UAE Industrial Giant Will Explore Conversion of 5.2-GW GE Gas Turbine Fleet to Hydrogen, CCUS

Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), an integrated aluminum producer that is also the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) third-largest power generator, will develop a roadmap to decarbonize its 33 GE natural gas–fired turbines via hydrogen-switching and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) solutions.

EGA and GE announced they signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to pursue the roadmap on Nov. 29. The initiative may mean overhauls for EGA’s two giant captive power plants at its sprawling aluminum smelting facilities at Jebel Ali, south of Dubai, and Al Taweelah, in the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi.

The  3-GW Jebel Ali plant, which began operating in 1976, mainly depends on older gas turbines, which “were installed prior to the implementation of relevant emission regulations in the UAE,” the company said in recent sustainability documents. In September, EGA announced completion of a 600-MW block at the plant site that features a Siemens H-class gas turbine. The new block is expected to lower greenhouse gas emissions from power generation and aluminum operations by 10%. The company’s sustainability documents suggest it planned to place some of Jebel Ali’s gas turbines on emergency standby once the new H-class plant was operational.

The more modern 3.5-MW Al Taweelah power plant has eight GE 9F.03 combined cycle gas turbines, one GE 9F.03 simple cycle gas turbine, four steam turbines, and 10 heat recovery steam generators to power the integrated facility. That project was designed to accommodate an instantaneous full-load reduction at the alumina refinery of 531 tons per hour of high-pressure steam. First steam was delivered in October 2018. Hatch served as the project’s engineering, procurement, and construction contractor.

Emirates Global Aluminium’s (EGA’s) CEO Abdulnasser Bin Kalban (right) and GE President and CEO of GE Gas Power Europe, Middle East, and Africa Joseph Anis (left) at EGA in Jebel Ali, Dubai, in November 2021. Courtesy: EGA

Decarbonizaton Roadmap Will Focus on Hydrogen and CCUS

The decarbonization roadmap will entail exploring “options for replacing natural gas with hydrogen and hydrogen-blended fuels for combustion in EGA’s GE turbines,” and exploring “the potential to integrate this technology into EGA’s power plants and implement the necessary changes required to the auxiliary and balance of plant systems,” EGA and GE said in a joint statement this week.

For GE Gas Power, a company that in December 2020 declared it would go all-in to fight climate change, the MoU with EGA is another marked step for its growing hydrogen prospects. In a December 2020 white paper, the company laid out multiple technical pathways to achieve decarbonization in the power sector, and it highlighted hydrogen and CCUS as specific technologies it would pursue. 

Earlier last year, the company also agreed to form a joint working group to explore, assess, and develop technology and service options for decarbonization of German generation giant Uniper’s 4-GW GE gas turbine fleet. Under that agreement, the two companies expect to work out a detailed roadmap that may entail hydrogen-friendly upgrades to all GE gas turbines and compressors at Uniper’s gas power plants and gas storage facilities across Europe.  

Efforts to decarbonize the gas turbines at Al Taweelah—all F-class machines—and potentially fuel them with hydrogen also suggests progress for GE’s next-generation dry low-NOx (DLN) technologies. This June, notably, GE Gas Power announced it would pilot an F-class dual-fuel gas and hydrogen plant at EnergyAustralia’s 316-MW Tallawarra B Power Station in New South Wales, Australia. And in October 2020, the company secured its first HA-class hydrogen gas power deal with Long Ridge Energy Terminal, a company that will transition its 485-MW combined cycle power plant to 100% green hydrogen within the next decade. Long Ridge will become “the first purpose-built hydrogen-burning power plant in the U.S., GE said.

Jeff Goldmeer, director of Emergent Technologies at GE Gas Power, in June told POWER that while there is no limit to how much hydrogen an F-class turbine can combust, the difference involves its performance impacts. “We’re looking at what that next-generation DLN will bring to the F-class portfolio,” he said. “We’re talking about leveraging how we mix fuel and air that gives us that performance capability and bringing it to the 9Fs,” he said, noting that GE is targeting a 2030 timeframe to introduce the technology to the F-class and potentially offer it as a retrofit solution. However, “a lot will really depend on market drivers,” including how much hydrogen is available for combustion, he said.

The MoU with EGA will be “the first GE Gas Power has entered globally” to help explore potential solutions to lower the carbon footprint of power generation operations in the aluminum sector, the companies noted this week. “EGA and GE intend to set up a joint steering committee to create and drive the decarbonisation roadmap forward,” they said.

UAE Rolls Out a Hydrogen Roadmap

The MoU between EGA and GE follows the UAE government’s Hydrogen Leadership Roadmap, which was unveiled earlier in November in Glasgow during COP26. The roadmap will include the development of a strategy to support low-carbon industries to contribute toward the achievement of the UAE’s “Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.” The roadmap, notably, seeks to support low-carbon hydrogen initiatives through a “clear regulatory framework backed by policies, incentives, standards, and certifications,” technology research and development, and green financing. 

The UAE joins a growing list of nations that have announced hydrogen strategies. These include CanadaChile,  Colombia, the Czech Republic, FranceGermany,  Hungary, the NetherlandsNorwayPortugalRussiaSpain, the UK, and the European Union

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

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