GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANTS

HOW DO THEY WORK?

A company of

Cover picture: Gas turbine compressor with combustion chamber .

. . . 11 2. . . . . . . . . . .1 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 2|3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 How does a gas-fired combined-cycle power plant work? . . . . . . 06 The gas-fired combined-cycle power plant – in model form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 05 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 2. . . 1. . . . . . . . 07 The gas turbine: the heart of the power plant . . 2. 08 The water/steam cycle: more than just hot air . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .CONTENTS At a glance . . . . . 12 The issue of efficiency . . . . . .1 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 09 The high-voltage system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . EGL projects in Italy (inserts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Cost matters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Modern combustion technology: a plus . . . . 11 The control station: control and security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 What are the positive aspects of a gas-fired combined-cycle power plant? . . . . . .4 1. . . . . . . . . .

1 1 – Model of an EGL gas-fired combined-cycle power plant .

such as coal-fired power plants. Compared with other types of power plant. Gas-fired combined-cycle power plants are technologically advanced and used throughout the world.AT A GLANCE A gas-fired combined-cycle power plant. The hot gases that this process creates drive the turbine and. In a similar way as an aeroplane engine. the emission of harmful exhaust gases can be controlled and minimised. consisting of several blocks. The rest of the electrical power generated. meaning that the energy supplied in the form of fuel is converted into electricity as efficiently as technically possible. The extremely powerful gas turbine allows for a compact power plant. Compared with all other conventional thermal plants. The standardised EGL power plants all have two blocks with a combined yield of around 760 megawatts. a mixture of compressed air and fuel is combusted. the generator that is coupled to it. with it. In the heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) the exhaust gases transfer their heat to the circulating water: the pressurised water vaporises. which minimises construction time to around two and a half years. roughly a third. Investment costs are comparatively low because the main components are largely standardised. 4|5 . the generator that is coupled to it. Each block is practically a self-contained power plant that can be operated independently. is produced by the steam turbine using the hot exhaust gases leaving the gas turbine. With modern combustion engineering. Gas-fired combined-cycle power plants are built modular. they are highly efficient: the state-of-the-art EGL plants in Italy achieve a percentage in the region of 56. causing the temperature in the system to rise. combines the strengths of two thermal processes in ideal fashion: electricity production using a gas turbine together with a steam turbine. The steam drives the steam turbine and. carbon dioxide and nitric oxide emissions are lowest when plants are fired with natural gas. Around two thirds of the electrical power generated is produced by the gas turbine. The acronym normally used to describe this system is CCGT. One of these power plants could cover about ten percent of Switzerland’s annual energy needs. with it. also known as a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine Power Plant.

Around two thirds of the electricity is produced by the gas turbine. and the remaining third by the steam turbine coupled to it.1. This means that the two turbines are coupled to separate generators. 1 – Gas turbine 2 – End winding of generator . The EGL power plants are designed as multi-shaft installations. which is then converted by the generators into electrical energy. Powered by the expanding fuel gases (gas turbine) or the steam (steam turbine). – The EGL power plants in Italy consist of two blocks each. so they each have four drive machines (two gas and two steam turbines) and four driven machines (generators). – This is in contrast to single-shaft installations. a mechanical rotation takes place in the two turbines. HOW DOES A GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANT WORK? 1 2 The gas-fired combined-cycle power plant combines two thermal processes so well that the resulting electricity generation is as efficient as possible. where both turbines power the same generator.

Gas turbine: air is compressed.1. 4. Steam turbine: the steam powers the turbine. The turbine powers the generator and the compressor. The resulting mechanical energy is transferred to the generator. Ambient air is drawn in via filter stages and compressed in the compressor.1 The gas-fired combined-cycle power plant – in model form high-voltage lines steam lines 4 medium and low pressure steam turbine 6 generator high pressure steam turbine 5 condenser exhaust gas stack 1 air intake feed-water pump high-voltage lines steam air intake 2 gas turbine water 6 generator compressor gas supply combustion chamber turbine heat recovery steam generator 3 1. Generators: here the mechanical energy from the turbines is converted into electricity. 3. 5. generating hot gases under high-pressure. Heat recovery steam generator: water is vaporised using the hot exhaust gases from the gas turbine. 6. Combustion takes place. 2. 6|7 . HOW DOES A GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANT WORK? 1. natural gas is mixed in. Condenser: here the exhaust steam from the steam turbine is converted back into water by means of air cooling.

which means that it is elevated to a higher pressure. The mechanical rotation powers the compressor and the generator. Diesel oil 1 – Heat recovery steam generator 2 – Gas turbine compressor . and then directed into the combustion chamber.1. it also gives the power plant its name. This heat energy is then transfered to the water in the heat recovery steam generator. We regard the gas turbine as the heart of the power plant. The second stage of electricity generation then takes place: the water/steam cycle where the pressurised water is heated and vaporised. The gas spreads out and expands. When the hot gas exits the turbine as exhaust gas. it has a temperature of around 600°C. The energy that this releases is converted into a mechanical rotation just like a toy balloon when air is escaping from it. The generator converts this energy into electricity. Fuel is fed into this chamber in the form of natural gas. Here too the pressure compensation (expansion) brings about the motion. HOW DOES A GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANT WORK? 1 2 1. This air is compressed in the compressor (2. on the model). The gas turbine compressor draws in air from the environment via a filter (1. This process produces hot gases that are allowed to “relax” in the turbine. and combustion takes place. Not only does it produce two thirds of the electricity. on the model). the action of the balloon “darting off”. which means that they are brought to virtually ambient pressure.2 The gas turbine: the heart of the power plant The gas turbine is the first stage in the process of producing electricity.

vaporised and then converted back into water in the condenser. This heat is used to generate water vapour.1. but the EGL plants in Italy have not been designed for this. All EGL power plants use type V94. It has three areas. it pays for a power plant to have more than one block. tends to be necessary only once every three years. There. During such maintenance inspection times. The water/steam cycle is closed. Natural gas has lower exhaust gas emissions compared to diesel oil. 1. This is then allowed to “relax” in the turbine. around 3. the cost and effort needed to maintain and service turbines powered with natural gas is usually lower. The turbine converts the steam energy into a mechanical rotation that is then transferred to the generator. it releases pressure. one medium and one low. on the model). each with a different pressure level: one high. By way of comparison. on the model) is a large and complex configuration consisting of bundles of pipes and drums. A general overhaul. The heat recovery steam generator (3. In addition. it is possible to harness an impressive amount of the energy contained in the exhaust gas. is divided into three pressure levels: one high. in other words.500 VW Golfs together would be needed to produce this kind of output. The respective area of the steam boiler supplies the steam turbine with the correct steam. The water/steam cycle uses the heat energy of the exhaust gases that would otherwise go to waste in the gas turbine process. The turbine weighs roughly 300 tons and yields a nominal electrical output of 260 megawatts. The steam turbines for all EGL power plants in Italy are manufactured by Ansaldo under a licence provided by BBC (ABB). which means that it is always the same water that is heated. like the boiler.800 vehicles to produce this level of output. where heavily used parts have to be replaced. HOW DOES A GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANT WORK? could also possibly be used as fuel. In all EGL power plants the boiler is roughly 45 metres high and 17 metres wide. The generator’s nominal output is 132 megawatts. one medium and one low. it is transformed into electricity. on the model). which produces electricity with the help of a steam turbine. under a licence provided by Siemens.3A2 gas turbines.3 The water/steam cycle: more than just hot air A third of the total electrical output comes from the steam turbine (4. 8|9 . If you again compare this output with a VW Golf. By dividing into these three levels. you would need another 1. They are manufactured by the Italian company Ansaldo. The steam turbine (4. One part of the plant can carry on producing electricity normally even if the other is undergoing inspection and is therefore out of action for some time.

1. HOW DOES A GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANT WORK? 1 2 1 – Rotor of high pressure steam turbine 2 – Ventilators of condenser .

negative pressure.e. The power plant’s own transformers convert the electricity produced so that it can be fed directly into the high-voltage network.5 The control system: control and security The control system in the plant’s central control room steers. And the cycle starts afresh. all standard operation sequences within the power plant are fully automated from start to finish. on the model). Large ventilators add ambient air. on account of its size. i. operating staff can purposefully intervene and make improvements. It is also able to draw comparisons between target and actual conditions by itself and to respond to them. 10 | 11 . Normally speaking. As soon as the electricity grid is available again. controls and monitors all the processes and operations in the power plant. and assists human intervention.4 The high-voltage system The alternating current generated in the plant cannot be stored. It records all the major sequences and process variables. which is cooled by air.1. HOW DOES A GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANT WORK? The condenser (5. If necessary. the continuous feedbacks sent by the many sensors in the power plant trigger automatic responses. In addition. The historical data record also makes it possible to determine maintenance and inspection times precisely. In the event of a disruption to the high-voltage network. 1. 1. The feed-water pump then returns this “condensate” to the boiler. the plant automatically begins to run down in a safe mode. Power plants therefore need an electrical system that reliably conveys the electricity produced to consumers. the power plant automatically connects to the grid again and supplies the required output. The steam exits the turbine under vacuum. and the corresponding demand exists. which cools the steam right down until it becomes water again: it is condensed. is the most striking component of the power plant. The system collects and stores a large volume of operational data that is important for specific analyses. It flows through pipes a few metres in diameter into the condenser.

