Turbo Expo 2024: Gas Turbines are Integral to a Sustainable, Decarbonized Future

Published on: 

Day two of Turbo Expo 2024 discusses how lower-carbon fuels, gas turbines, fuel-flexible advancements, electrolyzers, and more work together for a sustainable energy future.

Turbo Expo 2024 in London opened its exhibition hall this morning to roughly 2,500 attendees from the turbomachinery industry. Tuesday morning kicked off with the panel session, The Gas Turbine’s Role in the Decarbonized Power Generation Portfolio, moderated by Benjamin Emerson, Senior Research Engineer at Georgia Tech, Bobby Noble, Senior Program Manager Gas Turbine R&D at EPRI, and Jeffrey Benoit, Vice President – Global Clean Energy Solutions, PSM – a Hanwha Company.

Introducing decarbonized fuels such as hydrogen or ammonia, and even carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), could transform how currently installed and new gas turbine power generation plants are used. At the panel, OEMs presented new fuel-flexible combustion technologies that included development roadmaps while the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) gave an overview of its Clean Energy and Strategy, Regional Clean Hydrogen Program, CCS cycles, and pending funding announcements.

On June 12, 2024, the DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) finalized its agreement for the Design Phase of the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs Program Demand-Side Initiative with the EFI Foundation and H2DI Consortium. OCED and H2DI will work together to design demand-pull mechanisms to de-risk projects in the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs and a plan on how to execute those mechanisms. The Design Phase is slated to conclude in 2024.

Lower-Carbon Fuels

Lower-carbon fuels present well-known challenges—from production and cost concerns to storage and transport. However, advancements have been made in the past couple of years to tackle these issues.


“Siemens Energy is actively addressing the challenge of ramping up production of alternative fuels and thus ensuring that sustainable hydrogen and its derivatives become available in relevant quantities and at competitive prices,” said panelist Jason Jermark, VP of Global Service Operations at Siemens Energy. “In cooperation with various partners, we have launched projects to achieve this goal. In Chile, for example, Siemens Energy has teamed up with HIF Global, Porsche, and other companies to build ‘Haru Oni,’ an integrated and large-scale commercial plant to produce carbon-neutral fuels from wind power and water.”

However, according to Jermark, the foundation of the market ramp-up is based on the availability of electrolyzers to produce sustainable green hydrogen. “Air Liquide and Siemens Energy operate a multi-gigawatt electrolyzer production facility in Berlin that enables the supply of large-scale projects worldwide. One of the first projects supplied from the new production facility is a collaboration with Orsted to build one of Europe's largest commercial facilities, FlagshipOne, for carbon-neutral marine fuels in Sweden,” he said.

The technology package from Siemens Energy includes:

  • four proton exchange membrane electrolyzers with a 70 MW total capacity,
  • plant-wide electrification and automation systems, including digitalization solutions such as the use of digital twins, and
  • the entire power distribution and compressor systems.

New Combustion Systems

Technological innovations are accommodating fuel flexibility. However, how these newer systems work with existing installations depends heavily on the specific gas turbine, according to Jermark, given the “wide range of over 20 different frames currently in operation, as well as the type of fuel being used—which includes options such as hydrogen co-firing, 100% hydrogen, (fully) cracked ammonia, direct ammonia combustion, methanol, HVO, and FAME,” he said. “Working in combination with various partners, we have recent examples of both pilot applications and scalable solutions. The goal for all new fuel-flexibility developments is to be retrofittable to ensure that they can be seamlessly integrated into the existing fleet with minimal modification.”

Panelist Daniel Reitz, Product Strategy Manager of Marketing and Product Strategy at Solar Turbines, said over the years, Solar Turbines has accumulated experience operating on a wide variety of fuels by adapting the combustion and auxiliary—pumps, valves, etc.—hardware to the fuel properties, and is continuing to do that in the case of low-carbon fuels.

“The low-carbon fuels such as renewable natural gas, bio-propane, biogas, biodiesel blends, renewable diesel, and hydrogen-natural gas blends have physical and chemical properties similar to the fuels we have experience operating our turbines on already,” he said. “We characterize them as drop-in fuels, which means we have hardware available to burn these fuels. Regarding fuels with properties very different from drop-in fuels, hardware modifications or development is needed to support them.”

Gas Turbines

Gas turbines are said to become "fully decarbonized, dispatchable energy sources" that could support and balance intermittent power sources.

According to Reitz: “Gas turbines are inherently flexible and allow for easy adaptation to a wide variety of fuels with different characteristics. In addition to providing fuel flexibility, gas turbines provide high efficiency, low emissions, high availability, high reliability, and high power density.”

With a larger integration of renewables, dispatchable gas turbines will become more necessary. “In future decarbonized energy systems where renewable energy sources play a significant role, there will be a growing need for dispatchable power to bridge longer periods of low renewable energy generation. While current battery technologies may face limitations in terms of storage capacity, gas turbine power plants offer the capability to quickly provide reliable power, as well as heat through combined heat and power (CHP) generation, and also deliver essential grid services,” Jermark said.

Read our follow-up coverage from Tuesday's Turbo Expo panel here.