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Organic Rankine Cycle

Process Simulator Selection
Linkedin Version
Ivan A. Gargurevich, PhD
Reference Document as : Gargurevich, Ivan A., "Organic Rankine Cycle Process Simulator Selection",
"Combustion &Process Technologies, White paper/Private Communication, Los Angeles, California,
USA,, 2013.
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As a result of the analysis conducted in this report, it is recommended to continue the

use of ASPEN PLUS as the process simulator of choice for modeling Organic Rankine
Cycle for Waste Heat to Energy conversion.

The recommendation is based on several factors, with the most important being that a
present ASPEN simulation is already in use by the author. Other factors that have
played a role in the decision is ASPENs cost comparability with CHEMCAD (optional
software of choice), and the superior sophistication offered by ASPEN in terms of unit
operation modeling, and thermodynamic and physical property data (relevant to
refrigerant compounds).


The methodology for simulator selection was very similar to what is outlined by T. T.
Nichols (2001) in the document titled Selection of Steady-State Process Simulation
Software to Optimize Treatment of Radioactive and Hazardous Waste prepared for the
Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

In this respect, the work of H. L. Lam et al. (2010) also provides useful guidelines and
information for software selection.

The process simulator to be selected should meet closely the following requirements:

(1) Process Envelope.

Routines must be available to properly model and size the unit operations
involved in the Organic Rankine cycle. An example of this is the need to simulate
the pump characteristics for the refrigerant or working fluid in the cycle loop, i.e.,
to be able to enter the pump performance map into the modeling of the pump.
(2) Functionality and Performance
The simulator should be able to predict performance of the Rankine Cycle under
conditions other than design. Obviously, the software must be user friendly and
easily interact with the user.
(3) Thermodynamic and Physical Properties Database
The Organic Rankine Cycle will make use of organic compounds as the working
fluid. The process simulator must incorporate as a complete database for their
thermodynamic and physical properties as possible. It must also be able to
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import outside databases such as REFPROP by the National Institute of

Standards and Technology (NIST).
(4) Integration
The process simulator must integrate well with past, present, and future efforts
for modeling Organic Rankine Cycles. ASPEN has been the simulator of choice
in previous simulations by the author, so on this basis alone, this simulator would
be preferred over others. However, present as well as future simulation needs
must also be considered in the final selection. For example, the simulator will be
used to fully map the performance of a given system including equipment such
as pump, expander, heat exchangers, receiver, and piping, under loads other
than design at steady state conditions.
(5) Cost
If several simulators meet the above factors equally, cost could be the deciding
factor in the final selection.


A simplified diagram of a typical Organic Rankine Cycle is shown in Figure 1. Working

fluid is pumped through an evaporator to produced superheated vapor. The vapor
drives a turbine to generate electricity. Low pressure vapor is partially cooled in the
regenerator or economizer, and finally condensed in the condenser. This is the process
that the simulator of choice must model including rating of the exchangers under off-
spec conditions (preferably).

The most common process simulators were considered in this study: ASPEN PLUS,
PRO II, and CHEMCAD. As previously stated ASPEN is the simulator of choice by
others as well as presently used by the author. Pro II was eliminated from consideration
because it did not provide significant cost savings that is known to the author over
ASPEN, while CHEMCAD seemed to be considerably cheaper than ASPEN or PRO II.

It must also be noted that PRO II has been the simulator of choice in the Petroleum and
Hydrocarbon industry, while ASPEN, in the past, was chosen for design of chemical
manufacturing processes or chemical processes involving solutions of electrolytes.
CHEMCAD has gained prominence over the last few years, and in many instances
because of its cost, is the chosen simulator over ASPEN or PRO II.

