PowerGen 2023 Showcases Innovation

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Dominant themes at the show included hydrogen, the evolution of power plant, and CHP.

PowerGen International, held Feb. 21-23, returned to Orlando, FL, for 2023. The show appears to be regaining its audience again after a long absence due to the pandemic.

Clarion’s Vice President of Content David Wagman kicked things off by emphasizing the theme of the conference: Destination 2050—reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 via industry innovation.

Keynote Jan Aspuru, the COO of Orlando Utilities Commission, discussed its microgrid lab and the development of a hydrogen energy storage system, while Alex Glenn, CEO of Duke Energy Florida and Midwest, detailed different areas that impact the plans to reach net zero, including local and federal government partnerships, maintaining equipment performance, and more.

“Coal will represent less than 5% of power generation in 2030,” he said. “A diverse generation mix is key to customers.”

Direct Air Capture

An early presentation provided an overview of direct air capture (DAC) technology and the status of developments and deployments to date. It included a discussion on potential applications for coupling DAC technology with existing power assets to lower the carbon footprint.

Eric Ping, Vice President, Technology at Global Thermostat, explained his company’s DAC system. Air is processed at ambient conditions and then steam stripped at around 200°F. Then the CO2 is extracted at a rate of 400 ppm. It uses amine chemistry in solid form instead of the usual solvent form.

“Direct contact steam stripping delivers latent heat into the system,” said Ping. “Multibed adsorption removes significant plant capital expense.”

He added that front-end engineering design (FEED) studies are ongoing for sites in Texas, Illinois, and Alabama to identify risks, establish a plan of execution, and develop a budget before projects are approved for funding.

CHP Modernization


DTE Energy’s Dearborn Central Energy Plant (CEP) generates electricity and distributes chilled water, hot water, and steam to buildings at the Ford Dearborn Research and Engineering Campus (REC). The CEP consists of a combined heat and power (CHP) plant and a chilled/hot water plant for combined power and steam generation. The energy produced from the CHP is sent to DTE Electric. Steam, hot water, and chilled water are sent to the REC. The CHP plant can generate 34 MW and produce up to 225 kilopounds per hour (KPPH) of 200 PSIG saturated steam. It consists of two 14.5 MW Solar Titan 130 gas turbines, a 5 MW condensing steam turbine from Siemens Energy, and two Rentech Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSGs) (370,000 lb/hr).

Kevin Siess, Facility Manager at DTE Energy, said the CEP opened on the first day of 2020. COVID-19-inspired lockdowns provided the impetus to innovate in plant monitoring.

“A single person looks after the entire 34 MW, 87,000-square-foot facility 76% of the time,” said Siess.

Coal-to-Gas Conversions

Coal-to-gas conversions were covered in several sessions during the show. While some dream of transitioning to renewables in a matter of a few years, reality is beginning to set in. By moving coal resources to natural gas, major emissions reductions can be achieved without causing grid disruption or causing rolling blackouts as has been the case in California of late.

Jonas Hackmann, President of Fossil Power Systems, talked about the many technical and project execution challenges to be considered when planning to convert a tangential fired furnace from coal to natural gas.

Another session noted strong interest in 100% hydrogen firing or co-firing large utility-class coal, oil, and natural gas boilers to achieve decarbonization goals. What surprised some attendees was the fact that running hydrogen in boilers is nothing new.

“We have had a great many package boilers running nothing but hydrogen for decades,” said Denis Osowski, Development Director, Engineering Technology at Babcock & Wilcox.

He questioned, however, whether the use of hydrogen in boilers made sound economic sense most of the time to produce power and steam. In situations where there is a hydrogen hub operating and a coal boiler is sitting nearby, it may make sense. But overall, he said hydrogen is a super-expensive fuel and the use of it may require expensive system and equipment modifications.

Data Center Power

Rethinking data center power was the topic of a session toward the end of the program. Todd Forrest, Senior Project Development Engineer at HDR, briefed the crowd that there are already more than 4 GW of data centers in the U.S. in primary and secondary markets, and the market is experiencing 11% year-over-year growth. He doesn’t anticipate that growth rate slowing down any time soon.

The full show report is available in the March/April print issue of Turbomachinery International.