Our evolving grid

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Turbomachinery Magazine, Handbook 2020,

Red and blue may be the dominant colors on a political map of the U.S. But green and light blue are the only two shades that matter in our annual assessment of the U.S. power market. Provided exclusively to Turbomachinery International by Industrial Info Resources (IIR), this report details current and planned power plant installations for the next five years.

Green, of course, means renewables and light blue rep-resents natural gas in the chart that anchors the report. Apart from one remaining nuclear plant that is still on the table for the Rocky Mountains region (which is unlikely to open), there are no other power plants going to be built in the nation except for natural gas, wind, solar and battery.

This stands in marked contrast to a decade or so ago when coal and nuclear stood tall. At that time, solar was nowhere and wind power had a marginal national presence. How things have changed. Coal appears to be in its death throes despite resuscitation attempts by the current administration. Natural gas build out is also being throttled back in some areas. According to IIR:

“U.S. new-build generation over the next five years is expected to be even greener, but less gassy, than in prior five-year assessments.”

GT forecast

As part of our annual Turbomachinery Handbook, Forecast International provides a breakdown of the worldwide gas turbine (GT) marketplace. Things have been far from healthy on that front for a couple of years. The bad news is that the depressed order trend will be with us for another year or so. The good news is that an uptick is on the horizon.

The forecast is for sales over the next decade to be 10.6% lower than what was expected a year ago. How-ever on a positive note, the market low of around $8 billion per year will return steadily to around $11 billion within a decade. Annual unit projection follows a similar trajectory. From a forecast low of 328 units in 2020, it is predicted to rise to 496 by 2028.


HRSG event

Turbomachinery International also attended the recent HRSG Forum in Orlando. You can read all about it in our show report. What became clear during the many sessions was the fact that the HRSG is not designed to cope with the heavy cycling mode of operation currently in vogue. This equipment was intended for steady baseload operation.

In some ways, the Achilles heel of combined cycle power plant cycling could well be the HRSG. Operators at the show swapped best practices, fixes and remedies for the many issues they encounter due to cycling. These days, they have to cope with exfoliation, rusting, tube failures and other damage and somehow keep their plants operating.

It is perhaps ironic that the surge of renewables onto the grid could lead to lowered combined cycle availability and a greater number of unscheduled shut-downs. If these HRSG challenges are not adequately addressed, we might see the day when GTs and combined cycle plants are labelled unreliable, in the same way that power industry traditionalists labelled wind energy as intermittent and unreliable not so long ago.

In our next issue, you can read a report from the Turbomachinery & Pump Symposium in Houston, TX. It includes plenty of interesting material on bearings, GTs, steam turbines, seals, condition monitoring, coatings, stress corrosion cracking, centrifugal compressor revamps, hot corrosion and more. We also look forward to seeing you at PowerGen Europe in Paris and PowerGen International in New Orleans, LA.