Expansion Energy, based in Tarrytown, New York, is focused on developing and licensing breakthrough technologies for the energy, environmental and industrial sectors. Expansion Energy's primary business model is to license its technologies to other companies or government entities that have a need for these solutions. Under licensing arrangements, Expansion Energy provides the technology and the expertise to help licensees effectively deploy its innovations for the benefit of their own organizations.
Expansion Energy’s role in the energy storage industry relates to its patented, high-efficiency liquid air energy storage (LAES) technology known as the VPS™ Cycle.
Expansion Energy’s technologies stem largely from the science of cryogenics and the disciplines of gas processing and industrial gases production. The company’s founders and technologists have decades of relevant experience in these fields as well as in technology commercialization, energy project development, corporate management and business development, energy-related investment banking, and corporate finance/project finance. In addition to having worked with numerous large energy and industrial companies, Expansion Energy's executives have worked with a variety of relevant research institutes industry associations and government/quasi-government agencies, including the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). For example, Expansion Energy has produced a detailed NYSERDA-sponsored feasibility study related to deploying its VPS Cycle technology in or around New York City.
Expansion Energy currently holds 24 granted US and global patents, with numerous additional patent applications currently being reviewed by various patent authorities globally. In addition to its patented VPS Cycle LAES system, the company’s technology portfolio includes small-scale LNG production, waterless fracturing for oil and gas wells, carbon capture and sequestration, recovery of rare earth elements and other minerals from industrial waste streams, and technology to increase capacity for natural gas pipelines and storage terminals.
Expansion Energy’s VPS Cycle LAES technology allows off-peak electric power from any source (including intermittent renewables) to be stored cost-effectively at multi-megawatt scales and released as 100% firm power during periods of peak demand. The storage medium is environmentally benign liquid air that is produced from the original power source during off-peak periods. The liquid air is then stored in safe, low-pressure cryogenic containers.
When power is needed during the peak demand period, the stored liquid air is pumped to pressure and vaporized by a counter-flowing stream of warm refrigerant. The outgoing open-loop air stream is further heated by available waste heat and by the heat of a combustion chamber. The hot compressed air then runs a generator-loaded hot gas expander to produce power. A key advantage of the VPS Cycle versus other LAES systems is an additional closed-loop generation system that produces up to 25% more power from surplus heat and surplus cold. Says Jeremy Dockter, Expansion Energy’s Co-Founder and Managing Director, “In many respects, our VPS Cycle technology is a type of advanced, higher-efficiency combined-cycle power plant with storage built into it.”
The overall VPS process has some similarities to Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES), but the use of liquid air (versus compressed air) results in up to ten times greater storage density, eliminating the need for massive underground storage facilities. Furthermore, VPS releases power at a steady rate until all the liquid air is used up each day. In contrast, power release rates from CAES systems fall as their compression is used up each day.
The VPS Cycle’s round-trip efficiency can exceed 90%, making it among the most efficient bulk energy storage systems available. The entire VPS process utilizes man-made, off-the-shelf components, and is scalable from commercial-scale (2-20 MW) systems to very large (20-500+ MW) utility-scale projects. VPS plants can be deployed virtually anywhere, with a relatively small footprint (smaller than combined cycle power plants of similar MW capacity)..
In addition to entirely new installations, the VPS technology can be used to retrofit existing simple-cycle gas-fired power plants (such a peaker plants), converting them from underutilized peaking assets into baseload power storage plants, with dramatically higher efficiency and better ROI. Whereas simple-cycle peaker plants have heat rates of 11,000 to 12,000 BTU/kWh, VPS plants have heat rates of only 2,000 to 4,000 BTU/kWh. By comparison, standard combined-cycle power plants typically have heat rates of 7,000 to 8,000 BTU/kWh.
Deploying VPS for CHP/co-generation applications at industrial facilities where high-grade waste heat is available is a major opportunity worldwide, saving industrial power consumers substantial amounts of money by generating low-cost power on site, and potentially providing them with additional revenues by selling surplus power to the grid.
VPS capital costs per kWh of daily storage and release capacity is in the range of $150-300/kWh (depending on the scale of deployment), making it among the most cost-effective storage systems available.
Expansion Energy’s business model is primarily based on licensing its technologies to other companies. Therefore, Expansion Energy invites interested companies such as manufacturers of energy equipment and systems, power producers, energy storage developers and EPC providers to contact them for discussions regarding potential licensing agreements or other types of strategic alliances. Licensees (or licensees' customers) ultimately own the systems and projects that are built utilizing Expansion Energy technologies.
Expansion Energy is optimistic about the prospects for its VPS technology, stating, “We believe liquid air energy storage—led by Expansion Energy’s advanced, higher-efficiency VPS Cycle technology—will eventually be the predominant form of bulk, thermal energy storage globally. This is largely because LAES can be deployed at virtually any MW scale for grid applications or for behind-the-meter applications; can release power daily for 4-10 hour periods; and does not rely on special geological conditions, as underground CAES and pumped hydro systems do.”