Renewed Industry Enthusiasm Permeates POWER-GEN International

Issue 1 and Volume 108.

By Steve Blankinship, Associate Editor

Of course it was mere coincidence that on the concluding day of POWER-GEN International 2003, the Dow Jones closed at 10,000 for the first time in 18 months — five years after the Dow first achieved the mark that has become generally associated with economic prosperity. Nonetheless, the convergence of a 10K Dow and POWER-GEN’s climax seemed appropriate serendipity for the world’s largest power industry gathering. That’s because cautious optimism was apparent throughout the sessions and across the two-level, nearly 1 million square feet of POWER-GEN exhibits in Las Vegas, Nev. December 9-11.

Walter M. Higgins, Chairman, President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Resources, led off the event’s keynote session summarizing the woes many electric utilities and independent power producers have faced in recent years, particularly power players in the western U.S. where Sierra is based. He noted that during 2000-2001, plans were announced to build more than 10,000 MW of capacity in Nevada alone.

Yet today, a mere 2,500 MW are being built and only 1,300 MW have been completed. He told the POWER-GEN audience that several critical transmission projects in the state are going forward, and that over the next two to three years, Sierra Pacific plans to build a new peaking plant and a combined cycle plant in southern Nevada. The company is also considering new coal plants in the 2010 to 2012 time frame in both the southern and northern parts of the state. “With gas prices peaking in the $7 range, we must diversify our fuel base and not be reliant on one increasingly volatile commodity,” said Higgins.

Following Higgins in the keynote lineup, David Walker, Senior Vice President of Bechtel Power Corp., noted that in light of major capacity expansion in the U.S. during the last decade, the biggest growth in new capacity worldwide might very well be elsewhere. “Today, the world is approaching almost 4,000 GW of capacity — almost double that of 20 years ago,” said Walker. “However, most of the world has less than one-eighth kW per individual of reliable generating capacity. These are places like China, India, most of Asia, Africa, and a good part of Latin America. Western Europe and Japan have a kW or a little bit more per person and in the United States we have three. So those of you who wonder where the power markets of the future are going to be, I suspect the biggest part of them won’t be here.”

He added that he believes the future of nuclear power today is more promising than when he started working in the power industry in the 1970s.

Addressing power industry staffing issues looming ahead, Walker noted that gas plant construction — comprising by far the largest segment of new capacity built in recent years — require no more than two million hours of engineering and crafts work for even the largest of projects. “Coal plants of an equivalent size can require five, six, seven or more times as many hours, and for nuclear it’s even more than coal plants,” he said. “And that parallels the demands within the equipment manufacturing and development base.”

Higgins sees no problems meeting future demand for such engineering and crafts skills in the U.S. if most new capacity is natural gas. But if the new capacity consists of a significant amount of coal and nuclear, “it will mean multiples of the people we saw needed during the most recent building boom.” Higgins concluded by saying he believes that, like the 70s but even more so, this may be the best and one of the most exciting times to be entering the power industry.

Joseph Stanislaw, President of internationally known energy consultancy Cambridge Energy Research Associates, concluded the keynote session with what he described as a pathway to a global economy fueled by non-hydrocarbon technologies.

To achieve that end, he said, both energy supply and demand must be considered, and for the next three decades the continued use of hydrocarbons — in an increasingly enlightened manner — will be necessary to bridge the transition to other energy sources. He said the U.S. must build 15,000 MW of new capacity a year between 2007 and 2012, the bulk of which will be coal and gas-fired generation. “We will continue to use hydrocarbons for the next two generations,” said Stanislaw, “but they must be smart hydrocarbons.”

New Products and Services Announced

As has become a tradition, POWER-GEN International provided a worldwide stage for new product and service offerings from the power industry and served as a forum for announcements and insight from power industry executives.

