Two GE 9HA.02 gas turbines—the largest model of GE’s second-generation H-class heavy-duty gas turbine fleet and one of the largest gas turbine models on the global market—on Feb. 24 began commercial operation at Southern Power Generation’s (SPG’s) 1,440-MW Track 4A Power Plant in Pasir Gudang, Johor, Malaysia.
The combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant, built under an engineering, construction, and procurement (EPC) contract with Taiwan-based global engineering services firm CTCI, comprises two 720-MW single-shaft generating blocks (Figure 1). Each is equipped with a 9HA.02 gas turbine and an STF-D650 steam turbine driving a W88 generator—and for the first time in a GE H-class plant, a GE horizontal once-through heat recovery steam generator (HRSG). The plant, notably, will also be controlled by GE’s Mark VIe integrated plant control system.
An HA-Class Triumph
Track 4A’s commercial start is a pivotal milestone for GE, which began developing its H-class technology in the early 1990s. In 2014, the company launched two new air-cooled H-class turbine lines—the 9HA for the 50-Hz market and the 7HA for the 60-Hz market. In 2016, it deployed the first 397-MW 9HA.01 gas turbine with an efficiency of 62.22% at EDF’s Bouchain plant in France, and then a 7HA.01 at Chubu Electric’s Nishi Nagoya plant, with a 63.08% gross efficiency, in 2017. Also in 2017, GE began commercial operation of the first 7HA.02 models at Exelon’s Wolf Hollow and Colorado Bend projects in Texas.
|For more, see POWER’s interactive feature: “A Brief History of GE Gas Turbines.”|
GE’s 9HA.02 is the “most efficient and advanced gas turbine in the 50-Hz market,” said Amit Kulkarni, senior executive, general manager, and head of GE’s Large Block Utility Product Management business. The 9HA.02, rated at 575-MW under ISO conditions, pushes net efficiency “beyond 64% combined cycle efficiency,” and boosts GE’s efforts to reach 65% by the early 2020s, he said.
Kulkarni said the marked efficiency boost comes from a simplified air-cooled architecture, advanced materials, and economies of scale by the high-power density of the gas turbine. The 9HA.02, for example, is a four-stage turbine with a 3D aerodynamic hot gas path. For one, it features a titanium R1 blade row, which GE introduced in the 7HA.02. “It’s a larger blade, more air flow, greater output, and more importantly, greater hot-day output in a place like Malaysia or parts of Southeast Asia, where the temperatures are much higher,” he said.
Hot-day output, Kulkarni noted, is a “critical” performance parameter in Asian markets owing to their unique climate conditions. “When we think about the global market today, the 25 to 30 GW total gas market, Asia is surely one of the biggest areas where there is significant growth, and that’s driven by a lot of coal plant retirements right now,” he explained.
“But when we think about dependable capacity, it’s going to be a combination of gas with renewables. So when we look at markets in Asia—especially in Southeast Asia, like Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan [which is a 60-Hz market]—where the average temperatures in the year are on the higher side, compared to what you see in North America or Europe, we take into account the environmental conditions at those sites and hot-day output becomes a critical characteristic for us,” he said.
Notably, the 9HA.02 also integrates advances in additive manufacturing and combustion breakthroughs (Figure 2), some previously showcased in the 7HA.01 and 7HA.02 models. The 9HA.02 features a DLN 2.6e combustor with axial fuel staging (AFS), which enables lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions with improved turndown. But it also incorporates an evolutionary improvement to the premixing fuel nozzles, a technology GE developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy to “deliver a step change improvement in performance, emissions, and fuel flexibility,” Kulkarni said.
A New Gas Turbine Model on the Horizon
The improved performance, Kulkarni noted, stems from “higher H-class firing temperatures that still maintain emissions levels required from a regulatory standpoint.” But the advanced dry low–NOx features also provide a “wider operability range,” he said. “We can go to better combustion dynamics, and because of that, the technology allows us to go to up to 50% hydrogen blends.” That’s significant for GE, which recently took a concerted step to position itself as a decarbonization leader, Kulkarni noted.
