POWER Digest [June 2019]

Ansaldo Leads Research Initiative for Low-NOx High-Hydrogen Retrofit Solution

The Dutch government has awarded six partners—Ansaldo Thomassen, Delft University of Technology, OPRA Turbines, Vattenfall, Nouryon, and EMMTEC—€500,000 to develop a cost-effective combustion system with ultra-low emissions of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide (of below 9 ppm) that can be retrofitted on existing gas turbines of between 1 MW and 300 MW. The technology must ensure fuel flexibility—of any mixture between 100% natural gas to 100% hydrogen. It will involve overcoming a key challenge, as Genoa-based Ansaldo Energia noted on April 16. “Extreme changes in fuel reactivity switching from natural gas to hydrogen can result in dramatic shifting of heat release within the combustor, which can be physically destructive if not well controlled,” the company said. Research will center on Ansaldo’s patented aerodynamic trapped vortex FlameSheet combustion technology platform, which is already operating commercially in multiple 60-Hz F-class gas turbine plants, including some that burn a hydrogen-blended fuel mix. The Dutch government wants to demonstrate full-scale atmospheric verification by 2020 and a first engine demonstration by 2023. Ansaldo Thomassen, a Netherlands-headquartered Ansaldo company that specializes in field and repair services, will lead the project. It will be backed by theoretical research from Delft University of Technology, and operational expertise from power generators Vattenfall, Nouryon, and EMMTEC. Gas-turbine maker OPRA will provide access to test facilities.

Major Coal Generator RWE Commits to Renewable Future

RWE, the giant German power generator that last year acquired competitor E.ON’s renewables business in a complex asset exchange, has sworn off investing in new coal-fired power plants, saying it will focus its future on renewable generation. The company on April 26 canceled plans for the 1.1-GW BoAplus lignite-fired power plant in Niederaussem, a €1.5 billion project it had begun developing in 2012 to replace existing units, but which was delayed owing to poor market conditions. “New coal-fired power stations no longer have a place in our future-oriented strategy,” Rolf Martin Schmitz, CEO of RWE AG, said, adding that following the completion of the transaction with E.ON, RWE will be one of the world’s “leading renewable energy players.” However, RWE acknowledged that coal power, which currently makes up 40% of Germany’s power mix, will be needed as backup capacity, even though its share “will decline gradually.” If market conditions are sound, the company will continue to invest in gas generation, as well as storage technologies along with renewables, it said.

ENGIE Sells Its German, Dutch Coal Assets

Multinational power and gas firm ENGIE on April 26 signed an agreement with global investment firm Riverstone Holdings for the sale of its shares in coal-fired power plants worth a combined 2.3 GW. Paris-based ENGIE owns 100% of the 800-MW Centrale Rotterdam plant in the Netherlands, the 472-MW Zolling site near Munich, and the 351-MW Farge plant, and it holds a 52% stake in the 731-MW site in Wilhelmshaven (Switzerland’s BKW Energie AG and municipal utility WSW Energie and Wasser AG hold the remaining stake of the project that is considered one of the most efficient in Europe). The transaction, which is expected to close this summer, will shave €200 million off ENGIE’s net consolidated debt. It will also diminish ENGIE’s coal share to 4%, compared to 13% at the end of 2015, when the company embarked on its aggressive transition toward zero-carbon. ENGIE’s CEO Isabelle Kocher said in a statement that the company will instead focus its investments on solutions for “corporates and local authorities, large-scale development of renewable energy and the necessary adaptation of power and gas networks to the energy transition.”

Rosatom Grid-Connects New Novovoronezh VVER-1200 Reactor

The second unit at Rosatom’s Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant in southwest Russia supplied power to the country’s grid for the first time on May 1, plant operator Rosenergoatom said. The VVER-1200 reactor is the third of its kind built in Russia. Rosatom put the first, Unit 1 at Novovoronezh II, online in 2016—and it has since delivered 18.3 TWh. A second unit came online at Leningrad II in 2017. Unit 2 at Novovoronezh II, situated on the Don River, will provide power to the Voronezh region. The power block was designed by JSC Atomenergoproyekt, and ASE JSC—Rosatom’s engineering division—acted as the general contractor. Rosenergoatom General Director Andrey Petrov noted the milestone had been reached 12 days ahead of schedule.

