There are good prospects for the market for high temperature gas reactors and in several key sectors. The potential for deployment of 510 GWt of HTGR technology has been identified to fulfill the following industrial needs for process heat.
· Cogeneration – This is the supply of electricity and steam to major industrial processes in petrochemical, ammonia, and fertilizer plants, refineries, and other industrial plants. For instance, there are 23 plants in the U.S. which produce fertilizers and ammonia, 170 petrochemical plants, and 137 major petroleum refining plants.
· Hydrogen – The production of hydrogen includes supply for industrial uses and the merchant hydrogen market.
· Enhanced recovery – The upgrading of bitumen from oil sands (e.g., Alberta, Canada) requires reliable supplies of steam, hydrogen, and electricity. Similarly, the conversion of coal to liquid fuel and petrochemical feedstocks has the same set of requirements.
· Electricity – surplus electricity can be supplied to the plant or the grid.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its 2010 Annual Energy Review, industrial use of energy accounted for 20% of all uses domestically. In terms of energy sources, 37% came from petroleum, 25% came from natural gas, and 21% came from coal. The EIA did not record any significant use of nuclear energy for process heat applications by U.S. industry.
Process heat applications from a nuclear plant will vary with temperature. Overall, as a practical matter, cogeneration of electricity and steam can be accomplished at temperatures in the range of 350-600C. Temperatures above this level require more advanced, and more expensive, materials.
HTRs can be used for petroleum refining at temperatures of 250-550C. Oil shale and oil sand processing can be carried out at temperatures of 300-600C.
These numbers show that HTRs are an ideal technology to replace small-to-medium coal-fired plants scheduled to be retired due to new environmental requirements.
Direct heating growth applications are emerging for industrial manufacturing processes such as ethylene cracking, and steam methane reforming and water-to-hydrogen thermal processes for hydrogen production.
These growth areas can extend the market potential for the above target applications. New market applications such as carbon conversion for production of synthetic transportation fuels and feedstock are other areas that are expected to emerge over the next decades and prior to mid-century.
In addition, a higher temperature capability can be applied to advanced energy conversion cycles for more efficient and cost effective power generation.
The market potential is enormous domestically; it is magnified further with the potential in the export marketplace. There are three reasons for this potential; (1) high temperature output above the level of conventional light water reactors, (2) providing competitive, long-term and stable prices for energy to customers, and (3) inherent safety.
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