LNG powering the future of energy

March 08, 2021 | 11:35
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US-backed GE and partners have launched operations at Track 4A Power Plant in Malaysia, marking the very first commercial use of the former’s second-generation H-class gas turbines that are expected to widen the horizons of low-carbon energy production and accelerate the growth of liquefied natural gas in the global energy mix.
1534 p11 lng powering the future of energy
Liquefied natural gas can outperform alternatives in terms of efficiency, as long as the technology is there

GE, CTCI Corporation, and Southern Power Generation Sdn., Bhd. (SPG) at the end of February started commercial operations at the latter’s Track 4A Power Plant in Malaysia – the world’s first facility to place GE’s 9HA.02 combined cycle power plant in commercial operation.

With CTCI acting as the engineering, procurement, and construction partner, the plant features two single-shaft generating blocks, each equipped with a 9HA.02 gas turbine and a STF-D650 steam turbine, driving a W88 generator, and – for the first time installed in an H-class plant – a GE once through heat recovery steam generator delivering higher combined cycle efficiency.

In addition, for a term of 21 years, GE will provide its full spectrum of services and digital solutions to improve asset visibility, reliability, and availability of the Track 4A plant, including its Mark VIe integrated plant control system offering a single operator interface and troubleshooting tools to ensure simple yet efficient operations and rapid recovery in case of arising issues.

Trach 4A Power Plant will also be connected to GE Digital’s Predix Asset Performance Management software to ensure minimal downtime through GE’s extensive predictive maintenance and Industrial Internet of Things capabilities. Data collected from the myriad of sensors deployed throughout the plant will be monitored and analysed round-the-clock at GE’s Monitoring and Diagnostics Center in Kuala Lumpur.

Not only generating energy for approximately three million Malaysian homes, Southern Power Generation’s Track 4A Power Plant is the world’s first to run with GE’s newest, second-generation HA turbines which offer significant improvements to the already industry-leading first generation.

GE’s HA line-up are the world’s largest and most efficient gas turbines, with more than 120 units ordered by more than 48 customers across 20 countries.

Holding two world records for efficiency – powering the most efficient plant in its class for 50 and 60 Hz applications – GE H-class technology offers the most significant financial savings across the entire industry.

Christophe DuFaut, general manager, project execution at GE Gas Power in the Asia region, shared at the plant’s virtual launching announcement that the company’s H-class power plants offer the lowest capital cost and the lowest cost of converting gas to electricity across the full lifecycle and total cost of ownership.

“A 1,000MW H-class combined cycle plant would require about 13 acres (50,000 square metres), compared to an onshore wind farm of the same capacity that would require about 50,000 acres (200 square kilometres) or a solar PV plant that would require 5,000 acres (20 sq.km).”

In addition, with its 80 years of history in delivering and engineering combined cycle power plants, with the first H-class technology introduced to the industry 29 years ago, GE’s second-generation H-class fleet has racked up more than 850,000 operating hours as of February 2021 and is the world’s fastest-growing fleet in its class.

Currently generating 21.5GW at 24 sites across the globe, all of GE’s H-class turbines are monitored daily from its centre in Kuala Lumpur and are serviced by a dedicated global field service team operating in more than a hundred countries. The corporation’s extensive support and service excellence are shown the 99 per cent reliability for its HA fleet.

New push for LNG and future of energy

Apart from offering unparalleled energy efficiency and financial savings, the newest generation of GE’s H-class turbines also boast lower emissions, for which it has been highlighted to play a key role in securing Asia’s energy future.

“At GE, we believe that gas power, together with renewables, will be part of the solution – today and in the future,” said DuFaut. “And to advance progress to address climate change, there is a push to strengthen efficient power generation with low-to-zero carbon gas technologies, such as the HA technology.”

Indeed, growing global energy demand is being largely met with renewables, with two out of 3kW of new power currently being built coming from these resources. However, utilities and policy-makers alike are warning of the inherent instability of renewables – an overcast day or a windless night can both spell reduced output – requiring ever-growing investments in storage capacity, as well as a power source in the energy mix that has an “on and off switch” to maintain power output when renewable sources are in a lull.

Most utilities and policy-makers envision a power mix combining liquefied natural gas (LNG) and renewables – while phasing out other fossil fuels over the next years and decades. Figures from GE show that more than 40 countries are now able to import LNG at the rate of 100 million tonnes per year, and give it a growing share in their energy mix.

“Gas is readily available, affordable, and in many cases, local,” the company says, forecasting it to be the largest source of fuel for energy production for years to come, offering a flexible and responsive way to stabilise the grid while more renewable sources are brought to the grid.

LNG can outperform other fossil alternatives both in efficiency and emissions – but in both cases this competitive edge is heavily dependent on the technology involved.

“The new plant in Malaysia and the 9HA.02 turbines demonstrate that we can accelerate the trajectory of the reduction of CO2 emissions in power generation,” DuFaut explained, “and we can have a clear path to work across different organisations, with gas and renewable jointly generating power.”

Fostering Vietnam’s turn to renewables

As the most efficient and advanced gas turbines for the 50Hz market, there is certainly an opportunity for 9HA.02 turbines to help Vietnam meet its current energy needs while providing a path to continued regional growth, DuFaut added.

Indeed, LNG will take the driver’s seat in Vietnam’s power mix, generating the majority of the 130GW the country is forecast to need by 2030. With plans to meet this explosively growing need in ways that tie into Vietnam’s environmental goals, the country now has 22 LNG projects in the planning, with the first ones to begin generation as soon as 2022-2023.

GE technologies stand ready to support Vietnam’s diverse energy mix by providing more reliable and flexible power. Currently, GE generates up to 30 per cent of Vietnam’s power with a fleet of more than 25 gas turbines. The corporation has six locations across the country, including its Phu My gas turbine component repair workshop (owned jointly by Power Generation Corporation 3) and a heat recovery steam generator plant in Dung Quat. Employing a total of approximately 1,600 employees in Vietnam, GE is servicing more than 10 local power plants and other projects.

“Here in Asia, as well as in Vietnam, there is a strong commitment from industry players for reduced or near-zero carbon emissions for their operations, while ensuring power that is sustainable and reliable,” said DuFaut.

The second generation of GE’s H-class turbines can foster this not only through the powerful improvements in emissions and efficiency but by its efficient, modular design.

“We were able to deploy this gas turbine quicker and faster while also optimising maintenance,” he explained. “Through this modular design, everything is freely accessible for ease of maintenance. This increases the availability of this gas turbine and the entire power plant. In addition to the technology efficiency of its own, it also extends the life cycle of the power station.”

GE’s 9HA.02 turbines offer industry-leading combined-cycle efficiency, unparalleled operational flexibility, and lower emissions – all factors in great demand by investors and policy-makers alike. Combined with the reduced installation time and cost, as well as the ease of maintenance, these turbines a match to Vietnam’s ambitions of expanding power output while achieving higher efficiency and continue its tremendous economic growth.

By Tom Nguyen

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