The International Council on Combustion Engines
June 17

CIMAC Circle at Power-Gen 2017

The European Engine Power Plants Forum 2017


CIMAC, in its continued endeavor to further the large engines development, held its traditional CIMAC Circle at Power-Gen Europe on June 28th 2017, albeit in a new format this time under the umbrella of the ‘The European Engine Power Plants Forum 2017’ in co-operation with EUGINE (European Engine Power Plants Industry Association). 

The extended session was divided into two halves, the first of which dealt with the topic ‘Why the Energiewende needs flexible dispatchable power generation with gas’. The panel was chaired by Axel Kettmann, Senior Vice-President, ABB Turbocharging, who stirred up an engaging discourse with his vast experience in the engines industry. The panelists at the discussion were as follows:  Torsten Herdan, Director General Energy, German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy Kari Hietanen, Executive VP, Wärtsilä Fabian Huneke, Senior Expert, Energy Brainpool Hermann Kroeger, Senior Vice President, MAN Diesel & Turbo Axel Kettmann familiarized the audience with the subject, explaining one of the most ambitious energy transition programs of all industrial nations – the ‘Energiewende’ in Germany. He stated that as the proportion of electricity from renewables rises, it becomes important to make sure that we have an electricity grid that can respond to fluctuations in a flexible way, which is where the power-to-gas technology becomes imperative. “Germany is not alone, and other countries are keen to follow Germany with the Energy Transition policy”, said Thorsten Herdan, as he explained what the ‘Energy Transition’ or the ‘Energiewende’ offers to the industry and how it would ultimately shape the future of power generation in Germany and other parts of Europe. He went on to explain the different types of flexibilities in power generation existing today that included grid expansions, grid connectivity to the neighboring countries, storage flexibilities (especially in the building sector), demand side management and flexible engine power plants using gas. He explained the crux of the programme being curtailing CO2 emissions, of going from very large power plants with huge operating costs to millions of smaller power plants with minimum or no fuel costs operating only on renewables or renewable fuels. Kari Heitanen stressed on the point that flexibility is a pre-condition or an enabler to increase the renewables in the grid, and there are signs in Europe that this is becoming more and more important, but the goal needs to be to get into a situation where a market driven energy pricing will be sufficient to drive investments.  Fabian Huneke explained the study done by Energy Brainpool for EUGINE on the topic of flexibility in the energy grid, and mentioned that the demand for flexibility is on the rise with the influx of renewables. He explained the term ‘efficiency first’ when judging the various flexibility options, and the highly efficient, flexible and cleaner combined cycle engine based power plants provide a huge advantage here. 

Hermann Kroeger stated that every European country is different, and different solutions are required to cater to the respective needs. But to translate the renewable gas engines to business to the engine industry today, similar principles and policies need to be formulated and applied not just in Germany but across Europe and other countries explaining clearly the technical benefits as well as the environmental impact of such a system. To the question of synthetic fuels, Thorsten Herdan mentioned that Germany has a 124 million annual budget set towards research and development into synthetic fuels or energy transition based on gaseous or liquid fuels from renewables. He mentioned that the political message needs to go out clearly that a completely electric society is impossible to achieve, adding that the engines and turbines are not just fossil fuel technologies, but they can also burn renewable gas and fuels.  The panel concluded in consensus that renewable gas engine driven power plants, therefore, have a significant role to play in the power generation grid today as charted out by Germany’s Energy Transition policy, to help the inclusion of these unsteady sources into the grid as well as utilize the excessive energy output to synthesize renewable fuels.

The second topic for the afternoon was ‘Greening engine power plants – the many technology options’, where the panelists examined the feasibility and long term prospects of alternatives to conventional fossil fuels based power plants. Rolf Bank from MAN Diesel & Turbo explained a pilot project on power-to-gas at their facility in Deggendorf, Germany, and detailed the many advantages of the initiative. Carl Richers from GE Power, Jenbach, talked in length about the biogas potential and a biogas CHP in the energy mix comprised of biogas from cattle, landfill gas and sewage gas. Marcel Zürn from Rolls-Royce Power Systems then presented about integration of engine power plants using microgrid solutions, of combining multiple power generation sources including renewables, energy storage and fossil generation with local loads that can operate connected to the centralized electricity grid or in island mode in remote areas. And lastly, Armin Roeseler from Caterpillar Energy Solutions presented the advantages of modern gas power plants to provide high efficient power solutions and reduce emission of greenhouse gases. They can also be used for standby and as backup for datacenter applications and the investments to gas standby are very comparable to diesel today. The panelists were of the opinion that all these possibilities must be explored and investigated to make renewables driven engine power plants a market reality, and there needs to be a continued effort from both the policy makers as well as technology developers to set this clear course towards a CO2- neutral world.


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