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Oceans which occupy large areas of earth surface are origin of variety of energy sources such as ocean currents, waves, tides, hydrates, and temperature and salinity gradients at varying depth. The vertical temperature distribution in the open ocean can be simplistically described as consisting of two layers separated by an interface. The upper layer is warmed by the sun and mixed to depths of about 100 m by wave motion. The bottom layer consists of colder water formed at high latitudes. The temperature difference between the upper (warm) and bottom (cold) layers ranges from 10C to 25C, with the higher values found in equatorial waters. This implies that there are two enormous reservoirs providing the heat source and the heat sink required for a heat engine. A practical application is found in a system (heat engine) designed to transform the thermal energy into electricity. This is referred to as OTEC or Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.

OTEC or Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion is a unique technology to generate electric power by converting thermal energy accumulated in the ocean. It is based on tapping energy potential created by temperature difference between sun-warmed surface water and deep polar fed bottom currents to generate electricity. OTEC systems use the ocean's natural thermal gradientthe fact that the ocean's layers of water have different temperaturesto drive a power-producing cycle. As long as the temperature between

the warm surface water and the cold deep water differs by about 20C (36F), an OTEC system can produce a significant amount of power.


OTEC system is based on the Closed Rankine Cycle. The operating cycle is essentially the same as the one used in Steam Power Plants fired by coal, oil or uranium. But the working fluid used here is either warm sea water or Ammonia or preferably a halocarbon refrigerant. The OTEC plant utilizes the temperature difference between the solar warmed ocean surface waters and the cold deep waters to produce electricity. Warm seawater is used in evaporators to evaporate the working fluid. This evaporated fluid expands in a low pressure turbine, which is coupled with a turbo alternator to produce electricity. Then the vapour from the turbine is condensed by the cold seawater taken from the deep sea.

OTEC plants are most suitable for islands around the tropical region of the east Pacific Ocean. This is because these plants can provide both energy and pure water (as distillate) at the same time with a relatively low cost. It is also because the ocean in that region has greater temperature differences, which is about 24C. If heat source is at high temperature and heat sink at low temperature, then this temperature difference can be utilized in turbine that can convert part of the heat into mechanical energy and hence into electrical energy. Residual heat is discharged to sink.

Efficiency of OTEC
The maximum possible efficiency of a heat engine working between two temperature limits cannot be more than that of a Carnot cycle operating between the same temperature limits. In the range of temperatures of warm water (T1) in the upper surface layer and cold water (T2) in the depth of the tropical ocean, the Carnot cycle efficiency is given by:

= 1If T1=27C T2= 5C

or T1 = 27 + 273 = 300K T2 = 5 + 273 = 278K

Then Carnot efficiency is

The actual efficiency of an OTEC power plant is less than the Carnot Cycle and it is given by


c = Carnot Cycle Efficiency

EF = Relative Efficiency factor (0.4 to 0.6)

Ques. Determine the overall efficiency of an OTEC plant if the

temperature of warm water in the surface layer is 30 C and temperature of cold water in the depth of the tropical ocean is 8C. It can be assumed that the relative efficiency factor EF of the power plant is 0.5.

Ans. Temperature of warm water T1 = 30C = 30 + 273 = 303K

Temperature of cold water T2 = 8C = 8 + 273 = 281K EF = 0.5

= 1 = 7.26% OTEC = EF X

2 1

X 100

= (1 281/303) X 100

= 0.5 X 0.0726 = 0.0363 OTEC = 3.63% Ans. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------There are basically three types of OTEC processes: 1. Closed Cycle 2. Open Cycle 3. Hybrid Cycle


The open cycle consists of the following steps: (i) Flash evaporation of a fraction of the warm seawater by reduction of pressure below the saturation value corresponding to its temperature. (ii) Expansion of the vapour through a turbine to generate power (iii) Heat transfer to the cold seawater thermal sink resulting in condensation of the working fluid (iv) Compression of the non-condensable gases (air released from the seawater streams at the low operating pressure) to pressures required to discharge them from the system. In open cycle OTEC plants the working fluid used is warm seawater. The warm seawater is "flash"-evaporated in a vacuum chamber to produce steam at an absolute pressure of about 2.4 kilopascals (kPa).

As the pressure is low the turbine should be about 12 times larger in diameter than a closed cycle plant of the same rating. The steam coming out of the turbine condenses into ordinary water without salinity in the condenser.


.Closed Cycle consist of following steps:

(i) (ii)

Warm seawater is placed in a low-pressure container, it boils. Expanding steam drives a low-pressure turbine attached to an electrical generator.

(iii) Steam, which has left its salt and contaminants behind in the low-pressure container, is pure fresh water. (iv) It is condensed back into a liquid by exposure to cold temperatures from deep-ocean water.

In Closed cycle OTEC plants, ammonia or preferably a halocarbon refrigerant is used as the working fluid at about 27.5deg C Warm seawater vaporizes a working fluid, flowing through a heat exchanger (evaporator) The vapor expands at moderate pressures and turns a turbine coupled to a generator that produces electricity. The condensed fluid from the condenser is again pumped back to the evaporator and recycled.


A hybrid cycle combines the features of both the closed-cycle and open-cycle systems. Hybrid system consists of following steps: (i) Warm seawater enters a vacuum chamber where it is flashevaporated into steam, which is similar to the open-cycle evaporation process. (ii) The steam vaporizes the working fluid of a closed-cycle loop on the other side of an ammonia vaporizer. (iii) The vaporized fluid then drives a turbine that produces electricity. (iv) The steam condenses within the heat exchanger and provides desalinated water. The overall thermal efficiency of Hybrid System is higher than the open cycle system and closed cycle system.

