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Neill_58630 Jun 06

Fuel flexible gas turbines as enablers for decarbonisation in South Africa

Fuel flexible gas turbines as enablers for decarbonisation in South Africa image
Increasingly abundant, available and affordable, gas offers countries relatively low-cost power-on-demand to address their carbon emission factor. Nosizwe Dlengezele, regional sales executive, GE Gas Power, shared her insights into best practices using gas alongside other technologies in the cover story of ESI Africa Issue 1-2021
Nosizwe Dlengezele, regional sales executive at GE Gas Power, shares her insights into best practices using gas alongside other technologies.

The energy ‘trilemma’ facing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, is defined as the need to balance affordability, reliability, and sustainability simultaneously. The good news is that the global push for carbon-free energy has led to an unprecedented acceleration in power generation from renewables.

This explosive growth in renewables has been driven primarily by reductions in cost, technology advancements to improve capacity factors, favourable policies, and positive public sentiment around zero-carbon energy. However, with the immense and rapid increases in renewable sources’ installed capacity, there are concerns about the need to quickly dispatch large blocks of power to provide grid stability given the interruptible nature of renewable power generation.

Which gas technology to select?

South Africa’s energy landscape is evolving rapidly with ambitions to reduce coal dependency, which is its largest fuel source for electricity generation. Gas power is a key enabler to further renewables penetration and coal-to-gas switching, both of which will significantly reduce overall emissions.

There is also an additional opportunity to reduce coal emissions by retiring end-of-life coal-fired assets and replacing them with new, high-efficiency combined cycle gas power capacity. State-of-the-art high-efficiency air-cooled (HA) gas turbines, for example, are currently capable of burning up to 50% hydrogen by volume when blended with natural gas, and work is underway to develop a capability for 100% hydrogen in these machines by the end of the decade. GE’s HA gas turbines are the world’s largest and most efficient gas turbines. The HA gas turbine’s deployment will ultimately increase the proportion of electricity in final energy use, including for industries, heating, electric vehicles, lighting, and clean cooking – all of which contribute to sustainable energy.

Natural gas power plants can be deployed more quickly than any other form of dispatchable, utility-scale power. A trailer-mounted aero-derivative gas power plant rated at 30MW can be deployed anywhere in the world in a matter of weeks to a few months to address emergency needs. Simple cycle gas power plants can be in commercial operation 6–12 months after notice to proceed is received, while combined cycle power plants rated at 1GW or more take 24–36 months to be brought into commercial operation.

Recently, GE, CTCI Corporation, and Southern Power Generation Sdn Bhd announced commercial operation for Southern Power Generation’s Track 4A Power Plant, a 1,440-megawatt combined-cycle gas power plant in Malaysia that features GE’s first 9HA.02 Combined-Cycle Power Plant in commercial operation today. Malaysia, which has traditionally relied on coal-fired power plants, aims to achieve 20% renewable fuel penetration by 2025.

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