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ISSN 1068-798X, Russian Engineering Research, 2008, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 104–110. © Allerton Press, Inc., 2008. Original Russian Text © N.G. Kirillov, 2008, published in Vestnik Mashinostroeniya, 2008, No. 2, pp. 6–11. Power Units Based on Stirling Engines: New Technologies Based on Alternative Fuels N. G. Kirillov OOO Innovatsionno-Issledovatel’skii Tsentr Stirling-Tekhnologii, St. Petersburg DOI: 10.3103/S1068798X08020020 MODERN STIRLING ENGINES Until recently, autonomous power systems based
    ISSN 1068-798X, Russian Engineering Research, 2008, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 104–110. © Allerton Press, Inc., 2008.Original Russian Text © N.G. Kirillov, 2008, published in Vestnik Mashinostroeniya, 2008, No. 2, pp. 6–11.  104  MODERN STIRLING ENGINESUntil recently, autonomous power systems based ontraditional internal-combustion engines were consistentwith available technology, fuel and energy reserves,and ecological conditions. However, current nationalproblems such as resource depletion, the intensifyingenergy crisis, environmental pollution, and the green-house effect require urgent solution. As a result,national and international legislation relating to ecol-ogy, nature conservation, and energy conservation (forexample, the Kyoto Protocol) went into force at the endof the twentieth century. These agreements called forreduction in CO   2  emissions, resource and energy con-servation, the adoption of clean fuels, and other mea-sures.In view of the scale of fuel production, increase inits costs, and catastrophic environmental pollution, sci-entists and designers must search for new energy-con-version technologies. A new technology based onhighly efficient thermodynamic cycles and also newfuels and working media is required; in other words, weneed to create clean energy systems capable of meetingindustrial and domestic demand, with minimumresource consumption. In the last two years, the price of traditional petroleum products in Russia has more thantripled. We are on the brink of energy and ecologicalcrises. Therefore, it is time to envision alternativemotors for stationary equipment and vehicles. In thiscontext, in particular, Stirling engines are of interest.In reviews of energy conversion, the Stirling engineis regarded as the most promising for further develop-ment. Thanks to its low noise, low exhaust-gas toxicity,adaptability to different fuels, long life, and satisfactorymass and size, the Stirling engine may be widely usedin the near future. There is a possibility that it willlargely replace the internal-combustion engine.The Stirling engine has an external heat supply. Incontrast to the internal combustion engine, the combus-ting in Stirling engines occurs outside the working cyl-inders and is more uniform. The closed working cycleis characterized by relatively slow pressure rise in thecylinders; the thermohydraulic changes of the workinggas in the internal loop are smooth, thanks to theabsence of a gas-distributor valve mechanism.The structure of the Stirling engine is shown inFig. 1. It consists of an optimal combination of a com-pressor, a compressed-gas motor, and heat exchangers:a heater with a combustion chamber, a regenerator, anda cooling unit. As a rule, the working medium ishelium, which undergoes a direct thermodynamic cyclein the internal loop: two isotherms and two isochores.Stirling engines have properties that permit their usepractically throughout industry and engineering,including the following:(i) a universal thermodynamic cycle, permitting the cre-ation of motors of power ranging from a few W to 1 MW;(ii) high energy efficiency (the theoretical efficiencyof the cycle of an ideal Stirling engine matches that of the Carnot cycle);(iii) low environmental impact of the workingmedium and the spent combustion products, with vari-ous fuels;(iv) the ability to use both traditional and nontradi-tional heat sources (solar energy, natural gas, peat, coal,etc.).  Power Units Based on Stirling Engines: New Technologies Basedon Alternative Fuels  N. G. Kirillov  OOO Innovatsionno-Issledovatel’skii Tsentr Stirling-Tekhnologii, St. Petersburg  DOI: 10.3103/S1068798X08020020  Fig. 1.   