GE Power Systems introduced the world’s most efficient simple-cycle gas turbine — the LMS100 — a fusing of frame and aircraft engine technology and the product of a collaboration of four GE business units and three other companies: Avio S.p.A. of Italy, Volvo Aero of Sweden, and Sumitomo of Japan, who participated in the development program. The 100 MW LMS100 has an efficiency rating of 46%, which is 10% greater than GE’s highest efficiency gas turbine currently on the market, and can operate in 50 or 60-Hertz applications without the need for a speed reducing gearbox. The high efficiency is achieved predominantly through the use of off-engine intercooling technology within the compression section of the turbine. Even at 50% load, the efficiency is 40%, higher than that of most comparably sized turbines at full load.

In addition to simple cycle, the LMS100 can be used in combined cycle (120 MW, 54% efficiency) and combined heat and power applications. For example, application of the LMS100 in coal plants as a boiler feedwater heat source can produce electricity in a highly efficient manner. The LMS100 can go from cold iron to full load in 10 minutes, and builds on GE’s successful LM modular maintenance philosophy. The “supercore,” consisting of the core engine and intermediate power turbine, can be replaced in 24 hours.

The LMS100 will undergo development testing beginning in May 2004. The first production units, in a standard annular combustion configuration, will be available in the second half of 2005. A steam injection configuration will be ready by early 2006, followed by a dry low emissions model in the second half of 2006.

GE will follow a similar test program as that followed for the larger H System turbine technology. More than 3,000 sensors will be installed to evaluate and monitor performance. The LMS100 will use GE’s Mark VIe control system, featuring dual-channel architecture for all critical parameters.

John Rice, GE Power Systems President, explained his company’s rationale for introducing the LMS100 at a time when market conditions aren’t at their best by saying that GE invests for the long haul and doesn’t worry about today’s market cycle. In a separate interview, Rice also stated that GE expected to have a commercial order in place for the 60-Hertz 7H System by late 2003.

Alstom Chairman and CEO Patrick Kron discussed a very difficult 2003 for his company and what efforts are being undertaken to resolve several outstanding issues. Alstom has reduced its debt-to-equity ratio substantially and appears to have re-focused its approach to the power industry. The company has sold various gas turbine, steam turbine and transmission and distribution product lines and secured a 3.2 billion euro financial package in late 2003.

Schematic of LMS100. Photo courtesy of GE Power Systems.
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Although the decline in the U.S. new build market has hammered commercial activity for most of the major OEMs, including Alstom, Kron expressed confidence that power sector market growth in the long term would exceed GDP growth. Market cycles are to be expected, but several strong drivers remain. Environmental pressures will continue to provide opportunities for emissions control and renewable energy, and the aging power fleet — one-fourth of world capacity is more than 30 years old — will increase the market for power plant services.

Kron eagerly described Alstom’s efforts to start a new chapter in the history of the troubled GT24/26 gas turbine, which Alstom acquired from ABB several years ago. Various technical problems with the GT24/26 emerged during early operation that led to derates and caused performance to fall below contractual commitments. Alstom developed technical remedies to address the technical shortcomings, but still had to implement the upgrades and resolve contractual financial obligations.

Of the 80 GT24/26 units sold, 72 have entered commercial operation, two are in commissioning, two are in construction, and four will likely not be installed. To date, Alstom has finalized agreements for 68 of the units; 33 of the units have received unconditional clearance, and the remaining 35 will require some degree of technical upgrade. Alstom has committed $4 billion to the restitution program.

Kron is optimistic about the future of the GT24/26. Development programs to enhance the turbine’s performance and availability — an upgraded compressor, improved aerodynamics, and an inlet cooling system — have been completed and show excellent preliminary results. Plants in Mexico, the U.S., Spain and Ireland have accumulated several thousand operating hours in the upgraded configuration, demonstrating excellent availability and increased power output.

Siemens Westinghouse announced a new advanced control solution for coal plants. The Siemens Westinghouse Power Accuracy Controls Solution (PACS) is a suite of advanced process control applications based upon the company’s process knowledge at fossil plants and has been developed to address a wide range of power plant operational issues. The company also announced it is offering the Turbine Control System (TCS7), a governor control for the modernization of steam turbines based upon the Siemens S7 control technology. Also, Siemens Power Generation has developed Performance Plus — a new, advanced system that offers a superior shaft seal for hydrogen-cooled generators.

