GE Alstom Brainstorming Possibilities

Issue 11 and Volume 119.

By Russell Ray, Chief Editor

After months of rumination, engineers at General Electric and Alstom were able to come together for the first time this month to begin piecing together a new portfolio of products for their new company – GE Power.

GE closed its $10.6 billion acquisition of Alstom Power on Nov. 2. It’s a union of two of the most innovative companies on the planet, and it will change the scope of power generation equipment available to power producers worldwide.

Employing more than 65,000 employees in more than 150 countries, GE Power will be led by Steve Bolze, who served as president and CEO of GE Power & Water. The new company is expected to yield about $30 billion in revenue annually, GE said.

For the new company and its reconstructed team of engineers, the challenge now is achieving a symbiotic relationship between similar but different technologies. The question is this: Which Alstom innovations will the new company retain and which will it sell?

“We’re still working through that with the remedy that we have from the EU Commission,” Joe Mastrangelo, president and CEO of Gas Power Systems for GE Power, said during a conference call with reporters.

To win approval from the European Union, GE agreed to transfer certain Alstom assets to Italian Power Engineering firm Ansaldo Energia, including the rights to build the GT-26 and GT-36 gas turbines. Both were designed for the 50Hz market. Alstom’s 60Hz GT-24 gas turbine and KA24 combined-cycle power train, which are widely used, will be retained by GE. The GT13E2, a versatile heavy-duty gas turbine capable of quick start-up times and 38 percent efficiency in simple cycle mode, is another Alstom innovation GE will most likely retain.

GE may retain other Alstom innovations, including Alstom’s patented welded rotor design, which could be used to improve the performance of GE turbines, particularly the 6F.01 heavy-duty gas turbine. Alstom’s welded rotor technology minimizes stress cracking and eliminates de-stacking, re-stacking and disk replacement during the rotor’s life.

“There’s an opportunity for us to bring that in and improve performance and make that (6F.01) a more cost-effective machine,” Mastrangelo said.

Alstom’s reheat combustion technology, which can be used to achieve ultralow emission levels, is another concept GE may apply to its product line. Alstom’s reheat concept fosters more flexible generation, enabling the producer to find an optimized operating range for given conditions and fuel compositions.

“That’s one of the areas we want to look at to see where that makes sense and where that’s going to make us more competitive as a solution provider for the energy industry,” Mastrangelo said. “It’s exciting to get into these brainstorming sessions now that we’re able to work together as one team.”

Also, Alstom’s steam-tail technology, which includes a steam turbine, a generator and a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG), will add significant value to GE’s product line, he said. Steam-tails allow power producers to convert a simple cycle plant into a more efficient combined cycle plant.

“Obviously, if a customer says we want to go with another HRSG supplier or another steam-tail supplier, we would work with those people as we do today,” he said. “But we do believe that by bringing in this suite of technologies, they’ll get a more competitive solution.”

As Bolze pointed out during the GE Minds + Machines conference in San Francisco last month, demand for power generation will continue to grow globally. Despite huge advancements in efficiency and demand-side management, the world will require 50 percent more power in the next two decades, Bolze said. “We will spend, as an industry, $10 trillion to put in that new power,” he said. “It will fundamentally transform the industry that we’re in today.”

If you have a question or a comment, contact me at [email protected]. Follow me on Twitter @RussellRay1.