RUSSIAN ENGINEERING RESEARCH   Vol. 28   No. 2   2008  POWER UNITS BASED ON STIRLING ENGINES105  Engineers in many countries are at work on thedevelopment of Stirling engines, which are character-ized by low environmental impact, low noise, theabsence of gas-distribution and ignition systems, andhigh fuel economy. Several firms are mass-producingStirling engines that outperform internal combustionengines and gas-turbine engines, with an efficiency of 40% even at 600–700  °  C. In the best designs, themass/power ratio is 1.2–3 kg/kW, while the efficiencyis 45%. Table 1 presents the characteristics of some for-eign Stirling engines.Power units equipped with Stirling engines are veryclean and practically noise-free; the concentration of harmful components in the combustion products is anorder of magnitude less than in diesel engines. Table 2compares the toxicity of spent gases for various sys-tems.The efficiency of power units based on Stirlingengines may be attributed to their compactness, mass,and fuel economy. Installing Stirling generators in theimmediate vicinity of the demand reduces transmissionlosses.COGENERATION SYSTEMSWITH NATURAL-GAS STERLING MOTORSStirling engines are promising for use in cogenera-tion units of power up to 100 kW, generating electricpower and heat at the point of demand (for example, inresidential and public buildings). This is especiallyimportant where dilapidation of centralized power sys-tems and heat-supply networks results in enormousheat losses and interruptions of power supply.Cogeneration systems may be based on autonomousmotors and heat-recuperation systems, in which theenergy of the coolant liquid and the spent gases is usedfor heating purposes. Stirling engines are more efficientthan internal combustion engines in cogeneration sys-tems on account of their thermal balance, i.e., the dif-ference between the heat extracted by the spent gasesand the heat extracted by the coolant liquid. For Stirlingengines, this difference is 30%. Taking account of theirhigh efficiency, this permits the creation of compactand highly efficient cogeneration units.The efficiency of modern Stirling generators is morethan 40%. On heating the working medium to 90  °  C, thetotal efficiency is 95%. In Germany, the United States,New Zealand, Australia, and elsewhere, cogenerationsystems with Stirling engines of electrical power 5–40 kW and thermal power 12–120 kW are in produc-tion.A 9.5-kW natural-gas Stirling engine is shown inFig. 2. This motor is part of a cogeneration system gen-erating around 30 kW of thermal energy.  Table 1  ManufacturerMotorPower, kWMass/power ratio,kg/kWWorking life, hEfficiency, %Philips4 ×  2351505.010000284-S-12102653.81000030STM Inc.STM4-20522.15000045SM-340–5000040Daimler BenzKS15D153.7–37.1SoloV-1607.52.32800035MTIMod III1083.020000364-95524.12000041United StirlingV4X12501.21000030  Table 2  Power unitContent of harmfulcomponents in spentgases, g/kW hCOCH    x   NO    x   Motor with forced ignition,gasoline fuel (Otto carburetor)38.12.7221.8Motor with forced ignition,fueled by burned natural gas35.44.1017.7Diesel engine with direct fuelinjection4.93.011.7Diesel engine with prechambermixing2.30.277.9Vapor engine5.70.344.1Open gas turbine6.01.222.72Stirling engine3.80.202.45   106  RUSSIAN ENGINEERING RESEARCH   Vol. 28   No. 2   2008  KIRILLOV  Cogeneration systems based on natural-gas Stirlingengines permit 40% reduction in fuel consumption rel-ative to centralized power systems. The cost of 1 kW hof power from a cogeneration system is 3–4 times lessthan for centralized power systems, and the heat gener-ated is essentially free! Cogeneration units provide aneffective supplement to heat- and power-supply sys-tems, with no need for reconstruction of the overloadedold systems. The autonomous operation of a cogenera-tion unit provides consumers with heat and electricpower and helps to stabilize their parameters.STERLING ENGINES BASED ON NATURAL GASAND BYPRODUCT GASESAutonomous power units with Stirling engines(Stirling generators) are irreplaceable in the oil and gasindustry, on introducing new fields, especially in theFar North and on the Arctic Shelf; power is requiredhere for prospecting, drilling, welding, and other uses.In these conditions, possible fuels are unpurifiednatural gas, byproduct gas extracted together with theoil, and gas condensate. Thanks to the wide range of possible fuels, Stirling generators are universal energysources. Thus, supplying energy to drilling units, obser-vation stations, communications systems, and otherautonomous systems is not a problem.According to preliminary calculations, a 100-kWStirling generator operating on natural gas or byproductgas may supply power and heat to observation stationshousing up to 50 gas and oil specialists or geologists.There is no need to deliver fuel from the mainland.Environmental impact is reduced on account of theminimal spent-gas emissions. A 75-kW Stirling engineis shown in Fig. 3.Currently, up to 15 billion m   3   /yr of byproduct gas isproduced in Russian oil fields. It is difficult and expen-sive to collect and cannot be used as fuel in internal-combustion engines on account of its fluctuating frac-tional composition. Therefore, to prevent environmen-tal pollution by this gas, it is burned off. However, thisgas may be used as fuel in Stirling-motor power units.Power units with (3–8)-kW Stirling engines areexpedient for automation, communications, and cath-ode-protection systems at gas pipelines, while morepowerful systems (from 100 kW to 1 MW) are irre-placeable for marine and land drilling systems in the oiland gas industry.  