General Electric : Got Gas? GE Is Helping Australia Become A Hydrogen Powerhouse — At Home And Abroad.
In 1836 Charles Darwin visited Australia as part of the historic second voyage of the HMS Beagle. Although it did not land on the north coast of this continent, the Beagle’s successor expedition explored the shores of the Northern Territory, and the Beagle’s captain gave Port Darwin its name in honor of the father of the theory of evolution. Today Darwin is the capital of the territory and plays a role in a new way of evolution for our species: the transition to a decarbonised energy future.
Last month, the Australian Prime Minister announced a $ 150 million investment in seven Clean Hydrogen Industrial Hubs to be stationed across the country. Australia, which is already a major exporter of liquefied natural gas, is looking to start becoming a major exporter of green hydrogen – especially to countries in Asia that are acting quickly to move away from fossil fuels. Darwin, with its ample sun and wind potential, is one of the nominated hubs.
As a first step, Australia wants to boost its domestic industry. “It will take some time to export hydrogen; Using it domestically and building your industry with domestic consumption is a faster way, ”said Sam Maresh, CEO of GE Australia.
That’s why GE recently partnered with state utility Territory Generation to install a TM2500 aeroderivative gas turbine at the Channel Island Power Plant, just across Darwin Bay. The TM2500 is a trailer-mounted (hence the “TM”) turbine whose beating heart is a grounded CF6 engine that also powers the Boeing 747. It can generate electricity from the combustion of natural gas – or a mixture of natural gas and hydrogen. In less than 10 minutes, the turbine can go from cold start to full power and produce up to 32 megawatts of electricity, which makes it ideal as a bridge for generating emergency power in case of peaks in demand.
It’s also the perfect bridge for power producers that integrate more solar and wind energy that don’t have constant power around the clock. “When more renewable energies come on stream in the Northern Territory and you get those peaks and troughs – clouds are coming in and renewables are falling in terms of performance – the TM2500 can start up very quickly and help stabilize peaks and troughs.” says Maresch.
There are around 300 TM2500 turbines installed around the world, but the ability to supply them with hydrogen makes the project special. There are many factors that make the Northern Territory (NT) an ideal test site for H2, the most abundant gas in the universe. The federal government has named hydrogen a priority technology in its technology investment roadmap, and its own renewable hydrogen master plan sets ambitious targets which, if met, will result in Australian $ 3.7 billion (US $ 2.7 billion) in economic growth and could mean 2,500 new jobs.
The plan would also push the NT to reach 50 percent renewable electricity by the end of this decade. Private investors also want to put money into renewables – one example: the Sun Cable project, known as the “world’s first intercontinental power grid”, which is supposed to send up to 20 gigawatts of solar power to Singapore via submarine cables. This is made possible by the enormous solar and wind potential of the NT – every sixth house there already has a roof solar system – and the possibility of using this renewable energy to split water molecules and produce so-called green hydrogen.
The TM2500, which is expected to go into operation on Channel Island in 2022, will initially operate at 22 megawatts (MW) with a small amount of hydrogen in the fuel mix; As soon as enough hydrogen comes onto the market, the system can be operated with a mixture of up to 75 percent hydrogen by volume, explains Mark Benjamin, sales manager at GE Gas Power ANZ.
Another major hydrogen project announced in Australia earlier this year was the Tallawarra B power plant south of Sydney. This facility is powered by a GE 9F.05 gas turbine and generates approximately 316 MW of rapidly available power, which will help replace some of the 1.7 gigawatts that will be lost if a nearby coal-fired power plant shuts down its ovens in 2023. But the 316 MW unit in Tallawarra, Benjamin says, “could run 500 hours a year on mixed hydrogen, while at Territory Generation the unit will run 5,000 to 6,000 hours a year,” which makes it nearly as large a hydrogen consumer.
And the Channel Island project is only the first of six or seven TM2500s that GE hopes the Northern Territory utility will eventually open up. In terms of output, this first project is a relatively small step for hydrogen, but for Maresh it is about being forward-looking. “For Australia, the way to build a hydrogen economy is through gas turbines,” he says. The units can run on small or large amounts of blended hydrogen, giving the utility and government “much more flexibility in expanding their hydrogen industry.”
And when the TM-2500 is done its job, it can be re-mounted on a trailer and shipped to another location that needs it as a backup or wants to advance renewable energy as the grid and demand develop. “This is one of many projects to run GE aeroderivative gas turbines on hydrogen / natural gas fuel mixtures,” said Benjamin. “These units offer great operating and fuel flexibility and thus help to point the way to the energy transition.”