dimanche 19 juin 2016

Adaptating to a changing environment: the gas turbine, a new solution?

EDF and GE operate the most powerful gas turbine in the world

EDF- Maxime Dufour

"Les Échos", on June 17th, by Anne Feitz.

This turbine shows a sky-rocketing yield and can reach its full power in a thirty minutes’ time. The plant has been commissioned in Bouchain, in the North, being the first of its kind in the world.

A gas turbine of EDF's fleet has found a place in the Guinness Book of Records: Jean-Bernard Lévy, CEO of the power operator, did not hide his pleasure at the opening of the central gas combined cycle (GCC) in Bouchain (Nord) on Friday morning. Right next to the old coal plant, which was closed in March 2015, the French group has put into service the 9HA turbine from General Electric, the world's most powerful turbine ever built. A world first. "During the tests, this turbine has achieved a 62.2% yield rate," insisted Steve Bolze, CEO of GE Power. "It is also the most flexible turbine, because it can  reach its full power from standstill in a thirty minutes’ time. "

Recording a capacity of 605 megawatts (MW), the Bouchain plant is expected to deliver power to 680,000 homes, as gas arrives at Dunkirk LNG terminal (which is ownership of EDF also) close to the town, according to both partners. The construction of the turbine begun in 2012 and required an €400 million investment..

Upgrading the present thermal power plants

Essentially, EDF aims at upgrading its thermal power plants. Whereas the group has decided to close its coal and oil power plants in France, for environmental or economic reasons, the company has also set two other GCC Service in France since 2011, the first one in Blénod near Nancy (430 MW ) and the second one in Martigues (900 MW).

These power plants are necessary to face consumption peaks.
"These plants are needed for consumption peaks," insisted Jean-Bernard Lévy. "The French system needs this kind of available deliveries. As the part of renewables becomes more and more important,  and as these renewables are basically intermittent, it is necessary to build highly flexible production means, granting thus supply security. "

What about profitability in Europe ?

However, EDF CEO acknowledged that he has relied maybe too much on the effectiveness of the production capacity compensation scheme in France, today waiting for a Brussels approval. "Power price are presently very low, barely enough to cover operation costs and a part of depreciation for this type of facility," he explained.

Today, gas power plants struggle to reach their profitability in Europe, although the recent drop of gas prices has improved their competitiveness compared to coal. Many of them have even been mothballed on the Old Continent in recent years. "But the most modern plants, such as Bouchain, are required by the network before the older ones," said the CEO.

For its part, General Electric hopes to export its utmost modern turbine,  which is designed and manufactured at its site in Belfort, on a world scale. "Global power demand will increase by 50% over the next twenty years," insisted Steve Bolze. "In this context, the two preferred energy sources to be operated will be renewables and gas. "Whereas 24 units are  expected to be delivered in 2016, the US manufacturer focuses primarily on Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America for years to come.