Big Contracts for Giant Australian Hydro Project

A joint venture (JV) comprising Italian construction giant Salini Impregilo, its U.S. subsidiary Lane, and Australian construction firm Clough on April 5 bagged an AU$5.1 billion ($3.54 billion) contract to provide civil and electromechanical works for Snowy 2.0—an expansion to a hydropower network in Australia’s Snowy Mountains that is operated by Snowy Hydro Ltd. Snowy 2.0 will add 2 GW to the 4.1 GW scheme, which includes the Snowy project, Tantangara Dam, and Talbingo Dam, connecting them through underground tunnels and an underground power station—but will also triple their pumped storage capabilities when it is completed, anticipated in 2024. Salini holds 55%, Lane 10%, and Clough 35% of the Future Generation JV. On April 24, Voith Hydro announced it won a contract from the JV following a two-year tendering process for the supply of six reversible Francis-type pump turbines, each 333 MW, and three which offer variable speed. The order also includes six motor generators, auxiliary systems, and the complete power plant automation. Voith said the six units would enable Snowy 2.0 to provide 175 hours of continuous large-scale storage, which will be increasingly important as the country’s share of renewables grows beyond the current 17%.

Major Coal Developments in South Africa, Tanzania

South African utility Eskom on April 14 produced first power at the third 800-MW unit at the Kusile Power Station in eMalahleni in Mpumalanga. Eskom said the milestone was achieved eight months ahead of the approved target date of December 2019, and the unit should be commercially operational this November. Construction and commissioning continue on the remaining three units at the massive 4.8-GW project. When online, the project will be the first in Africa to use wet flue gas desulfurization technology. Tanzanian state-owned utility Tanzania Electric Supply Co. (TANESCO) on April 29, meanwhile, gave Irish energy firm Kibo Energy the green light to develop the 1-GW Mbeya coal-to-power project near Tanzania’s border with Zambia for the “export market.” TANESCO advised Kibo that it is “currently implementing interconnectors through Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya enabling power trade within the Eastern African Power Pool and Southern African Power Pool member countries.” Kibo, which suggests the “bankable and fully developed” project will be crucial for the undersupplied region, in February suffered a blow after TANESCO said it would not buy power from the project.

Shin Kori 4 Nuclear Reactor Starts up in South Korea

South Korea’s state-owned Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power on April 11 started up the Shin Kori 4 reactor and said the unit will be ready to begin commercial operation at the end of August. The APR1400 is a two-loop, evolutionary design, pressurized water reactor (PWR), which evolved from the OPR1000 Korean Standard Nuclear Power Plant design and Combustion Engineering’s (now Westinghouse) System 80+ design. Only one APR1400 is officially operational, though several are under construction. The world’s first APR1400 came online in January 2016 at Shin Kori 3 in South Korea, eight years after construction kicked off. That project was originally scheduled to be operational at the end of 2013, but it suffered years of delays posed by delivery problems and a crippling documentation scandal that required cabling replacements. Shin Kori 4, where construction began in August 2009, was scheduled to be online in September 2014.

Ørsted Offloads Coal Plant, Coal Harbor

Danish power group Ørsted, which has decided it will no longer use coal as fuel from 2023 onward, has divested Stigsnæs Power Station, a facility that was shuttered in 2012, and the adjacent Stigsnæs Transit Harbour, which it used as a coal transit harbor. It sold the facilities to Stigsnæs Industripark A/S, a consortium of four companies: Rimeco Aktieselskab, Kloster A/S, HM Entreprenør A/S, and P. Olesen and Sønner A/S. On May 9, Klaus Peter Riggelsen, CEO of demolition and byproduct recycling firm Rimeco, said: “We’ve been interested in Stigsnæs Power Station for some years. The demolition and recycling potential of the power station is huge, and Stigsnæs Transit Harbour is one of the deepest in Europe, offering great potential for developing and operating the harbour.” The harbor’s unique location and depth was also a selling point for transportation firm Kloster A/S.  ■

—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor.