Date of Award

8-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Dr. Georges Fadel, (Committee Co-Chair)

Committee Member

Dr. Vincent Blouin, (Committee Chair)

Committee Member

Dr. Richard Miller

Abstract

Geothermal Energy has emerged as one of the front runners in the energy race because of its performance efficiency, abundance and production competitiveness. Today, geothermal energy is used in many regions of the world as a sustainable solution for decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and reducing health hazards. However, projects related to geothermal energy have not received their deserved recognition due to lack of computational tools associated with them and economic misconceptions related to their installation and functioning. This research focuses on numerical and experimental system design analysis of vertical shallow geothermal energy systems. The driving force is the temperature difference between a finite depth beneath the earth and its surface stimulates continuous exchange of thermal energy from sub-surface to the surface (a geothermal gradient is set up). This heat gradient is captured by the circulating refrigerant and thus, tapping the geothermal energy from shallow depths. Traditionally, U-bend systems, which consist of two one-inch pipes with a U-bend connector at the bottom, have been widely used in geothermal applications. Alternative systems include coaxial pipes (pipe-in-pipe) that are the main focus of this research. It has been studied that coaxial pipes have significantly higher thermal performance characteristics than U-bend pipes, with comparative production and installation costs. This makes them a viable design upgrade to the traditional piping systems. Analytical and numerical heat transfer analysis of the coaxial system is carried out with the help of ABAQUS software. It is tested by varying independent parameters such as materials, soil conditions and effect of thermal contact conductance on heat transfer characteristics. With the above information, this research aims at formulating a preliminary theoretical design setup for an experimental study to quantify and compare the heat transfer characteristics of U-bend and coaxial geothermal piping systems. Based on the simulations and experiments, the effect of parameters on the overall operating costs is studied. Finally, with the results obtained, the economics and return on investment behind coaxial geothermal energy systems are discussed. Government policies on renewable energy are explained, highlighting the energy incentives associated with geothermal energy in the United States. The findings of this research provides a platform for further shallow geothermal energy system studies with an immense potential to revolutionize the energy industry in the future.

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