Industry comes together in search for solutions

POWER-GEN Europe `95 confirms technological advances, equipment improvements and expert predictions are lighting the way

Kevin Dodman

European Editor

This year`s POWER-GEN Europe conference and exhibition, held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, from May 16 to 18, attracted more than 5,900 delegates from 62 countries. The event is becoming the leading electric power industry event in Europe, providing a focal point for academic presentations of technology and for announcements of new products by vendors.

In his keynote address on the opening morning of the conference, Minister H. Wijers of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Netherlands said the power sector will face turbulent times in the longer term, particularly in dealing with the issues of fossil fuel availability and the need to limit emissions. He noted that Western countries have an important role to play in improving emissions in Eastern Europe and encouraged the electric power sector to develop technology and improve energy efficiency.

A forecast in the Financial Times “Power Generation Equipment Review,” published on the opening day of POWER-GEN Europe, estimates the power station market will grow steadily for at least the next 15 years, with up to 1.75 million MW of installed capacity by the year 2010.

The rapidly evolving market provides added impetus to a conference like POWER-GEN but also gives the organizers the problem of presenting an ever-increasing number of conference papers over the three days of the event. Therefore, they divided the conference into seven tracks, covering themes ranging from investment and finance to the environment, combustion technologies and plant-operating experience.

In Track 1, covering investment and finance, a spread of issues was presented, with project finance attracting particular interest. As at several recent European conferences, the need for a well-developed legal and technical framework, plus a stable political climate, was stressed. Although it was mentioned that progress with new projects has been slow, there does seem to have been an increase in momentum in recent months. Contributions from delegates during the session on project finance and management chaired by David Getts of Babcock and Brown revealed that in Poland, particularly, independent-power-producer projects are progressing well.

During the same session, Andrea Mainelli, Enron Development Corp. director of project development, presented a paper on financing projects in Eastern and Central Europe. She said problems in that area include old plants with high emissions, some overcapacity, lack of fuel supply diversity and a lack of urgency to change; but Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are all areas of interest for Enron.

She said Poland has established a way forward for foreign investment, through power purchase agreements, while CEZ, the Czech utility, has a Standard and Poor`s BBB rating, which is exciting for developers. However, many financing obstacles still exist, including the slow pace of price reform, lack of a well-developed legal and regulatory framework, and power generation economics and difficulties with currency convertibility.

The best approach is to write good contracts, be prepared for tough credit terms, focus on the political aspects early in the game, and work with financing sources to ensure close cooperation with the host country`s government and with the power purchaser, she said, citing experiences in Central and Eastern Europe.

Combustion technologies

The combustion technologies and advanced cycles sessions were especially well attended, with presentations of recent fluidized-bed operating experience, as well as encouraging developments in integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) technology.

Since POWER-GEN Europe started in Paris in 1993, there has been a convergence of views concerning the potential of gasification. This year there was much closer agreement regarding the likely cost of IGCC installations and a shared view that costs are falling.

In his paper, “Modern Applications of Gasification Technologies: an Overview,” Dr. Ali Sheikh, Bechtel Ltd. Power Technology manager, headquartered in London, UK, said gasification technology is now entering a new phase where it is being evaluated for application in a range of areas–such as refineries, waste-to-energy and co-production of chemicals and electricity. He said several conclusions can be drawn from modern applications of gasification, including:

– Gasification is now a mature and proven technology.

– Several alternative gasification technologies are available to provide viable options to meet users` current and likely future needs.

– Gasification is penetrating new markets because of its versatility and superior environmental performance. Oil refining and waste disposal are two examples of many new applications. In addition, gasification technology is reviving the classic proven application of coal to chemicals.

– Applications costs are constantly falling due to continuing advancements in technical and performance areas. Consequently, gasification technology is becoming more competitive.

Finally, he said gasification technology could become the technology of choice in the near future.

