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The energy industry paradigm shift
In today’s world, there is great demand for reliable, affordable, clean, and sustainable energy increases in countries like Vietnam. Due to growing demand, the power industry is expected to expand significantly over the next decade. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2016, in 2014, 41 per cent of global electricity generation came from coal-fired power plants, and 22 per cent came from gas-fired power plants. Both coal- and gas-fired electricity generation is expected to increase over the next decade in both IEA’s Current Policies and New Policies scenarios.
As coal is more carbon-intensive than other sources, in 2014, it accounted for 73 per cent of the electric sector’s carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions. Coal-fired power is forecast to remain the second-largest energy source by 2030, thus, coal will remain an important component in the world as well as in Vietnam’s energy mix over the next 10 years. There will be more coal-fired power plants to be developed in Vietnam, while the country works on the investment capital pool to embrace the solar, wind, and nuclear options.
In a carbon-constrained world, energy sources such as natural gas, highly-efficient greenfield coal, renewable energy, hydropower, and nuclear power are becoming more important in helping to address global energy security needs in the long run. However, the pressure is also on utilities to revisit priority and importance to keep their existing power generation assets at optimal performance levels to increase the level of efficiency of their ageing power plants.
At the end of 2015, Vietnam joined the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) and committed to cutting total greenhouse gas emissions by 8 per cent by 2030. This poses challenge to utilities in striking the right balance between a need to increase coal-fired power plants while staying committed to the COP21 pledge.
When the hardware and software solution ‘combo’ matters
According to a research carried out by GE, the average global efficiency of coal plants can be improved from 34 to 37.4 per cent (2.5 per cent through hardware improvements and 0.9 per cent more through software solutions and data analytics), while the average global gas efficiency of gas plants can be improved from 39.4 to 42.7 per cent (1.8 per cent through hardware improvements and 1.5 per cent more efficient through software solutions and analytics). Vietnam appeared as one of the top 20 countries with potential for coal upgrades (both total hardware and digital upgrades) which will result in an increase in efficiency by 2.8 per cent.
On the other hand, the same study also revealed that annual CO2 emissions from coal and gas plants can be reduced by 7 and 8 per cent respectively, the equivalent of more than 642,000 cars taken off the road.
As one of the world’s leaders in power solutions, GE established the Powering Efficiency Center of Excellence in July 2015. It aims to bring together cross-energy business experts to create and apply a total plant solution approach built on technologies, digital improvements and expertise that now spans all major plant assets and more than 90-plus power generation brands to boost efficiency and dramatically reduce the emissions of existing coal-fired power plants.
Take an example of their boiler upgrade solutions, which are the backbone of steam plant efficiency enhancements. They can tap into maintenance and repair capabilities to drive better performance of boilers, pulverisers, air pollution control systems, ash handling systems, and auxiliary equipment, all leading to a smaller emissions footprint. GE’s AmStar 888 boiler tube protection technology, for example, helps prevent leaks that would require outage time, while also reducing fuel costs by as much as 20 per cent.
Decarbonisation solutions range from an HRSG CO catalyst upgrade which can reduce more than 80 per cent of CO2 to implementing upgrades to a gas turbine Dry Low NOx (DLN) combustion solution which can lower emissions by up to 40 per cent. We have also seen recent examples of a gas turbine upgrade that increase operational reliability by extending maintenance intervals out to as much as 48,000 hours.
Leveraging the power of big data for better predictability, GE’s Asset Performance digital solutions allow plant owners to analyse operational data to identify potential issues – and the required solutions – before they occur. Asset Performance Management (APM) features 24/7 monitoring of plant equipment, offering maintenance recommendations and helping customers avoid unplanned downtime – these technologies are expected to save GE’s customers more than $1 billion over the next 10 years.
In addition, as part of the Operations Optimization (OO) solutions, GE’s software can also help improve boiler efficiency; it can improve the heat rate by 0.5 to 1.5 per cent, and reduce NOx by 10-15 per cent through an integrated optimisation of the combustion and soot cleaning process. The Coal Analyzer enhances plant performance by tuning combustion and exhaust management processes based on coal properties – this can reduce fuel consumption by 4,400 tonnes of coal per year with the same megawatt output in a single steam power plant.
In general, these solutions bring about plenty of benefits, such as controlling various emission types, enhancing the efficiency of upgraded machinery and equipment, and reducing fuel consumption.
Revitalising regional power
We have seen recent examples of power plant upgrades in the Asia Pacific region which bring about fuel consumption reduction, an improvement in reliability, and the lowering of emissions.
Japan is now home to the world’s first GE 9EMax turbine upgrade, which is now operational at one of GE’s customer’s power plant. The 9EMax upgrade will increase output, improve efficiency from 47.2 per cent to 51.4 per cent, and reduce emissions. 9EMax resets the life on a 32-year-old 9E gas turbine and extends maintenance intervals to up to 32,000 hours (from 12,000 hours) – equivalent to approximately four years of typical plant operation.
In Indonesia, the installation of GE’s 9E.03 gas turbine Advanced Gas Path (AGP) solution to existing turbines increases the net capacity to 106.8 megawatts (MW) from 90.5MW previously during the day; at night, net capacity is now 110MW, a 19.5MW improvement from before.
The AGP solution also maximises turbine performance to reduce fuel consumption and improve heat rate by 10.54 per cent. The upgrade also includes implementation of GE’s OpFlex analysis software that enables better control of turbines – in particular, the capability to adjust power generation capacity faster when energy demand levels change.
GE’s Power Services have supported more than 2,800 customers worldwide, with an installed base of 28,000 assets, seven regional teams, nine product lines, nearly 1,600 gigawatts of installed power generation capacity, nearly 150 million hours of operating data, and 230 years of collective experience in solving the industry’s biggest challenges.
“We are excited about various possible solutions we can offer to customers in Vietnam for flexibility they need to maximise performance and minimise cost over the lifetime of their plants with our long heritage of experience in engineering and innovation,” said Jim Vono, general manager of GE’s Power Services in the Asia Pacific region.
“We hope to play a role in contributing to revitalising Vietnam’s power industry to be one of the most efficient and sustainable in the region, significantly supporting Vietnam’s energy and development needs,” he said.