Show Report: POWERGEN 2024: The Journey to Destination 2050

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This year’s show focused on the future—how to future-proof current assets and incorporate new ones.

The 35th annual POWERGEN International Conference, held Jan. 23 – Jan. 25, 2024 in New Orleans at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, brought together folks from the power-generation sector, utilities, engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC), OEMs, and energy users. The tagline for this year’s show, Destination 2050, underscored much of the show’s content and education tracks, including the Mega Sessions and Technical Programs.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on the future—how do we future-proof the current assets that we have and how do we look toward low- and zero-carbon technologies,” said Kevin Clark, Content Director for POWERGEN International, Clarion Events. “A switch doesn’t flip overnight. Renewables are going to change the way we operate our equipment and machines, and we want to provide a forward-looking platform for these kinds of discussions for now and in 10, 15, 20 years, because it’s changing rapidly, and it will look very different in the future.”

This year’s show tallied more than 450 exhibitors, around 8,000 attendees, and boasted increases in utilities, up 42% from last year, and large-scale energy users, up 32% from last year. EPC's and large OEMs remained steady in attendance at 21% and 20%, respectively.

Clark said POWERGEN changed some of its Mega Session content. “[There are] a lot of new developments this year applicable to the power sector, such as EPA’s proposals that are affecting existing and new gas and coal plants,” Clark said. To address the legislative trend, the team populated a panel with representatives from EPA and Entergy.

POWERGEN 2024 also added a track to focus on operations and maintenance for utility-scale solar and wind. And, of course, the conference also gave tribute to its host city, New Orleans, through exhibition-hall cooking demos with Creole food, Golden Feather Hunters at the keynote, and more.


This year’s keynote addressed how power is impacting not only industry and policy but consumers, including the need for sustainable power during storms, the use of renewables and carbon capture, and the goals set forth by the Biden Administration.


Deanna Rodriguez, President and CEO of Entergy New Orleans, spoke of the city’s resiliency and its vulnerabilities to climate change. After the city was without power for seven days following Hurricane Ida, Entergy had to submit a resilience plan that centered around keeping power on during a storm and restoring it when it goes out.

"We are looking at resilience, reducing our carbon emissions, and affordability," she said.

Bradford Crabtree, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, spoke about carbon capture: “The DOE estimates that reaching President Biden’s ambitious plan for a net-zero emissions economy will require capturing and storing between 400 million and 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions from the U.S. economy annually by 2050. We’ve been making progress toward zero emissions of electricity, thanks to the dramatic expansion of renewables. Louisiana, one of the 15 states in the Southwest Power Pool, reached a record wind penetration of 88.5% on March 29, 2022. Of course, the annual average penetration is less than half that. Continued expansion of renewables and managing their reliability at ever greater and sustained levels of penetration will require the development and deployment of a much wider range of tools, including longer period duration battery storage, but also firm dispatchable resources such as next-generation nuclear, enhanced geothermal, and carbon capture and storage.”


Senior Vice President and Project Director at Sargent & Lundy, Kevin Huberty, led a high-level session on small modular reactors (SMRs) in which he addressed a commonly asked question: Why nuclear? The modern passive-safety features of SMRs have further improved the safety of nuclear technology, he said. Due to the power density of nuclear fuel, plants make efficient use of land, and the power does not produce direct carbon emissions.

In addition to producing baseload power and heat for industrial applications, “… the smaller footprint of these reactors, along with expected smaller emergency planning zones, make them more flexible for various locations,” Huberty said. “They can power up and down faster than your larger nuclear reactors for load-following of renewables.”

SMR licensing may be the largest hurdle, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires extensive validation of SMRs before any land or technology permits are granted. However, a company can also obtain a license for the site and technology through a COL application, he noted, and the U.S. government has been supporting the technology through current legislation.


Marc Lemmons, Senior Technical Leader at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), discussed the emerging interest in hydrogen and ammonia.


The available infrastructure for implementing hydrogen fuel includes ~1,600 miles of hydrogen-ready pipeline throughout the United States Gulf Coast. Despite this, organizations are currently repurposing natural gas pipelines for pure and mixed hydrogen transportation. However, there are other hurdles to overcome: Lemmons said hydrogen for power generation presents challenges with the electrical demand required to produce it, embrittlement, and high flame temperatures.


The United States maintains 3,000 miles of ammonia pipeline in the country’s central regions. These ammonia lines are equipped with centrifugal pumps. “The perk of ammonia is that we are very familiar with it, and it’s easily transportable,” Lemmons said. “Now, while I don’t think it makes the most sense for U.S. utilities to start investing its time in ammonia firing, remote areas, especially out west, may benefit from using ammonia.”

The power industry may not be interested in the use of hydrogen or ammonia for generation applications currently, but new technologies can transform the economics and technical feasibility of their integration. Further, smaller industries, such as utilities and refineries, are beginning to utilize hydrogen and ammonia on a smaller scale with documented success.


Siemens Energy and Jeffrey Energy Center, a smart power base and coal-fired power plant in Emmet, LA, with three units (800 MW) from the early 80s, discussed artificial intelligence (AI) and the use of closed-loop optimizer solutions.

Two of the three turbines were outfitted with Siemens Energy’s Omnivise combustion optimizer—which targets optimum zone operation while considering dynamic operation constraints—as well as its soot-blowing and temperature optimizers. No mechanical changes were made to the units.

The goal: increased efficiency and a reduction in NOx and CO2 emissions. The outcome: The optimizer reduced reheat spray flows by 22%, superheat spray flows by 85%, flue gas exit temperature by 0.73%, excess oxygen and carbon monoxide, and NOx emissions. It also enabled more symmetrical reheat steam temperatures and lowered soot-blower air usage. Additionally, all furnace differential pressures remained optimal.


POWERGEN 2025 will be held in Dallas. The team is currently “recruiting some of the smartest and brightest people in the industry that can help us craft our content for next year,” Clark said. “I like the direction we’re going in as far as having a lot of different micro tracks where you talk about, for example, the potential future of small modular reactors (SMRs) and carbon capture. Hydrogen does really well, but of course, we’re not getting rid of the Optimizing Plant Performance track.”