The panel discussion was chaired by Axel Kettmann, ABB Turbo Systems, CIMAC Vice-President Communications who started off the discussion by putting forward the question to the panelists. “In an auditorium predominantly focused on the gas and steam turbine technology, it would be interesting to discuss the value propositions the reciprocating gas engine solution can offer to the European electricity market.” said Axel Kettmann in his introductory address at the Circle.
The panelists comprised of Dr. Andreas Lippert from GE Power & Water, Melle Kruisdijk from Wärtsilä Power Solutions, Gerrit Koll from Kraftanlagen München GmbH, Ulrich Boehm and Heribert Schäfer from Caterpillar Energy Solutions and Dr. Tilman Tütken from MAN Diesel & Turbo SE.
The session began with presentations from Ulrich Boehm and Heribert Schäfer from Caterpillar Energy Solutions, who charted out the importance of the need to balance shortages from unstable renewable energy sources. This was followed by Dr. Andreas Lippert who took stage to provide GE’s perspective about the topic and stressed about the flexibility that reciprocating gas engines offer to the power grid compared to the available other means today. He maintained that the reciprocating gas engines find work in multiple power generation applications, from providing fast-start backup generating capacity for intermittent renewable resources to offering scalable and increasingly efficient solutions for commercial and industrial combined heat and power (CHP) systems.
Gerrit Koll from Kraftanlagen München GmbH then became concrete with the project of the LNG fired gas engine power plant with a capacity of nearly 200 MW contracted to his company by the utility in Kiel, Germany. He stated that projects such as this proved a strong business case for the gas engines, providing electricity to the grid whenever needed as well as utilizing the heat for district heating systems.
Dr. Tilman Tütken from MAN Diesel & Turbo SE touched upon the technological advances that the gas engines have made in the recent years and pointed out that two-stage turbocharging has increased the efficiency and power density of such engines dramatically, making them extremely competitive for power generation while at the same time achieving ever lower NOx emission levels. He also pointed out that many global manufacturers such as MAN, GE-Jenbach and Wärtsilä have focused engineering efforts in recent years on improving their machines’ efficiency and meeting environmental regulations, particularly the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Melle Kruisdijk finally presented the Wärtsilä side, reiterating the flexibility advantages as well as indicating that highly reliable back-up power generation with thermal power plants is only possible with plants utilizing gas engines.
It can therefore be concluded in fairness that as energy storage capacities in times of high availability of the renewables such as wind and solar power continue to be expensive and large scale extension of grids to make hydropower from distant sources available to the grid still demands huge investments, thermal power plants with reciprocating gas engines provide a highly reliable and flexible balancing capacity and that they will, therefore, and because they also have very short erection times and attractive total cost of ownership, increasingly become an integral solution for the European power grids.