The development of the first combined-cycle gas turbine plants in the late 1980s early 1990s heralded a global boom in the construction of gas fired power plants. It resulted in a ten-year ‘dash for gas’ in the UK (gas currently accounts for around 40 per cent of electricity generation), a peak in the United States in 1999-2000 of 100 GW a year, and in Italy, the undisputed European home of gas fired generation, it continues to provide 50 per cent of the country’s electricity. According to a report in the Financial Times, in little more than 15 years around 13 000 turbines of more than 40 MW were installed, representing close to 900 GW, or more impressively 19 per cent of the world’s total capacity. The global CCGT market is now running at around a more modest 30 GW a year, with the majority of the demand coming from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
However, with growing concern over how many of the European Union member states are going to meet the Commission’s 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020, a number of industry commentators are suggesting that a new ‘dash for gas’ may be just over the horizon. This is because CCGT plants not only offer low construction costs and flexible operation, but importantly lower carbon dioxide emissions.
However, the situation is not as straightforward as that. Unlike the circumstances during the last gas fired boom, it is no longer a cheap fuel source. Furthermore, particulalry in Europe and the United States there are growing concerns over security of gas supplies.
Rising fuel costs, however, is not exclusive to gas, and the prices of uranium, coal and oil are all experiencing a upward trajectory. Thus, the boardrooms of many utilities and independent power producers across the globe are making the diversification of their generation mix a priority. In the Financial Times, Dirk Beeuwsaert, CEO of Suez Energy International sums it up: “If you are a big player, you need a mix of generation options nuclear, coal, gas and renewables.”
In this month’s issue, which if you will indulge me is the biggest issue ever published in the history of Power Engineering International, we have made an effort to reflect the growing diveristy of power generation options available to generators.
On the coal fired side, Chris Webb gives a précis on the current enconomics climate for building new plants in the developed world, while we focus on the carbon emissions issue by highighting a carbon capture technology, that if all goes well could become as common as flue gas desulphurization.
Although natural gas may not experieince another boom, but it will remain a major fuel source for global power generation, however, like other fuel sources such as coal it will have to adapt. Dr Jeff Goldmeer of GE Energy discusses the growing importance for heavy duty gas turbines to be able to burn a wide variety of fuels. Also, Tim Probert, PEi’s Associate Editor, discusses his recent visit to E.ON Kraftweke’s Irsching power plant, where the world’s largest, and what is dscribed as the most efficient gas turbine, is currently under test.
In this issue we also highlight two landmark renewable projects. The first is the Dutch Q7 offshore wind farm, which is expected to begin full operation at the end of this month. What is particularly interesting about this projects is its unique financing structure, which resolves an issue that has previously prevented the realization of a number of offshore wind farms in Europe. The other is Abu Dhabi’s ambitious Masdar City project, which if it comes to fruition would be the world’s most ecologically advanced, ultra-modern city, and all powered by renewables.
Finally, John Goss explains how China’s two transmission system operators was able to get their networks back and and running in double quick time following the unprecedented winter storms earlier this year.