ReGENco announced an alliance with Liburdi Engineering Ltd. that allows the company to add combustion turbine service, repair and rebuilding to its traditional steam turbine segment — all at one facility. ReGENco provides completely integrated generator stator re-winding, exciter repair, hot gas path conditioning assessment, combustion turbine storage, service and repair along with all mechanical, metallurgical and electrical service support.

Precision Engine Controls Corporation introduced its XVG control valve for gas turbines up to 10 MW. The valve provides flow control, contamination resistance and continuous monitoring over a wide flow range. It uses integrated sensors to allow the valve to compensate for variations in pressure and temperature in order to achieve maximum turbine performance with minimal emissions. The valve is completely programmable and provides feedback in terms of fuel flow, not valve position. The XVG contains a direct-acting solenoid actuator with no mechanical linkages and only one moving part. Production units will be available in March and a version that can be used for liquids is currently under development.

XVG Control Valve. Photo courtesy of Precision Engine Controls Corp.
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Caterpillar’s Solar Turbines announced commercialization of the Mercury 50 recuperated gas turbine. Initially unveiled at POWER-GEN 1997 as a cooperative effort with DOE to produce 21st century gas turbines more efficient, cleaner and less expensive than today’s turbines, the product’s multi-faceted goals focus on NOx reduction to 9 ppmv or less, improved efficiency and a reduction in the bus bar cost of power without sacrificing reliability, availability, maintainability and durability. The 4 MW version has completed more than 40,000 hours of operation at six test sites in the U.S., France and Australia. The Mercury 50 will be introduced with a nominal power rating of 4600 kW and a heat rate of 8863 Btu/kWh. The first production units will be available in 2005.

Solar also announced that Solar Turbines Incorporated and Caterpillar International Power Systems have formed Caterpillar Power Generation Systems, a marketing organization representing both brands for 1-100 MW distributed generation applications. CPGS will provide customers with optimized solutions drawing from two proven technologies, Solar gas turbines and Caterpillar Motoren long-stroke, medium speed reciprocating engines.

Emerson Process Management unveiled a study on the economic impact of using digital technology on new plant construction. The study shows that integrating digital bus technology into the design of a new 600 MW supercritical coal-fired power plant can result in total project cost reduction of up $20 million.

The study, “Economic Impact of Digital Bus Technology on New Plant Construction,” conducted by JDI Contracts Inc., identifies and compares five areas where costs can be reduced. These include engineering, construction, startup, system selection and overheads. According to Emerson, the study compared traditional instrumentation and control systems with a digital bus-based system.

Fairbanks Morse showcased its RTG20 radial turbine generator set at POWER-GEN. Licensed from OPRA in the Netherlands, the single or dual fuel RTG20 provides power output in the 1.6-1.7 MW range and has only one moving part — a balanced rotor suspended by coal-end bearings — thereby maximizing reliability and availability.

NOx emissions are guaranteed at 6 ppm on natural gas and 20 ppm on diesel fuel. The Controled Fuel/Air Ratio (COFAR) combustion system precisely controls combustion air to produce an ultra-lean fuel mixture resulting in low-flame temperatures and low emissions at all load levels.

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The RTG20 is designed for an output shaft efficiency of about 26%, but is extremely conducive for heat recovery applications. At 59 F, exhaust flows of 68,900 lb/hr at 1038 F can produce 12,390 lb/hr of 125 psig steam. Landfill gas applications are particularly promising; siloxane problems will be significantly reduced relative to axial turbines because the siloxanes won’t build up as much or as quickly on the compressor an turbine blades in the RTG20 radial design.

Power Systems Manufacturing (PSM), a subsidiary of Calpine Corp., announced a major advance toward achieving an industry first in reducing NOx and carbon monoxide emissions from natural gas turbines. PSM expects its new technology to lower NOx emissions to 2 ppm and CO emissions to 0 ppm for E and F-class turbines. Furthermore, PSM expects to achieve the new standards without the need for selective catalytic reduction equipment. Field-testing will be completed during the first quarter of this year and the PSM system will be available for commercial operation within 12 to 18 months.