“We know that hydrogen may not be the only path toward decarbonization of gas turbines—it’s probably going to be some combination of hydrogen as well as post-combustion carbon capture systems that really get us into the decarbonized world. But this machine—along with the steam turbine, the generator, the HRSG—really get us to achieving that goal,” he said.
Having achieved the pivotal commercial operation of the 9HA.02 (Figure 3), GE will now turn to debuting its 430-MW 7HA.03, the latest evolutionary HA model, which it launched in October 2019.
GE’s first customer for that turbine model, Florida Power and Light (FPL), is on track to put two 7HA.03s—which GE has said are the “world’s largest, most efficient, and flexible gas turbines” for the 60-Hz market—online at the Dania Beach Clean Energy Center in Broward County in 2022. Kulkarni said GE will test the first 7HA.03 at its Greenville, South Carolina, factory test stand this year. In September 2020, notably, GE won a massive order for 10 7HA.03s for Taiwan Power Company’s (TPC) Hsinta and Taichung projects.
GE will work with CTCI to engineer, manufacture, and commission the Taiwan power plant blocks. Like the Malaysian Track 4A project, the Taiwan project will include GE once-through HRSGs and the Mark* VI distributed control system to control the entire plant. Commercial operation is scheduled to begin in phases starting in 2024.
The Benefit of ‘Big’ in Some Gas Turbine Markets
As Kulkarni noted, the new 7HA.03 units will gradually replace coal-fired power generating units at Hsinta and Taichung, in line with Taiwan’s Renewable Energy Development Act (REDA) policy. Recent orders for the 9HA.02, too, suggest a market for larger, more efficient gas turbines exists, he said.
In September 2020, for example, GE secured an order for a new 9HA.02 generating block at JSC Tatenergo’s Zainskaya State District Power Plant (SDPP) located in Zainsk, Tatarstan Republic, Russia, a 1960s-built 2.2-GW facility that connects Russia’s European energy system with the energy systems in the Urals and Siberia regions. That 9HA.02 project will replace some of the plant’s outdated steam units while reducing its gas consumption and improving cost efficiency.
In November 2020, GE snagged another lucrative order for three 9HA.02 gas turbines with partner Harbin Electric for the Dongguan Ningzhou combined cycle power plant in Guangdong province, China. Chinese state-owned power utility Guangdong Energy Group Co. is developing the 2.4-GW plant to align with national goals that seek a transition away from coal to natural gas. When operational in 2022, that project will “become one of the largest gas power plants in China’s mainland,” GE said.
SPG’s development of the 1.4-GW Track 4A Power Plant in Malaysia began in 2017, as the country worked out its now-official nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement to reduce the intensity of its carbon emissions by 45% compared to 2005 levels by 2030. The country has also set a 20% renewable target by 2025 (Figure 4). Factoring in these goals, and taking into account 11.6 GW of plant retirements expected by 2029, Peninsular Malaysia will need at least 9.3 GW of new power capacity by the end of 2030 to meet demand growth and maintain system reliability, according to the Malaysian Energy Commission. The entity’s generation development plan anticipates that at least 2.1 GW will come from CCGTs.
SPG Chairman Dato’ Haji Nor Azman bin Mufti said in a statement on Wednesday that completion of the Track 4A plant will be vital to help the country meet increasing power demand and contribute to long-term energy security needs in Malaysia. “We are proud to see how GE has adapted with hard work and efficiency to achieve the start of their first ever commercial operation for the 9HA.02 gas turbines despite the COVID-19 pandemic without compromising on health and safety,” he said.
“We are looking at this at a combined cycle level that gets into almost as big as a coal plant or a big nuclear plant,” said Kulkarni. “But that is really the need for the day. Customers are replacing coal plants and even in some cases, nuclear plants. So how do you create something that gets us to the same block size, almost one for one? And that’s where the 9HA.02 focus has been,” he said.
Asked if GE is developing larger heavy-duty gas turbine models, Kulkarni said no plans are concertedly underway, though the company “will continue to evaluate technology advancements [such as] coatings, airflow, cooling design,” he said. “We typically end up doing that on these evolutions anyway to improve on their performance, both in terms of output and efficiency.”