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GE global centre aims to improve efficiency of coal power plants

Mar 07. 2017
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By The Nation

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General Electric has announced its new global Powering Efficiency Centre of Excellence (COE), which brings together cross-business experts in its energy businesses to apply hardware and software solutions to boost the efficiency of the world’s new and existing coal-fired power plants and significantly reduce their emissions. 

The global COE, headquartered in Baden, Switzerland, will create integrated solutions as well as provide vision and oversight around the world, GE says. Regional teams will focus on engineering capabilities and local execution. 

“By bringing together the combined experience of a cross-business group of experts from GE’s power services, steam power systems, global research centre and global growth organisations, we are showing operators how they can achieve emissions compliance and increased efficiency with their new and existing coal-fired power plants,” said Michael Rechsteiner, executive sponsor of the global COE and vice president of product lines for GE’s power services.

The COE aligns with GE’s recent “Ecomagination” study that found carbon-dioxide emissions from the world’s steam fleet could be reduced by 11 per cent if existing hardware and software solutions were fully applied. 

Coal-fired power generation provides electricity for about 40 per cent of the world. It also accounts for nearly 75 per cent of the electricity sector’s carbon emissions because many plants are old and inefficient.

“The installed base of coal assets will not disappear overnight, and while GE supports the increased use of renewable energy sources, we also realise the need for flexible and efficient coal solutions to help to reduce emissions and bring reliable energy supplies to power producers,” Rechsteiner said. 

“GE has a suite of steam upgrades and emission management technologies that, when combined with our digital technologies, can increase efficiency on average by 4 per cent.”

The newest coal plants being built using GE’s ultra-super-critical technology can deliver up to 49-per-cent efficiency rates – significantly higher than the global average of 33 per cent. Every point of efficiency reduces operating costs over the lifetime of the plant while also reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by about 2 per cent, the company claims.

Modern coal-fired power plants rely on a complex network of sensors, digital controllers and supervisory computers to operate and coordinate plant subsystems. GE’s digital capabilities and portfolio of air-quality-control systems can help further lower atmospheric emissions to meet or exceed the world’s strictest regulations, it says.

In addition, the Powering Efficiency COE will provide a set of financing solutions to help customers develop transformative projects towards a power-generation mix of lower carbon intensity.

Global, and regional organisations

Besides the global COE, regional organisations – starting in India – will help ensure real-time answers to meet coal power plants’ local needs, GE says.

“Our initial focus is in India due to the country’s explosive energy demand projections,” said Ashok Ganesan, leader of the Powering Efficiency COE and managing director of GE’s Power India Ltd. 

“The overall efficiency of the existing power-plant fleets, particularly the country’s ageing coal-fired plants, is still relatively low. Our regional team in India is ideally suited to demonstrate the full potential of the Powering Efficiency COE to help the country’s coal plants operate more efficiently and reduce emissions.”

The first project showcasing GE’s Powering Efficiency COE commitment in the country is with India’s largest utility, NTPC. The utility selected GE to help increase the efficiency of three 200-megawatt Ansaldo steam turbines installed more than 30 years ago at the Ramagundam Super Thermal Power Plant in the state of Telangana. 

GE says it will help NTPC improve the efficiency of each steam turbine by up to 14 per cent, increase plant output by about 30MW and reduce its carbon footprint by about 5 per cent.

The project includes an enhanced steam path (ESP) upgrade solution to help NTPC boost the efficiency and output of its power plant. ESP was the first upgrade solution introduced to customers that blended GE and Alstom thermal-power-generation technologies after the integration of the two 

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