Latest gas turbines

The combustion-turbine technology area of the conference was brought right up to date by a presentation by General Electric of its new “G” and “H” technologies, unveiled the first morning of the exhibition. According to GE, the G-machines will be capable of 58 percent combined-cycle net thermal efficiency, while the H-technology will enable 60 percent to be achieved for the first time.

Announcing the new machines at POWER-GEN, David Genever-Watling, GE Power Systems president and CEO, said, “Our H-technology isn`t just another gas turbine. It`s a platform of combined-cycle technology that integrates the gas turbine, steam turbine and generator into a seamless system, where each component is optimized for the highest level of performance.

“The centerpiece of this new technology platform is an advanced closed-loop, steam-cooling system in the gas turbine which permits higher firing temperatures at levels consistent with low emissions.”

Cooling by steam means the H-technology machines are only suitable for combined-cycle applications, while for simple-cycle, the G-units can achieve 39.5 percent efficiency.

Genever-Watling explained that H-technology is designed to reduce power plant operating costs by at least 10 percent compared to today`s technology. He said, “These cost savings will contribute to an improved return on investment. In a typical 480-MW combined-cycle plant, for example, the period for recovering an initial investment could be shortened by nearly 20 percent.”

The H-technology platform is also the basis for the MS9001G and MS7001G air-cooled machines, which are designed to be upgradeable from simple-cycle G-units to combined-cycle in either G or H form. According to GE, it will be possible to directly upgrade the MS9001G to a STAG(TM) 109H combined-cycle system in one step. The G- and H-systems were launched simultaneously and have common hardware to allow customers to take advantage of further developments in performance technology.

There was some surprise at the timing of GE`s announcement of the G- and H-technology machines. Although breaking the 60 percent efficiency barrier is clearly a major achievement, the question being asked was when the first machine would actually enter service? So far, the only information given regarding roll-out of the units is that the first MS9001H will be on test in 1997.

Deliveries in 1996 and 1997

ABB and Siemens, both major competitors for GE in gas turbines, gave further details at POWER-GEN of their own high-efficiency machines. According to ABB, the first of its latest 165-MW GT24 units is currently being assembled at its manufacturing facility in Richmond, Va. The 60-Hz turbine will be shipped to Jersey Central Light and Power, where it will be used as a peaking unit to modernize the Gilbert Power Station. ABB says the turbine will be installed this fall and is scheduled to enter commercial service in May 1996.

Prior to GE`s announcement of its breaking of the 60 percent efficiency barrier, Siemens commented that through further optimization of gas and steam cycles, a combined-cycle efficiency of 60 percent would probably be achieved by the turn of the century. The news from GE may bring that date closer, but it will be interesting to see just how soon the new H-technology machines actually enter service.

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A GE craftsman (left) inspects a combustion liner and transition piece for GE`s new H-technology gas turbine, unveiled at POWER-GEN Europe. The technology will break the 60-percent barrier in net thermal efficiency. The 60-Hz MS7001H and 50-Hz MS9001H gas turbines operate at firing temperatures in the 2,600 F class.

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Balcke-D?rr accepts a Project of the Year Award (right) from Douglas Smith, Power Engineering International managing editor. Balcke-D?rr supplied the largest installed air-cooled condensers in the world for PowerGen`s 700-MW Rye House combined-cycle power plant. Other major vendors for the award-winning project included Siemens for the gas and steam turbines and Babcock Energy for the heat recovery steam generators. Nova Scotia Power Inc.`s Point Aconi power plant also won a Project of the Year Award, with major vendors Sargent & Lundy, engineering; Mitsui & Co., turnkey contractor; and Pyropower Corp., fluidized-bed boilers.

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POWER-GEN Europe `95 drew 5,934 people to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to hear 160 papers from 18 countries presented during the three-day conference. Projections made during the conference continued to suggest that the world`s power equipment industry faces rosy prospects. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and several other organizations, the globally installed capacity for power production will increase to 1.7 million MW by 2010, a 62 percent increase from today.