Organic Rankine cycle environmental impact investigation under various working fluids and heat domains concerning refrigerant leakage rates

Original Paper


More recently, exploration and utilization of the renewable or waste fuel sources are increasingly attracting people’s attention toward the power generation in organic Rankine cycle (ORC) system, while the sustainability is usually neglected, only few simple and fragmented studies there. In this study, the ORC environmental impacts (EIs) have been revealed comprehensively from working fluid and heat domain aspects for the functional description of impact categories. The effect of ORC refrigerant leakage aspects, which is mostly neglected in previous ORC studies, is involved in the environmental performance assessment and of high importance for high-global warming potential (GWP) working fluids. GWP, as the most serious EI, is revealed with a constant turbine output power (30 kW). A ~ 30% total emission is produced for R227ea (GWP100 3220) from leakage aspects, ~ 24% for R236ea (GWP100 1200), ~ 28% for R245fa (GWP100 950), and ~ 60% for SES36 (GWP100 3710), respectively. In general, the emission due to the energy consumption by the pump power dominates the largest, followed by the refrigerant annual leakage, refrigerant end of life, etc. A working fluid with a higher critical temperature and a higher heat domain, and a lower condensing temperature and a lower evaporating pressure can favor a lower emission. Utilizing the fluids with a lower GWP can produce 50–84% emission reduction compared with high-GWP ones, and adding the annual leakage rate from 2 to 8% for high-GWP fluids produces 60–124% total emission rise. Increasing the pump or turbine efficiency from 75 to 90% can give a 10–16% emission reduction. Other EIs of the inventory have also been briefly studied.


Organic Rankine cycle Sustainability Global warming potential Leakage Heat domain Environmental impact 



Acidification potential


Combined heat and power


Engineering Equation Solver


Environmental impact


End of loss


Eutrophication potential


Human toxicity potential


Logarithmic mean temperature difference


Organic Rankine cycle


Soot and dust potential


Solid waste potential



Capacity (kW)


Mass flow rate (kg/s)


Pressure (kPa)


Temperature (°C)


Entropy (kJ/kg K)


Enthalpy (kJ/kg)
















No funding support. The author would like to express the deepest appreciation to Z. Li and P. Li for their endless love, support, and encouragement during the uncertainty career path. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or other recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Ingersoll Rand.


  1. Aspen Plus software. V8.8 (2015)
  2. Algieri A, Morrone P (2014) Techno-economic analysis of biomass-fired ORC systems for single-family combined heat and power (CHP) applications. Energy Procedia 45:1285–1294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brunet R, Cortés D, Guillén-Gosálbez G et al (2012) Minimization of the LCA impact of thermodynamic cycles using a combined simulation optimization approach. Appl Therm Eng 48:367–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cignitti S, Andreasen JG, Haglind F et al (2017) Integrated working fluid-thermodynamic cycle design of organic Rankine cycle power systems for waste heat recovery. Appl Energy 203:442–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Engineering Equation Solver (2014) F-Chart Software, Academic Processional Version, V.9.447Google Scholar
  6. Frick S, Kaltschmitt M, Schröder G (2010) Life cycle assessment of geothermal binary power plants using enhanced low-temperature reservoirs. Energy 35:2281–2294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gerber L, Maréchal F (2012) Environomic optimal configurations of geothermal energy conversion systems: application to the future construction of Enhanced Geothermal Systems in Switzerland. Energy 45:908–923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Heberle F, Bassermann P, Preisinger M et al (2012) Exergoeconomic optimization of an organic Rankine cycle for low-temperature geothermal heat sources. Int J Thermodyn 15(2):119–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lacirignola M, Blanc I (2013) Environmental analysis of practical design options for enhanced geothermal systems through life-cycle assessment. Renew Energy 50:901–914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Li G (2016a) Organic Rankine cycle performance evaluation and thermoeconomic assessment with various applications part I: energy and exergy performance evaluation. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 53:477–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Li G (2016b) Organic Rankine cycle performance evaluation and thermoeconomic assessment with various applications part II: economic assessment aspect. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 64:490–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lin YP, Wang WH, Pan SY et al (2016) Environmental impacts and benefits of organic Rankine cycle power generation technology and wood pellet fuel exemplified by electric arc furnace steel industry. Appl Energy 183:369–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Liu C, He C, Gao H et al (2013) The environmental impact of organic Rankine cycle for waste heat recovery through life-cycle assessment. Energy 56:144–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. National Bureau of Statistics of China (2013) China statistical yearbook 2013. China Statistics Press, Beijing [in Chinese] Google Scholar
  15. Poeschl M, Ward S, Owende P (2010) Evaluation of energy efficiency of various biogas production and utilization pathways. Appl Energy 87:3305–3321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Poeschl M, Ward S, Owende P (2012) Environmental impacts of biogas deployment part I: life cycle inventory for evaluation of production process emissions to air. J Clean Prod 24:168–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Saleh B, Koglbauer G, Wedland M et al (2007) Working fluids for low-temperature organic Rankine cycles. Energy 32:1210–1221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schuster A, Karellas S, Kakaras E et al (2009) Energetic and economic investigation of organic Rankine cycle applications. Appl Therm Eng 29:1809–1817CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Tchanche BF, Papadakis G, Lambrinos G et al (2009) Fluid selection for a low temperature solar organic Rankine cycle. Appl Therm Eng 29:2468–2476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Vivian J, Manente G, Lazzaretto A (2015) A general framework to select working fluid and configuration of ORCs for low-to-medium temperature heat sources. Appl Energy 156:727–746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. White M, Sayma AI (2016) Improving the economy-of-scale of small organic Rankine cycle systems through appropriate working fluid selection. Appl Energy 183:1227–1239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Yang MH, Yeh RH (2015) Thermodynamic and economic performances optimization of an organic Rankine cycle system utilizing exhaust gas of a large marine diesel engine. Appl Energy 149:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Yang JX, Xu C, Wang RS (2002) Product life-cycle assessment and application. Meteorological Press, Beijing [in Chinese] Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Islamic Azad University (IAU) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ingersoll Rand Residential SolutionsTylerUSA
  2. 2.Ingersoll Rand Engineering and Technology Center-Asia PacificShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations