Applying expertise for local sustainable energy industry

As Vietnam is looking at suitable solutions to reduce emissions and increase the efficiency of the country’s power plants, Jim Vono, general manager of GE’s Power Services in Asia Pacific, told VIR’s Hoang Anh how the company is working to satisfy this urgent need.

How do you evaluate the demand for services and upgrades of current power plants in Vietnam? 

Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, averaging an annual GDP growth rate of more than 6 per cent and an annual electricity generation growth of 8 per cent in the last five years. To meet the high demand for electricity, Vietnam’s Power Development Plan VII laid out plans to increase installed generation capacity from 33 gigawatts (GW) in 2015 to 130GW by 2030.

Vietnam has a wide variation in their fleet of assets and fuel sources for power generation that pose distinct challenges. Take gas plants for example – gas plants in the south are being prioritised due to low reserve margins and the gradual reduction of supply from the local reserves. This is where we believe upgrades are great opportunities for power plants in Vietnam to reduce gas consumption while increasing output and in the process, decrease emissions as well. 

On coal power plants, the country has started to import coal as the domestic supply is unable to meet the growing demand from newer plants. In such situations, we believe that advances in technology can come into play.

Upgrading existing coal and gas power plants can bring efficiency improvements of 3 per cent and availability improvements of up to 8 per cent. Half of these improvements can come from digital solutions. These improvements would translate into $6 billion in savings in fuel cost, as well as avoided investment and maintenance costs over the remaining life of the plant, assuming the average remaining life of 18 years for coal plants and 15 years for gas plants.

What are your challenges for delivering services to Vietnamese customers in terms of legal framework, spending patterns of local customers, or existing technology levels?

There are always challenges when doing business in any country; however, with our long history in power generation coupled with our deep knowledge and expertise in engineering and innovation, we believe we have the right human resources and intellectual property to resolve any of these concerns. 

For GE, it’s all about bringing value to our customers in the form of operational and commercial benefits while being an environmental steward. As an example, we can take an ageing power plant where a customer may have six existing gas assets running at less than 50 per cent efficiency. If we were to replace them with just one 9FA gas turbine, the power plant will produce approximately the same amount of output but with an increased efficiency of 10 per cent. To further enhance the results on the same ageing plant, we can also implement software solutions to optimise and extract the most value of older units through predictive analytics, reducing maintenance cost, and extending maintenance intervals. 

Most of Vietnam's power plants are using older technology and/or non-GE equipment and machinery. How will you help deal with old and non-GE equipment? 

For older plants, we have solutions to help make improvements and the expertise to implement these upgrades in the field. Between GE and Alstom, we have over 230 years of combined experience in the power generation space. We will first conduct a full-blown plant assessment where we will collect a wide range of data used for comprehensive data analysis and then use it to develop an improvement plan for the total plant to help drive down costs, improve efficiencies, and reduce emissions. In GE, we call this R&M – renovation and modernisation – just as you would do to your 30-year-old home.

For the non-GE installed fleet, our cross-fleet approach allows us to service more than 90 original equipment manufacturer (OEM) brands across all major plant assets, no matter where in the world our customers operate. Let me give you an example: Engie selected GE to upgrade two Hitachi steam turbines at the Loy Yang B Power Station in Victoria, Australia. With the upgrades, Engie is expecting to boost capacity by 84 megawatts, reducing fuel consumption by approximately 5 per cent for each megawatt generated. The project is expected to increase total plant output to 1,140MW – enough electricity to power the equivalent of 565,000 homes.

What are the power plants that were successfully implemented by GE to reduce emissions and increase efficiency?

I have three projects that I can share where we successfully demonstrated improvements in emissions and increased efficiency.

Locally in Vietnam, we have a great example of upgrading a GT13E2 gas turbine with our MXL2 technology for a local customer. With the modernisation of the gas turbines, our customer is expecting to benefit from a 10 per cent increase in output and a 1 per cent improvement in efficiency. With the advanced solutions we implement, the customer is also able to take out a total of 18,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).

In Japan, we helped modernise, as well as increase output and improve operational flexibility at the Chiba combined-cycle power plant, owned by JFE Steel Corporation. The project includes a gas turbine upgrade, a low-pressure steam turbine retrofit and a new lifetime management on a gas turbine, as well as an operation and maintenance (O&M) multi-year service agreement (MYA) for 15 years. As a result, the plant output is expected to increase by about 60MW, the operational flexibility will improve, and maintenance intervals for the turbine will be extended.

In Malaysia, we will provide a comprehensive O&M guarantee at the Kimanis Sabah combined-cycle power plant for the next 18 years. The MYA with SPR Energy includes implementing GE’s Asset Performance Management (APM) software solutions to improve asset visibility, reliability, and availability. The OEM-agnostic software enables valuable data from connected assets, regardless of make or model, to be analysed 24/7 by GE’s Monitoring and Diagnostics Center. Data is then transformed into actionable insights – such as real-time diagnostics, troubleshooting, and condition forecasting – that can help improve plant reliability, mitigate forced outages and reduce downtime. In addition, intervals between maintenance events can be enhanced from 12,000 to up to 32,000 hours. The MYA covers all onsite equipment, including two GE 6B gas turbines, two heat recovery steam generators, and a non-GE steam turbine, showcasing our cross-fleet capabilities.

RELATED CONTENTS:
Revitalising Vietnam’s power plants, keeping an eye on emissions