A recent online survey of power industry professionals from across the globe found that more than 65 per cent of those polled believe that gas turbine lubrication maintenance has a significant effect on their company’s profitability.

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With the price of natural gas historically linked to oil prices, volatility in the former’s price in commonplace, and after a period of relatively low prices in 2009 (one assumes due to the global recession) prices are on the rise again – so far this year the price of wholesale gas has risen by a third.

The second biggest threat to the future growth of gas power generation was cited as concerns over security of supply – almost 36 per cent of those polled. This was experienced at first hand by Central and Eastern Europe in early 2009, when Russia essentially turned off Europe’s gas tap because of a price dispute with Ukraine.

However, a relatively recent discovery promises to make concerns over price volatility and security of supply a thing of the past. It is of course shale gas. It has already transformed the US from a gas importer into a potential gas exporter. With Europe more recently finding significant reserves in both Poland and the UK, it is beginning to play catch-up. China, unsurprisingly, is also well and truly on the shale gas bandwagon.

According to the World Energy Outlook 2011, global consumption of natural gas will catch up with coal by 2035, with shale gas playing a role, providing environmental concerns over its extraction can be addressed. The other main threat identified by a third of respondents (33.9%). is the introduction of ever more stringent environmental regulation, particularly governing emissions from power plant stacks.

In particular in Europe, legally-binding carbon reduction targets – the European Union’s 2020 target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent – as well as legislation governing NOx and SOx emissions – the newly introduced Industrial Emissions Directive – both present challenges for fossil fuel power stations.

On the plus side for the gas power sector, a power station fuelled by natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide and a third of the NOx that a coal fired power plant does. Further, a high efficiency CCGT plant can produce up to 70 per cent lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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