuperCritical Technologies will act as an owner-operator and is currently working on the Olympic View biomass plant which will produce 5 MW at 4.7 cents per kWh.   

SuperCritical Technologies uses off the shelf parts and engineering except for the proprietary turbo machinery, where it has strong patent coverage.  The market opportunity for their turbines is $110+ billion and is highly underserved.  They are always looking for more partners.