Interview: Ghassan Barghout, President and CEO, GE’s Gas Power Systems, MENA

Interview: Ghassan Barghout, President and CEO, GE’s Gas Power Systems, MENA
Ghassan Barghout, president and CEO, Gas Power Systems, MENA, GE
Published: 8 November 2017 - 6 a.m.
By: Baset Asaba

Why is efficiency important for utilities?

The World Energy Council estimates that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will require 100 gigawatts (GW) of additional power over the next ten years, marking an investment of over $50bn in new power generating capacity. Across the region, demand for power is increasing at an average annual rate of 8%. Governments in the region have started to respond by lifting subsidies on electricity to address demand side economies, but power producers also have to respond by increasing the efficiency of existing assets and adopting more efficient technologies not only to boost generation capacity but also to enhance the sustainable use of resources. 

How can regional utilities maximise efficiency?

Utilities have several options when it comes to maximising efficiency. To name a few, simple cycle power plants can be converted to combined cycle, while aging fleets can be replaced with more efficient technologies. Upgrade solutions and digital applications can help improve the utilisation of existing assets. Looking beyond the power plant itself, the right grid solutions, such as advanced distribution management systems, and smart metering can help to effectively manage electricity from the point of generation to the point of consumption.

Moreover, electricity and water conservation campaigns, like the ones launched by utilities in the region, can lead to efficient use, along with efforts from consumers.

How is GE exploiting new technologies to drive efficiency across its power products and services?

GE is constantly pushing existing boundaries to deliver better results for customers. For example, GE’s HA technology is currently the world’s most efficient heavy duty gas turbine. In 2016, the technology helped France’s EDF set a record 62.22% combined cycle efficiency at its power plant in Bouchain. 

Upgrade solutions offer another path to enhanced efficiency. Solutions such as GE’s Advanced Steam Path (ASP) provide a cost-effective option to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of existing steam plants. 

ASP upgrades can be applied on GE or non-GE machines and can offer up to 10% output improvement and up to 10 better turbine efficiency for lower plant fuel consumption. GE’s 9EMax gas turbine solution can also be applied on GE 9E machines to help cut annual fuel costs by as much as $5mn, while creating the potential for up to $6mn in additional revenue.

Another area that offers considerable promise is the digitisation of power plants. Connected machines, equipped with data sensors, collect vast amounts of information into centralised, secured data platforms. The analysis of this data provides insights to predict and diagnose equipment problems before they happen, as well as to optimise operations, thus reducing unplanned downtime and helping to enhance the reliability and efficiency of operations. GE has been working with customers around the world to digitise their power generation assets to improve performance and optimise operational costs by utilising GE’s Predix platform for the Industrial Internet, which was purpose-built to meet the scale, complexity, speed and security requirements of industry. For example, GE’s Predix-powered Asset Performance Management (APM) solution has helped customers achieve 10 – 40% reduction in reactive maintenance and 2 – 6% increase in availability.

As the world’s largest supplier of gas turbines that are used in most power generation plants, how is GE boosting the efficiency of its gas turbines?

GE is at the forefront of advances in various areas that are essential to creating more efficient gas turbines, such as advanced manufacturing and ceramic matrix composites (CMC). Advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing enable faster prototyping than traditional manufacturing techniques and the production of stronger, more complex components, with less waste. CMCs can withstand higher temperatures and are lighter than most metals, which translates into higher gas turbine cycle efficiency.

Digital industrial solutions such as GE’s software applications that leverage advanced data analytics, can also be applied on power generation assets to provide insights that enhance the performance of the plant throughout its lifecycle.

We are applying these advances as well as others in GE’s gas turbine technology and aim to achieve 65% combined cycle efficiency within the next five years. This translates into significant savings for customers as each 0.1 point of efficiency can represent more than $13mn in reduced fuel costs over the life of a plant. 

Last year, GE set a world record of a 62.22% efficiency rating for a combined-cycle power plant in Bouchain, France. Is it possible for this level of efficiency to be achieved in existing plants within the region?