While it is true that plant efficiency is slightly lower if cooling is done with air. This means that they are connected to the grid roughly 345 days of the year on average. Coal-fired power plants tend to be 10 to 15 percentage points below this level. as opposed to cooling with water.2. Other decisive factors include the location and the professionalism of plant operation. An important consideration in the choice of location is 1 – Rotor of low pressure steam turbine 2 – Condenser .1 The issue of efficiency 2 A plant’s availability is the key to its cost efficiency: to what extent is the power plant ready for operation (after scheduled and unscheduled downtimes)? Gas-fired combined-cycle power plants can achieve very high values upwards of 95 percent if maintained well. The water/ steam cycle coupled to it significantly raises the efficiency for the entire plant by using the heat energy emitted by the exhaust gases from the gas turbine to produce steam and. therefore. to generate electricity. The gas turbine manages a level of efficiency of around 35 percent. gas-fired combined-cycle power plants boast a high level of efficiency. this does offer greater independence for plant operation and protects natural water resources. But it is not just the features of the plant itself that are key to its cost efficiency. WHAT ARE THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF A GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANT? 1 2. Compared with other types of power plant. This way. They convert the energy introduced in the form of natural gas into electricity with the least amount of loss that is technically feasible. the EGL plants in Italy achieve excellent values of roughly 56 percent. It is not possible to achieve zero loss given that friction and heat transfer always cause some energy to be lost.

12 | 13 . A gas-fired combined-cycle power plant has a useful life of 25 to 30 years. The EGL employees responsible for operation on site ensure the availability of the plant. Smaller units require more specific investment expenditure and therefore generate fewer profits. the lowest emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide (NOx) are from plants operated with natural gas. twice that amount can be expected. It recruits its staff early and offers continuous training for their specialist duties. and one on which EGL places special emphasis. The block size that has been chosen for all EGL power plants (380 megawatts each).3 Modern combustion technology: a plus Gas-fired combined-cycle power plants emit greenhouse gases. measured on production costs. depend very heavily on fuel costs. measured in euros per megawatt hour. for example. whereas for coal-fired power plants. which is comparable with other types of power plant. 2. connection to the natural gas supply is also very important. In addition. for example. Short distances mean that transmission losses can be limited. The EGL specialists at head office make decisions regarding the use of the power plant and production volumes. WHAT ARE THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF A GAS-FIRED COMBINED-CYCLE POWER PLANT? the proximity to a high-voltage power line (380 kilovolts). The reasons for this are the largely standardised main components of this type of power plant and the short construction time of just two and a half years or so. Compared with all other fossil-thermal plants. Depending on the design of the plant. it is even possible to go into operation with just the gas turbine first and to complete the water/steam cycle in parallel. are roughly twice as high. Production costs for electricity. Like connection to the high-voltage network. Natural gas is regarded as a relatively clean fuel. This heavy dependency suggests that it is better to use gas-fired combinedcycle power plants as medium load electricity generating plants: this means taking advantage of their flexibility and only operating them when electricity market prices are attractive. the investor can start generating in2.2. That way. Continuous monitoring of the combustion also helps to control and minimise the emissions. an ideal location for a power plant is one that is close to the high-voltage network and to the natural gas pipeline. The values for coal-fired power plants. guarantees attractive economies of scale. With today’s natural gas prices (as at autumn 2006).6 million euros per megawatt of installed capacity. come from the sale of electricity earlier.2 Cost matters The investment costs for a gas-fired combined-cycle power plant are lower than those for coal-fired power plants and other conventional thermal plants. Well trained. experienced personnel are a basic requirement for reliable operation of a power plant. Therefore. that are all plants with combustion processes. standing at around 0. thereby achieving a better return. their share can account for up to 70 percent. it is important that line capacities to consumer centres are adequate.

egl. +41 44 749 41 41 media@egl.Editor/contact EGL Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft Laufenburg AG Corporate Communications Lerzenstrasse 10 CH-8953 Dietikon Tel.ch Photos: EGL May only be reproduced with written permission of the editor www.ch .

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