The Hybrid Systems are used to produce electricity as well as desalinated water. There are two concepts of Hybrid System: Use of Closed Cycle OTEC to generate electricity and to produce desalinated water. To Integrate two Open Cycle OTEC to run the turbine. This work is utilised to create the vacuum environment in heat exchanger. In this cycle, there will be twice the amount of the desalinated water is produced.


Steam flows through large, low-pressure turbines, entering at a pressure of about 2.4 kPa. These turbines must be able to handle the large steam flows necessary to produce a significant amount of electric power. The low-pressure stages of these turbines typically operate at conditions close to those needed in an open-cycle OTEC plant. Larger plants will require either several turbines operating in parallel or major advances in turbine technology that will lead to larger rotors

Heat exchangers are a big part of the major performance and cost issues relating to closed-cycle systems. Open-cycle flash-evaporators include those with open-channel flow, falling films, and falling jets. These conventional evaporators typically perform to within 70% to 80% of the maximum thermodynamic performance at acceptable hydraulic losses.

3. CONDENSERS After steam passes through the turbines, it can be condensed in direct-contact condensers or surface condensers. The surface condensers considered for use in OTEC systems are similar to those used in conventional power plants; however, these surface condensers must operate under lower pressures and with higher amounts of noncondensable gases in the steam. Surface condensers keep the cooling seawater separate from the spent steam during condensation. By using indirect contact, the condensers produce desalinated water that is relatively free of seawater impurities. Steam in the open-cycle system contains non condensable gases that can interfere with power production. These gases oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide are released from the seawater when it is exposed to low pressures under vacuum.


Commercial ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plants must be located in an environment that is stable enough for efficient system operation. The temperature of the warm surface seawater must differ about 20C (36F) from that of the cold deep water that is no more than about 1000 meters (3280 feet) below the surface. The natural ocean thermal gradient necessary for OTEC operation is generally found between latitudes 20 deg N and 20 deg S. Of these possible sites, tropical islands with growing power requirements and a dependence on expensive imported oil are the most likely areas for OTEC development.

The following map shows the regions, which are having different temperature differences between surface and depth of 1000m.

Renewable energy resource

Consistent 24-hour-a-day potential (wind and solar energy can only be captured when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining) Fresh Water-- Produces desalinated water for industrial, agricultural, and residential uses. System analysis indicates that a 2megawatt (electric) (net) plant could produce about 4300 cubic meters of desalinated water each day Food--Aquaculture products can be cultivated in discharge water - AND temperate agriculture products can be grown in the tropics by cooling the roots with the discharged cold seawater.

Air Conditioning--The cold deep seawater can provide large amounts of very efficient air conditioning or industrial cooling - even after it has passed through the OTEC plant. OTEC can also be used to produce methanol, ammonia, hydrogen, aluminum, chlorine, and other chemicals Mineral Extraction-- OTEC could provide to mine ocean water for its 57 elements dissolved in solution. The only problem is the cost of the extraction process. The Japanese recently began investigating the concept of combining the extraction of uranium dissolved in seawater with wave-energy technology. OTEC is non-polluting. It is probably the most environmentally friendly energy available on the planet today.

With a 22deg k temperature difference between surface and depths, the Carnot efficiency is around 7% only. Assuming the temperature drop in the turbine being 10deg k the maximum thermal efficiency is around 3.4%. And the allowance for the energy required to pump cold water from great depths would reduce the net efficiency for electrical power generation to 2 2.5%. The electric power that can be generated depends, in the first place, on the rate of heat transfer from the warm ocean water to the working fluid in the evaporator. These requirements can be met only if there is effective heat transfer in the heat exchangers. Special efforts are required to improve the engineering design of heat exchangers suitable for OTEC use. Bio-fouling means deposition and growth of microorganism on the cooling water side of the heat exchanger. It reduces the heat transfer efficiency. It is dealt with by chemical (chlorination) or mechanical (brushes or rubber balls) means. Another major problem associated with OTEC systems is that of power transmission to the shore. Submarine cables are needed for this. These cables have to be strong enough to withstand the rough marine environment. Generating 10 million MW OTEC power for the world as a whole
might lead to cooling of the ocean surface by about 1deg C. It may affect the aquatic life and also may lead to advancement of arctic glacier

(i) Marine environment gets effected by these plants through water heating. Release of toxic chemicals of small sea organism in intake pipes is common. Thermal layer of sea water near the plants gets disturbed because of discharge of low and high water. Affects the marine environment because of change in salinity, dissolved gases, nutrients, carbonates etc. Marine life gets effected because of change in pH and dissolved oxygen. Large discharge of mixed water below the ocean surface for long time will change the environment for hatching the eggs and lower down the production rate of fishes, corals etc.






(i) Desalinated water can be used for irrigation and human consumption. Closed Cycle OTEC plant can also act as a chemical treatment plant. An OTEC plant can also be used to pump up the deep sea water. The enclosing area can be used for aquaculture and mariculture. The deep sea cold water is rich in nutrient and can be used for various applications.





Thus from the above discussion we can say that OTEC is a reliable source of energy for the future which is no more effected to seasonal changes. To make it more economical, further research is needed. Technical aspects like design of more efficient heat exchanger will increase the thermal efficiency of the system. For this we have to concentrate on the metals used for heat exchangers. A great research has to be done in reducing the cost of separation of minerals from cold seawater, which results into many advantages like extraction of hydrogen fuel from seawater.


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