Efficiency levels are somewhat dependent on site-specific conditions and configurations, however, plants in the region that are adopting GE’s HA technology can potentially expect to achieve and even exceed the record set in Bouchain. 

For example, the GE HA-powered Haveli Bahadur Shah power plant that is currently under construction in Pakistan is expected to achieve greater than 62.22% efficiency once it starts combined cycle operations. GE’s HA technology can even be used to repower existing plants that are aging and if plant operators combine that with upgrades for auxiliary equipment and digital solutions, it is possible for them to achieve 62.22% or higher combined cycle efficiency.

With the region leaning towards coal power generation in the wake of the Hassyan clean coal plant under construction, how can GE solutions guarantee efficiency of such plants?

GE has developed the world’s most efficient coal-fired power plant, which allows very high net plant efficiency. In fact, GE’s ultra-supercritical (USC) technology recently helped set a record for powering the world’s most efficient coal-fired power plant, RDK8 in Germany, based on an achieved efficiency rate of up to 47.5%. 

We are now moving further in developing the next generation of technologies to push net plant efficiency towards 50%, which is significantly higher than the global average of 33%. This USC technology coupled with GE’s modern flue gas cleaning systems, can address various emissions sources, such as CO2, NOx, SOx and particulate matter to meet and exceed the world’s strictest regulations. Moreover, software can make power production more efficient, lowering costs and increasing profits.

For example, GE’s Digital Power Plant for Steam can increase efficiency up to 1.5% over the life of the plant.

The 2,400MW Hassyan clean coal power project in the UAE is also using GE’s USC technology to generate power at very competitive costs. Notably, the project will also meet flue gas emission limits more stringently than emission limits in the Industrial Emissions Directive of the European Union and in the International Finance Corporation Guidelines.

With the rising costs of living in the region, how can your solutions guarantee cost cutting at an individual level?

The advent of high efficiency and high power density blocks, such as GE’s HA technology, have played a critical role in driving down the cost of electricity over the past decade. The construction costs of a power plant have reduced by more than 30% in the last 5 years. 

These lower costs directly cascade down to the individual level, especially in countries where tariffs are directly related to the costs of power generation, and help utilities reduce the impact to consumers where subsidies are being lifted.

How do you see the rate of adoption of your solutions in the GCC?

GE has supported the development of the energy sector in the GCC for more than 80 years. More than 50% of the heavy-duty gas turbine fleet in the GCC comprises of GE units and GE-built technologies generated more than half of the region’s electricity in 2016. We remain committed to building on this legacy by developing solutions that address the specific requirements of customers. 

For example, the Hot and Harsh Technology Centre of Excellence (COE) at the GE Manufacturing and Technology Centre (GEMTEC) in Dammam, KSA is a unique GE facility with around 25 research engineers that is set up with the express intent to address regional challenges. 

Among the first solutions developed are fuel additives that can help 7E/9E gas turbines run more efficiently on harsh fuels such as crude and heavy fuel oils, which are widely used in the region. One of these fuel additives has the potential to produce net cost savings of up to $3mn per year, per turbine.

Can you talk about your new global Powering Efficiency Centre of Excellence (COE) launched recently and what it intends to achieve?

GE’s global Powering Efficiency Centre of Excellence (COE) brings together cross-business experts in its energy businesses to apply a total plant hardware and software solution approach to boost the efficiency of the world’s new and existing coal-fired power plants.

Coal-fired power generation provides electricity for about 40% of the world. It also accounts for nearly 75% of the electricity sector’s carbon emissions. While GE supports the increased use of renewable energy sources, we also realise the need for efficient coal solutions to help reduce emissions and bring reliable energy. 

GE has a suite of steam upgrades, emission management technologies and digital technologies that can increase efficiency on average by 4%. Every point of efficiency reduces operating costs over the lifetime of the plant while also reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 2%.

The Powering Efficiency COE will provide a set of financing solutions to help customers develop projects toward a lower carbon intensity power generation mix.



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