GE Vernova, Iberdrola Mexico Bring New Gas-Fired Plant Online; Could Burn Hydrogen

Mexico’s expansion of its power generation capacity, particularly from natural gas, continues as GE Vernova and Iberdrola Mexico on Jan. 3 announced the start of commercial operation of the 766-MW Topolobampo III power plant. Mexico is building more gas-fired generation units to enable use of the country’s domestic natural gas resources.

The Topolobampo facility, located in Sinaloa state, is served by the Topolobampo gas pipeline, and powered by GE’s H-class combined cycle equipment. It features two 7HA.01 gas turbines, the first such turbines deployed in a Mexican power station.

“Iberdrola, as a global renewable energy leader, has always been working on more sustainable power generation with a focus on investing in a portfolio of renewable energy, supported by efficient gas power,” said Enrique Alba, CEO, Iberdrola Mexico. “Flexibility is essential for incorporating renewable energy sources into the grid like wind and solar power and GE Vernova’s H-Class equipment, at the heart of our Topolobampo III power plant, is crucial to support the growth of renewables power generation in Mexico.”

Mexico’s Natural Gas Production

Mexico, which for years has imported natural gas from the U.S., also ranks among the world’s 25 largest producers of the fuel, according to government data. Researchers have said the country’s natural gas production rose 18% year-over-year from 2021 to 2022. Mexican officials have said more gas-fired power plants—including from Iberdrola’s portfolio—also provide grid reliability and resilience to support the country’s goal of more than doubling renewable energy generation capacity this decade, from its current 15 GW to 40 GW by 2030.

The 766-MW Topolobampo III natural gas-fired power plant in Mexico features two GE Vernova 7HA.01 turbines, the first of that model to be deployed in Mexico. Courtesy: GE Vernova

Government data shows natural gas accounted for about 55% of Mexico’s electricity generation in 2022, followed by hydropower at about 10%. The country has three operating coal-fired facilities with total generation capacity of about 5,400 MW. Mexico has one nuclear power plant, the two-reactor Laguna Verde facility with about 1,500 MW of generation capacity.

Mexico last year changed the way it defines clean energy resources, with the energy ministry Sener in May 2023 saying the country will meet its law-mandated clean energy generation targets in 2024 due to change in how it considers natural gas-powered plants. The new rules from CRE, Mexico’s energy regulator, say that some cogeneration and combined cycle plants that use residual steam to power second-generation turbines (in addition to a conventional combustion turbine) will now be classified as clean energy producers.

GE Equipment

GE Vernova’s equipment at Topolobampo III, in addition to the two 7HA.01 gas turbines, includes a D650 steam turbine, three H53 generators, and advanced plant control systems with GE Vernova’s integrated Mark* VIe Distributed Control System (DCS). GE Vernova on Wednesday said the DCS offers “the possibility to use real-time data to deliver better outcomes supporting stable and efficient operations. The package is aimed to help Iberdrola improve asset visibility, reliability, and availability while reducing operating and maintenance costs.” Officials said the two heat recovery steam generators, or HRSGs, at the facility were supplied by CERREY, GE Vernova’s local HRSG technology licensee.

“In Mexico, GE Vernova continues to support the progress of the country’s energy goals, working alongside our long-term customer Iberdrola. As the demand for electricity in Mexico continues to grow at a rapid pace, our HA technology, extended scope products and advanced digital capabilities are helping to transform the way future demands are met by delivering more reliable, efficient and flexible power to the country,” said Dave Ross, president and CEO for GE Vernova’s Gas Power business in the Americas. “We are proud to be part of this exciting project, which marks the first order for our 7HA.01 technology in Mexico. The 7HA gas turbine at its core was engineered from the ground up to be extremely efficient and flexible to help lower emissions and meet fluctuating demand. We expect continued efficiency gains in the years to come.”

$2 Billion Investment

GE Vernova said it has invested nearly $2 billion in the development of its HA technology. The company said the 7HA.01 turbine can start and provide full power in under 10 minutes. The turbine also is capable of burning hydrogen when blended with natural gas.

GEIQ, GE Vernova’s engineering center in Queretaro, Mexico, provided engineering support for the project.

Iberdrola Mexico said the new power plant adds to the company’s portfolio in Mexico, which includes more than 11 GW of generation capacity from 28 power plants, including gas-fired combined cycles, cogeneration, and wind and solar farms.

“We are proud to celebrate this milestone project with GE Vernova,” said Alba. “It further strengthens our longstanding relationship with a player which has always provided us with both the most reliable technology and excellent service across the past 23 years.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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