Table 1 provides a comparison of the factors discussed in the introduction for ASPEN

Both ASPEN and CHEMCAD provide a user-friendly environment. The differences here
are not significant.
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Figure 1. Organic Rankine Cycle Diagram

Table 1. Comparison of Selection Factors


Process Envelop Largest set of unit operations. Widely It appears to include a diverse
used in the Chemical industry. set of unit operations.
It includes batch simulation
Functionality & Offers user-defined extensibility with Reports can be exported to
Performance respect to property models, database, Excel.
and unit operations.
Thermodynamic & Extensive database including Database is adequate including
Physical Property REFPROP (import). It includes electrolytes. Includes 1500
Database extensive Electrolytes properties. component DIPPR data base. It
can import REFPROP.
Integration It has been the choice by others. It can It can map performance of pump.
map performance of pump, turbine. Exchanger sizing & rating
Requires separate subroutines to size requires separate subroutine with
& rate exchangers. Each type of added cost (same subroutine for
exchanger requires a different add-on. all exchanger types). Turbine
performance mapping would
have to be investigated.
Cost See Table 2 See Table 2. Comparable with
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Aspen is a superior simulator in terms of unit operations models and thermodynamic

modeling of electrolytes. Previous simulations has proven the feasibility of modeling the
performance of the turbine with ASPEN. The feasibility or ease of modeling the turbine
with CHEMCAD would have to be investigated further.

Both ASPEN PLUS, as well as CHEMCAD, requires adding subroutines to conduct

rigorous sizing and rating of heat exchangers, for example, to model off-spec
performance. The difference is that CHEMCAD THERM is a subroutine for sizing and
rating various types of exchangers including air coolers, while ASPEN PLUS requires
separate subroutines for each type of exchanger. In this respect, CHEMCAD is then
more flexible.

An option to purchasing a exchanger subroutine is to use a user input mathematical

routine to correct the heat transfer coefficient for changes in flow conditions to estimate
exchanger performance with both ASPEN and CHEMCAD.

As Table 2 shows, the cost of annual lease for ASPEN and CHEMCAD is comparable if
CHEMCAD is to have the capability of rating heat exchangers. Note that ASPEN PLUS
licensing fees would include software maintenance and support.

Table 2. Cost Comparison.


SOURCE CPS 2009(?) ASPEN(2010) VENDOR(2010) VENDOR(2010)
1 $18,000/YR $13,750/YR $4,825/YR
3 $15,000/YR $7,500 $11,550/YR $4,050/YR
5 $12,000/YR $7,000 $9,775/YR $3,425/YR

In addition to the above factors, it must be noted that a literature search via the internet
shows that ASPEN seems to be the simulator of choice for most investigators modeling
and optimizing Organic Rankine Cycles. See for example, I. Saavedra et al. (2010), and
Hassani & Price (2001).

To continue the use of ASPEN PLUS with the existing CPS ORC simulation could result
in savings of 2-3 months of engineering labor, or about $10,000-$15,000.
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Based on the analysis presented on this report, it is recommended to continue the use
of ASPEN PLUS as the simulator of choice for the Organic Rankine Cycle.

First, it has already been used to model an actual pilot plant under investigation
successfully. The cost is comparable with a second option such as CHEMCAD.

There would be considerable cost savings in the continued use of ASPEN PLUS since
an existing simulation is available from CPS Florida.

ASPEN will provide a great degree of flexibility in terms of unit operations and
thermodynamic and physical properties. It is superior to what CHEMCAD offers at this


Hassani, V., and H. W. Price, Modular Trough Power Plants, Proceedings of the Solar
Forum 2001, Solar Energy: The Power to Choose, April 21-25, 2001, Washington DC.

Lam, H. L. et al., Software Tools Overview: Process Integration, Modelling, and

Optimization for Energy Saving and Pollution Reduction, Asia-Pacific Journal of
Chemical Engineering (2010), DOI: 10.1002/apj.

Nichols, T. T., Selection of Steady-State Process Simulation Software to Optimize

Treatment of Hazardous Waste, May 2001, Idaho National Engineering and
Environmental Laboratory, DOE Idaho Operations Office, Contract DE-AC07-

Saavedra, I. et al., Thermodynamic Optimization of Organic Rankine Cycles at Several

Condensing Temperatures: Case Study of Waste Heat Recovery in Natural Gas
Compressor Station, J. Power and Energy: Proc. IMechE Vol 224 Part A , May 2010,