Fig. 2.Fig. 3.   RUSSIAN ENGINEERING RESEARCH   Vol. 28   No. 2   2008  POWER UNITS BASED ON STIRLING ENGINES107  STERLING ENGINES RUNNINGON GENERATOR GASCurrently, given the exhaustion of organic-fuelreserves and the rising prices of oil and natural gas, themass production of (3–500)-kW power generators withmodification of the Stirling engine for local fuel is of considerable interest in Russia. Possible fuels includepeat, ground coal, shale, agricultural wastes, and woodchips. In the near future, such Stirling generators willprovide many regions of Russia with inexpensiveautonomous power sources.The use of biofuels is not a return to the past, but areasonable economic and ecological approach. Weknow that the Russian sawmills waste 50% of theincoming timber, to which may be added the compara-ble waste in woodworking and furniture making. Agri-culture generates considerable quantities of biomasseach year.The use of autonomous power sources based onlocal fuel is a global trend. It is most advanced in coun-tries with considerable bioresources (wood, peat bogs,etc.), such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, andthe Baltic nations. Sweden has made great strides inusing local biofuels: natural gas accounts for no morethan 2% of power generation, as against 21% for biore-sources. Biofuels represent 12% of power generation inAustria and 23% in Finland. Overall, around 14% of total energy generation in the Economic Communitymay be attributed to bioresources. In India, the decen-tralization program for power generation initiated in1995 calls for the satisfaction of 44% of demand on thebasis of bioresources in the near future.Many regions in Russia have enormous reserves of inexpensive local fuel. For example, Karelia has con-siderable reserves of renewable biomass in the form of woody plants, peat, and agricultural wastes, which maybe used as a fuel. Peat reserves in Karelia amount to2 billion tn; reserves of wood from deciduous forestsamount to around 2 million m   3   /yr. The use of peat andwood alone may reduce fuel imports by 60%; this ispractically a third of Karelia’s budget.The use of autonomous power systems based onStirling engines would permit rapid introduction of generators consuming local fuel in the northwestern,central, and Siberian regions of Russia. Outside Russia,(5–50)-kW Stirling engines fueled by wood chips arealready in production. A power unit with a Stirlingengine is shown in Fig. 4; its operating system andenergy balance are illustrated in Fig. 5. This unit isintended for the cogeneration of electrical energy (30 kW)and thermal energy (100 kW). Wood-processing wastesserve as the fuel.Stirling generators may also be used for the gasifica-tion of biomass. Gasification of waste wood yields afuel gas that contains CO, H   2  , and N   2  . It may be used asa gaseous fuel for Stirling engines. The calorific valueof the generator gas produced is 12–13 MJ/kg; its den-sity is 1.10–1.15 kg/m   3  . The gas yield is 1.8–2.5 m   3   /kgof biomass. Thanks to the efficiency of gasification (theyield of generator gas is 85–90%) and its convenienceas a fuel, this method is cleaner and more efficient thansolid-fuel consumption in a boiler furnace. An impor-tant benefit is that low-quality fuel (shavings, dust,ground-up bark) may be used in the generator.A 50-kW Stirling engine based on generator-gasfuel is shown in Fig. 6.Gas generation from waste wood is a source of inex-pensive thermal energy. A gas generator combined witha Stirling generator may provide heat and power for anyremote population center. Wastes such as bark andbranches may serve as fuel. Low-quality wood waste,of low efficiency and high moisture content (up to50%), may be burned in the generator. Pieces as largeas 30 cm may be used.The gas generator converts solid fuel to gaseousfuel at high temperature, in the absence of oxygen.This process is known as pyrolysis. The result iswood-based generator gas of calorific value no lessthan 1100 kcal/m   3  . The gas generator is of simpledesign and does not require highly qualified operatingstaff. The generator consists of three components: gas-generating chambers, ignition chambers, and a charg-ing bunker. Thermally stable material is used for thegenerator, since it operates at high temperature.OOO Innovatsionno-Issledovatel’skii Tsentr (IITs)Stirling-Tekhnologii is currently developing a stan-dardized design for a power system serving up to50 houses in a small community, on the basis of Stirlingcogenerators with generator-gas fuel.Stirling generators combined with gas generatorsare highly practical, on account of the production of inexpensive thermal and electrical energy, the use of   Fig. 4.
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