Following from the front?

Siemens has announced a new H-class gas turbine that will set new benchmarks in performance. Siemens says it is blazing a trail with this technology, but can it play catch-up to GE’s already proven H concept?

By Siàƒ¢n Green

Siemens Power Generation has announced a new generation of H-class gas turbines and is to implement a new power plant based on the technology at a site in Bavaria, Germany. This new, advanced technology offering is based on a combination of Siemens and Westinghouse gas turbine technology, and has been designed for high efficiency, low life cycle cost and advanced operating flexibility.

The first SGT5-8000H gas turbine unit will be implemented at E.On Energie’s Irsching site in Germany. With an output of 340 MW, the unit will be the world’s largest, most powerful gas turbine, and will operate with a simple cycle efficiency of 39 per cent and a combined cycle efficiency of over 60 per cent.

The prototype SGT5-8000H will be delivered to Irsching in early 2007. “The core aspect of the project is the development of a new generation of gas turbines, which will set new benchmarks in terms of performance, efficiency, life-cycle costs, emissions and operating flexibility,” said Dr. Klaus Kleinfeld, president and CEO of Siemens AG.

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Siemens is investing some €500m ($596m) in the Irsching project, including capital spending on turbine development, plant construction, and financing and validation. In all, some 250 Siemens technicians and engineers have been actively involved in the development of the gas turbine, and a further 500 will be involved in gas turbine production.

The prototype at Irsching will undergo testing before the plant is converted into a 530 MW combined cycle plant. After a period of trial operation, E.On Energie’s subsidiary E.On Kraftwerke will take over the plant for commercial operation.

Siemens describes the new gas turbine as “a trailblazing innovation”. “We have trodden new paths in developing this gas turbine,” notes Kleinfeld. “For the first time since Siemens acquired Westinghouse’s power generation business unit, a common gas turbine has been developed. The best features and technologies of the previous Siemens and Westinghouse gas turbines have been combined in a platform concept.”

The new gas turbine unit will be an air-cooled design featuring a new compressor with advanced blading design, advanced sealing for low leakage of cooling air, and will use advanced materials to allow higher firing temperatures. It will be the primary driver of Siemens’ new combined cycle plant for the 50 Hz market, the SCC5-8000H, which will employ a highly efficient, high pressure, high temperature combined cycle process. The plant will have fast start-up and cycling capability to support intermediate load requirements and improved turndown capability for high efficiency and low emissions at part-load operation. Less complexity in the engine parts and plant design, and a simple operation concept will lead to low operation and maintenance costs, says Siemens.

Clearly the SGT5-8000H will compete directly with GE’s H System technology and the Alstom GT24/26 in the market for large, advanced gas turbine combined cycle plants. However, while GE has over 9500 operating hours of experience with the first H System at Baglan Bay in Wales, and is currently implementing further units in the USA and Japan, it is likely to be at least two years before Siemens completes validation of its H technology and is ready to offer it commercially.

Driven by a number of complex factors including rising electricity demand, environmental obligations and security of supply issues, the market for advanced, high-efficiency gas turbines is growing, and Siemens recognizes the importance of this. “By the year 2020, experts are forecasting an approximate doubling of power demand worldwide. The highest percentage increases will be in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia-Pacific,” said Kleinfeld. “To be able to meet the power demand in Germany and other European countries, the existing power plant fleet has to be refurbished by making appropriate investments. In Germany, for example, the existing fleet is increasingly in need of rejuvenation. By the year 2020, power plants with an installed capacity of around 40 000 MW will be 40 years old and thus at the end of their design lifetime.”

According to Frost & Sullivan, the European power generation market is expected to add just over 9 GW of advanced (defined as FB, G and H technology) gas turbines in 2005-2010, followed by a further 16.6 GW in 2011-2015 and 13.6 GW in 2016-2020. These capacity additions are expected to account for about 31 per cent of total gas turbine additions in 2005-2020.

But the real prospect for these large units is in Asia, where economic growth is once again focussing the attention of power industry OEMs. “I do not see much potential for the >300 MW unit gas turbine in the Middle East/North Africa region, nor in North America,” says Karthikeyan Vadamalairaaj, research associate at Frost & Sullivan. “There are better prospects in Europe, but the best potential is in Asia – particularly India and China – where there is a requirement for large CCGT plants for baseload applications.”

As well as the major Asian markets, GE is aiming its H System at other markets that demand power generation technology with high efficiency, high availability and operational flexibility (see PEi September 2005, “Made to measure?” pp29-31). Siemens may be a pace behind GE, but is still aiming to be a market leader with its technology: “Supplying the world’s population with electricity and heat is a gigantic challenge – in particular when, at the same time, it has to be economical, ecological and socially compatible. We have to respond to this challenge above all with innovations!” said Kleinfeld. “Siemens has therefore set itself an ambitious target in the field of power generation: we want to be the trendsetter and assume technology leadership in as many fields as possible. Here, innovations will play a predominant role. If we want to stay ahead of our competitors, we have to set trends instead of following them!”

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