Gas-Based Power Generation: An Important Constant in the Energy Transition
By Joseph Anis, President & CEO, Middle East, North Africa & South Asia, GE Power
In the open desert near Duqm, Oman, a small forest of wind turbines is growing. Soon, it will begin operations as the Gulf’s first utility-scale wind farm. At the same time, thousands of kilometers to the west, in Jordan, a new gas-turbine power plant has recently started generating up to 485 megawatts (MW), the equivalent electricity required to supply up to 350,000 Jordanian households.
They might appear to represent polar opposites in today’s evolving energy sector, but in fact, they represent two important – and complementary – pieces of an integrated approach to the region and the world’s ongoing energy transition.
Across the region, governments are demonstrating their commitment to reducing the carbon intensity of their economies. That involves incorporating more renewable power sources into the energy mix, as well as putting in place sustainability efforts to reduce energy demand, or at least reduce the growth rate in that demand.
However, the power grids of the 21st century will not only include wind, solar and energy storage, but also traditional power generation – particularly gas, which delivers many benefits to this system in transition.
Gas-turbine technology benefits from a relatively low carbon footprint that is the result of lower emissions than other fossil fuels and greater efficiency in generating electricity.
Gas turbine technologies have other advantages as well, such as being able to flexibly ramp up and ramp down power supplies to the grid. That ability is increasingly important within a larger power generation infrastructure that is using more renewable power.
Since renewable energy depends on variable natural sources such as sunlight, water supplies and wind to generate electricity, the amount of power generated can vary across the day and various seasons. Conventional means, such as gas turbines, need to be able to quickly fill the gap.
Energy storage, such as batteries, also have the ability to dispatch power to the grid as needed. But this technology is still several years away from being ready to play the kind of large-scale, reliable role that conventional power generation plays.
Yet, even as grids across the region slowly increase the amount of renewable energy in their systems, GE is working to continually increase the efficiency of gas turbine technology.
This includes developing new, more efficient turbines, such as the record-setting HA gas turbine, which has already helped to set two world records for efficiency and is now available at more than 64% efficiency in a combined-cycle configuration.
This efficiency level is important because each 1% increase in efficiency in a gas turbine can translate to millions in yearly fuel savings and reduced emissions.
GE Power will deliver three of these turbines as part of a 1,800-megawatt independent power plant project in Sharjah in the UAE. Using three GE HA units in combined cycle operations can help the emirate reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 4 million tons per year, compared to current levels. This is the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the UAE’s roads, substantially reducing the environmental impact of power production in Sharjah. Three plants in Pakistan also are benefitting from HA turbine efficiency.
Moreover, GE’s teams are developing solutions to help improve the efficiency and flexibility of existing gas power plants as well, so they can help operators better meet national sustainability goals. For example, GE’s 9EMax gas turbine solution can be applied on GE 9E machines to cut annual fuel costs by as much as $5 million, while creating the potential for up to $6 million in additional revenue. GE’s Advanced Gas Path (AGP) solution has been installed on more than 435 gas turbines across 39 countries on five continents, generating $775 million a year in benefits for power producers.
These and other upgrade technologies have been deployed in plants globally and across the region. AGP upgrades on four 9E gas turbines at the 1,500 MW West Damietta Power Plant in Lower Egypt enhanced fuel efficiency by up to 2.2% and increased the average output per turbine by over 4.5 MW, leading to a total output increase of 18 MW at the facility – the equivalent electricity needed to power up to 15,000 Egyptian homes.
GE also is bringing its expertise in digitization and the industrial internet of things to identify and capture further efficiencies across the energy value chain. Through software, smart devices and smart sensors connected across GE’s cloud-based Predix operating system for industry, GE is helping power plant operators manage their turbines and plants more effectively and efficiently.
As countries in the region, and the rest of the world, make the transition to a new energy mix, GE remains a partner that is continually improving all types of technologies, including conventional energy technologies such as gas turbines, innovating new technologies in areas such as power plant configuration, renewable energy, energy storage, and increasingly powerful digital platforms, software and solutions.
Read more about GE Power’s contribution to a more sustainable energy future across the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan region.