Potential of refrigerant based district heating and cooling networks

Urban areas represent an ever increasing challenge in terms of energy use and environmental impact associated with it. Projections from the United Nation expect this number to reach 66% by 2050. In Europe 40% of the final energy consumption and 36% of the emissions of greenhouse gases are caused by buildings. The building sector is also one of the area where there is a great potential of reduction of the greenhouse gases emissions and of the dependence on fossil fuels. Among the measures that can help realise this potential, efficient energy conversion technologies supplying thermal energy services could play an important role. The present thesis aims at demonstrating the potential of a new type of district network, capable of delivering indistinctly cooling and heating services using a two-pipe network and in which the transfer of energy across the network is done by exploiting the evaporation/condensation of a refrigerant. The main research question is: "Is it possible to build and operate safe, reliable, energy efficient and economically profitable district heating and cooling networks that use a refrigerant as a transfer fluid?" The demonstration followsthree axes, the first being a thermoeconomic analysis. Thisanalysis focuses on a test case area in Geneva’s city centre where 5 variants of refrigerant based district heating and cooling networks, one cold water network and the mix of conversion technologies currently in use are compared on the basis of their energy and exergy performances and on the economic profitability. Considerations on economic uncertainty, safety and technical issues are also included in the analysis. The key findings are: • All the variants of network can potentially reduce the final energy consumption of over 80% as compared to the current situation. • All the variants of network have rather similar exergy efficiencies comprised between 39.5% and 45%. • The most profitable variant uses CO2 as a transfer fluid and an open cycle CO2 heat pump at the central plant. It costs initially between 27 and 35 mio € , reaches break-even in 4 to 6 years and the net present value after 40 years is comprised between 40 and 80 mio €. • A cold water network is the second best option, although more expensive initially and thus less profitable, it has several advantages in terms of safety and availability of components. • The CO2 variants exhibit a much better compactness than the cold water network. The second axis is the design, construction and testing of a lab scale refrigerant network. First a description of the design process and of the test facility is provided. It is followed by a presentation of the results of the test campaign. The tests aimed at demonstrating the practical feasibility of the concept, mostly by assessing the controllability of the network. Overall the good behaviour of the test facility and its ability to be smoothly and automatically controlled could be demonstrated, which further improved confidence in the practicality of the concept. The third axis is the development of dynamic models of simulation. These models are described in the present manuscript. They include, heat exchangers, pipes, pumps and valves. A short comparison between experimental and simulation results is also provided. The comparison between experiment and simulation showed that at their current stage of development the models cannot simulate accurately enough a refrigerant based network.

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