GE has today unveiled a gas turbine upgrade that marks several global milestones for the company.

The new-look GT26 HE (high efficiency) turbine has been fitted with parts made by additive manufacturing and is also the first upgrade to overhaul all major components of a turbine with technologies and expertise from both GE and Alstom, the French gas turbine maker that GE acquired in 2015.

The newly-optimized gas turbine will make its industry debut at Enfield power plant in London in the UK, which is run by utility Uniper.Uniper's Enfield power plant

At a press conference in London to launch the upgrade, Michael Rechsteiner, GE’s vice-president of Power Services in Europe, said the upgrade was “unprecedented”.

“It’s all about keeping the mature fleet competitive. There’s a different configuration for gas turbines: ten years ago, they were optimized for baseload – now they are optimized for efficiency, flexibility and availability.”

Amit Kulkarni, general manager for GE’s F and H-class turbines, agreed: “Ten years ago it was all about megawatts. What customers care about today is flexibility.”

He said the upgrade was “the biggest that the GT26 has ever seen in the 20 years since it was developed”.

He said the upgrade would result in a 2 per cent baseload increased efficiency, which could translate as $4m a year fuel savings; a 1 per cent efficiency boost in part load; increased plant output from 15 MW up to 55 MW; and it would also extend inspection intervals from 24,000 hours to up to 32,000 hours.

“On the use of 3D printing, Kulkarni said: “Everyone has heard about additive manufacturing: this is where we make it a reality. What 3D-printing does is allows us to have very intricate cooling designs that we just can’t get in the traditional manufacturing process. We are leveraging the investments we have made in additive manufacturing in a big way into the GT26 upgrade.”

And he added: “When I think of upgrades that we have done – and we have done plenty across our 7000 gas turbines – they were all piecemeal, all very component-based. This upgrade is unparalleled. It’s a combination of all the different components adding a lot of different technologies, and we are pushing the performance in a very significant way.”

It is no co-incidence that the first GT26 upgrade has taken place in the UK, where its established Capacity Market has created a need for fast, flexible power, both centralized and decentralized.

“We see Europe as at the forefront of market dynamics around the globe, and within Europe, it is the UK [at the forefront],” Rechsteiner told me. “In the UK, the market is asking for these kinds of upgrades. We have another 20-plus units in the UK, and how many of them could benefit from this kind of upgrade? All of them.”

Kulkarni says that the 21st century conventional power plant is operating in “a completely new environment. Instead of being on all day, a gas power plant could be switched on and off on a daily basis”, which he says in turn means “less conventional revenue streams matter more and more.”    

There are 96 GT26 units operating globally and 59 are in Europe (21 in Asia, 15 in the Middle East and Africa and three in South America). Rechsteiner believes elsewhere in Europe, the GT26 upgrade will see future success in first of all in Italy, Spain and Germany.

Uniper chief operating officer Eckhardt Rümmler said that in the UK’s “very competitive and challenging power generation environment, investing to keep our plants competitive by lowering operational and maintenance costs at the same time as increasing efficiency and flexibility is critical for the long-term success of our fleet”.

Coming soon: In-depth interview with GE’s Michael Rechsteiner.
………………………………………………………………………….

The latest trends and technologies of gas turbine asset management will be highlighted in detail at POWERGEN Europe in Paris later this year, when the event will be co-located with European Utility Week. Click here for details.