Walking the torque

The 35/44G engine on MAN Diesel's testbed
The 35/44G engine on MAN Diesel’s testbed
Credit: MAN Diesel & Turbo


The power sector is on the verge of a gas engine boom, when state-of-the-art products outperform their turbine rivals, according to Howard Barnes of MAN Diesel & Turbo. He explained why to Kelvin Ross


The buzzword of the moment in the power industry is flexibility. The need in Europe is for flexible power solutions that can cope with the increasing number of renewables being introduced to the grid, while developing nations want fast power to meet soaring electricity demand.

Of course, this means the manufacturers of power plant equipment need to be flexible themselves and diversify their portfolios.

One company which believes it has a generation solution for the twenty-first century is MAN Diesel and Turbo.

The German company has long been known in the power industry for its diesel and dual-fuel engines as well as gas and steam turbines, but it believes the future lies in gas engines.

Howard Barnes à‚  Howard Barnes, MAN Diesel’s Senior Vice President of power plants, spoke to me about the company’s latest gas engine, the 35/44G.
Howard Barnes

“We have invested considerably in the development of this engine,” he says. “It’s not just a drawing board exercise: it’s on test beds and it is proving its operation.

“And in gas we really see opportunity. We think this product outperforms gas turbines. The fashion for many years has been gas turbines and somehow we have to try and educate the market that in many instances this product is superior to gas turbines.”

The 35/44G engine in transit to a new German gas plant for VW in Braunschweig
The 35/44G engine in transit to a new German gas plant for VW in Braunschweig
Credit: MAN Diesel & Turbo

Re-educating any market to move away from a tried and trusted solution is a big task. Does he think the sector will be receptive to such a message?

His answer is that “it’s happening already” and cites as an example a German project of nearly 200 MW.

“They brought in reputable European consultants – independent consultants – to determine: should it be a turbine or a gas engine operation? And after several months of review the conclusion was ‘it’s going to be gas engine’. A number of utilities have seen this and appear shocked at the radical change in direction.”

However, he stresses that this specific shock can be overcome by following a simple mantra: “Don’t consider the fashion. Look at the merits; look at the returns; look at the economics.

“It’s happening but it needs to be said more. And then people will look at it on a neutral playing field and evaluate the merits of the application rather than look at historically what is happening.”

Barnes says that MAN Diesel and Turbo is “neutral in many respects” in the engine vs turbine debate, as the company makes both, but he stresses that in Europe, in many instances, policy decisions are driving the shift to gas engines, not least the policies of Germany’s Energiewende.

“The trend is very much away from liquid fuels and towards gas. Clearly there will be continued investment in selected regions in nuclear, there will be continued investment in selected regions in coal, but the growth market – certainly for MAN Diesel and Turbo – is gas engines – no question.

“Hence our enormous development programme to bring online a state-of-the-art engine.”

He says the European market is ripe for a gas engine business boom. “Gas engines have the ability to ramp up and down very quickly so they suit peaking applications much better than gas turbines.

“Because of that we see a serious number of gas applications for engines in Germany and in the European market.

“And, when you consider the move towards renewables, there is a demand to have a highly flexible backup energy source available in an instant when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow to provide a constant load.

“These gas engines are perfect team players when it comes to renewables – that’s the attraction.”

He explains that one of the most promising European markets is Germany – “there are several projects that we are currently looking at and they are substantial projects” – and Eastern Europe, “where clients are looking not only for energy but heat: cogen-type facilities supporting townships and industry. So there’s a nice spread of projects across the European market.”

MAN Diesel & Turbo's
MAN Diesel & Turbo’s “state-of-the-art” 35/44G engine
Credit: MAN Diesel & Turbo

And is the gas engine-driven model applicable outside of Europe? “Yes, very much so. We are seriously focused on Southeast Asia. We are very active in the Gulf region, in sub-Saharan Africa and also in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, where we have ongoing projects.”

“In island locations such as Indonesia, which has some 245 million people, over 5500 islands and a massive demand for energy – however, not centralized plants but decentralized plants – there is serious application for a product like this, from 10 MW to 200 MW. That’s the kind of market we are looking at.”

He adds that in developing regions, MAN Diesel and Turbo is keen to do more than just marine engines.

“We can supply a total plant solution, and in the developing world that is very much welcomed. To send engines alone doesn’t provide a solution. Some clients look for a facility that they can switch on and we can provide that facility and finance the facility. And when the requirement is there we have a considerable service group and have the ability to maintain, service and operate the plant, which is also of value in certain areas, such as Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Latin America.”

MAN Diesel signs US pact with Fairbanks Morse

MAN Diesel

MAN Diesel & Turbo has signed a co-operation deal with its American counterpart Fairbanks Morse. The five-year pact will see the companies target the US market for gas and dual-fuel engines.

MAN Diesel & Turbo’s portfolio of gas and dual-fuel engines ranges from 2.3-17.6 MW while Fairbanks Morse produces engines in the range of 0.5-4.0 MW.

The deal was signed by Howard Barnes and Fairbanks Morse president Marvin Riley at a ceremony at Man Diesel’s headquarters in Augsburg, Germany.

Barnes said: “The US is a significant market and offers tremendous growth potential for gas fired energy generation. With an installed base of over 1000 MW, Fairbanks Morse is a well-established player in this market. Working together we can offer efficient solutions for energy facilities of virtually any size. And two premium engine brands joining forces will certainly leave an impression.”

Riley added: “With access to MAN Diesel & Turbo’s portfolio of gas and dual-fuel engines, we can offer units up to nearly 20 MW and expand our range of high-quality and flexible power generation solutions. This opens up substantial additional power generation market segments for us at a time when distributed energy is clearly on the rise in the US.”

Fairbanks Morse has been a licensee of MAN marine engines since 1995 and Riley said this will remove the need for a “familiarization phase”, while Barnes added that the two companies “will hit the ground running”.

Martinique 220 MW plant complete

Martinique 220 MW plant

MAN Diesel & Turbo has completed the second of three power plants for EDF on the Caribbean island of Martinique.

MAN Diesel was responsible for engineering, procurement and construction as well as for commissioning of the engines.

The plant in Bellefontaine replaces a 30-year-old facility and has a capacity of 220 MW which covers around 60 per cent of the island’s power needs.

MAN Diesel said that “particular attention was paid to the plant’s environmental compatibility and energy efficiency. Fuel consumption was reduced by 15 per cent and nitrous oxide emissions by 85 per cent compared to the previous plant.”

It added that the power plant can also cover its water needs by using desalinated sea water instead of ground water.

“Dry coolers also allow annual water savings of 700,000 m3. This is the equivalent of the annual consumption of around 10,000 households. The heat from the engines is also used to generate the hot water required at the site.”

The plant’s 110-metre-tall chimney was custom-made and is now Martinique’s tallest building. It was designed with particular thought given to the island being in “a danger zone for earthquakes and hurricanes” says Hermann Kràƒ¶ger, senior vice-president and project director for EDF at MAN Diesel & Turbo.

“In its dimension and design the chimney has been constructed to sway at its highest point by only one meter even in the event of an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale and a simultaneous hurricane.”

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