Reality kicks in at GTC 2012, with reports of plant start-ups1 January 2013
Report from the Gasification Technologies Conference 2012, Washington, DC.
By Chris Higman, Higman Consulting, Germany
This year's Gasification Technologies Conference was held at the Wardman Hotel in Washington, DC on 28-31 October 2012, while outside storm Sandy made its landfall only slightly further north, in New Jersey. Your correspondent arrived on one of the last flights allowed to land at Dulles airport. Although some delegates and speakers were prevented from attending by the storm, about 400 attendees did make it to a very interesting conference. Sometimes the Gasification Technologies Conference presentations are full of proposals and ideas for new projects. This year the dominant theme was reality - detailed accounts of plant start ups and photos of construction sites.
Edwardsport and other plant start ups
Of course the biggest interest was focused on the start up of Duke Energy's 618 MWe Edwardsport IGCC (pictured above), which was taking place simultaneously with the conference. New information was coming in each day. The first light off had taken place on 25 October and in the space of not quite four hours, the whole gas production unit including desulphurisation and syngas saturation had been placed on stream. The first power from syngas was produced during the conference. This plant has two GE gasification trains feeding two GE 7F syngas combustion turbines.
But Edwardsport was not the only recent IGCC start up to be reported on at GTC 2012. The first gasifier light off at Huaneng's 250 MWe GreenGen IGCC, outside Tianjin, had taken place in April and first power using syngas to the Siemens SGT5-2000E (V94.2K) turbine was produced in September.
While the contrast with Edwardsport in terms of length of time between first light off and first syngas power is very marked, one should not forget that the 2000 tonne/day two-stage dry feed TPRI gasifier employed in GreenGen was the first commercial scale up from the TPRI based 36 tonne/day pilot plant in Xian.
Various lessons learned from the GreenGen start up were already available and implemented in the start up of a 1000 tonne/day gasifier feeding a 300 000 tonne/annum methanol plant in Shilin, Inner Mongolia.
First light off there was in August and steady methanol production was achieved six weeks later.
A second methanol start up in China was at Yima, Henan. This plant was designed and is co-owned (25%) by Synthesis Energy Systems (SES), licensees of the U-Gas fluid bed gasification technology. The feedstock is a sub-bituminous coal with 38-45% ash content, a clear demonstration of the technology's ability to handle extremely low grade fuels. The plant includes three 1200 t/d gasifiers, two operating and one standby. The first gasifier passed its performance test in August. Methanol production was expected by the end of 2012.
ECUST reported two new start ups for its Opposed Multi Burner (OMB) gasifier, one for methanol and one for ammonia. Interesting was also the announcement of two projects using 3000 t/d OMB gasifiers, the first of which is due to start up in 2013. These will be the largest gasifiers in the world.
Plants under construction
As well as visiting Edwardsport, your correspondent also had the privilege of visiting Southern Company's Kemper County IGCC construction site, earlier this year. This is a 524 MWe IGCC, which can operate at 582 MWe with supplementary firing of natural gas.
The feedstock is local Mississippi lignite, but the most interesting feature is the fact that it will capture 65% of the CO2, which will be sold for enhanced oil recovery. The result is a CO2 emission rate of 362 kg/MWh on lignite fuel.
The gasification technology is TRIG, jointly developed by Southern and KBR. The two Siemens SGT6-5000F turbines are already on site and construction completion in mid-December was 50%. Commercial operation is scheduled for May 2014.
TRIG technology is also being used for the Dongguan 120 MWe repowering project near Guangzuou. Two existing oil-fired combustion turbines are being converted to take syngas fuel. Construction is well advanced and the plant is expected to come on stream during 2103.
Site preparation and civil works have also started on the 300 MWe IGCC at the Taean site of Korean Western Power (KOWEPCO). This uses Shell gasification technology and a GE 7F syngas combustion turbine.
But it is not only power plants that are under construction. The main gasification structure at POSCO's Guangyang substitute natural gas (SNG) plant in Korea has already reached half its final height. The Phillips 66 E-Gas two-stage technology used for this plant has a substantially higher methane make than most other entrained flow gasifiers. This makes it particularly suited as a front end for SNG. This plant also illustrates the differences in energy prices in different parts of the world. While in the United States natural gas is priced at around US$3.50/GJ, manufacturing one's own methane from imported coal is competitive with landed LNG in Korea.
E-Gas technology has also been selected for what is currently slated as the world's largest gasification complex, to be located next to Reliance's world scale oil refineries at Jamnagar, India. The main thrust of the project is to use syngas made by gasifying petroleum coke from the refinery to replace LNG, currently used to generate both power and hydrogen.
Ground has already been broken and the first phase of the project is expected to start up in May 2105. Phase one of the project will have eight Phillips 66 2860 t/d E-Gas gasifiers. An additional four will be added later.
However discussion at the Gasification Technologies Conference of plants that had now started construction was not limited to large projects. Air Products and AlterNRG reported on a 50 MWe waste-to-energy project in the Tees Valley, UK, which will process some 350 000 t waste per year to produce renewable electricity. Groundbreaking took place in October 2012 and the plant is expected to go on stream in 2014.
In 2010 we reported on the proposed 50 MWe demonstration of RTI's warm gas desulphurisation process at Tampa Electric's 250 MWe Polk IGCC. This project has now cleared all the regulatory and financial hurdles and construction has started.
Completion is scheduled for January 2014, with demonstration operation continuing through to July 2015. This technology has already been demonstrated at the 300 kW scale in Eastman Chemicals' Kingsport gasification plant. The technology has the potential to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of IGCC plants and if the current demonstration is successful, then we can certainly expect to see commercial application shortly thereafter.
Projects in development
Two interesting polygeneration projects are under development in the United States, both of them aiming at producing a mix of power and urea fertilizer. Both will also be selling CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Summit Power's Texas Clean Energy project (TCEP) will in fact be getting 20% of its revenue stream from selling CO2. The project is located near Odessa, Texas, one of the competitors for siting the original FutureGen project and close to the Permian basin, where EOR has been practiced for some 40 years. The project is based on Siemens technology, both for gasification and for the combustion turbine, with Linde providing the gas treatment and synthesis units. About two thirds of the gas will be used for power production and one third for ammonia/urea production. Sinopec Engineering has been selected as EPC contractor for the chemical block and 100% financing will come from the Chinese Exim Bank. Ironically, this could be about the same volume as the US Exim Bank is providing in the way of financing for the Jamnagar project in India.
The other US polygeneration project is Hydrogen Energy California (HECA). This project, located near Bakersfield, California, was originated by BP/Rio Tinto using GE technology for the power plant with CO2 capture for EOR in the nearby Elk Hills oilfield.
In the meantime it has been taken over by SES and reconfigured for polygeneration producing power, urea and CO2, in many ways similar to TCEP. The gasification and power technology provider is now Mitsubishi.
An interesting feature is HECA's approach to changes in power demand. During the day 67% of the syngas goes to the power plant, which is generating at 100% capacity. The ammonia plant is only running at 60% of capacity. At night the situation is reversed with the syngas being split 50:50. Under these conditions the ammonia plant runs at 100% capacity and the power plant at 65%. The gasifier is operating at full load all the time.
The AVESTAR IGCC dynamic simulator and operator training centre developed by the US Department of Energy was the subject of an interesting presentation. The installation simulates a complete, generic IGCC with carbon capture operating in real time. The training interface is a standard DCS style human machine interface complete with trends and alarms. It is capable of being operated in normal baseload, start up, shut down and load following modes. The instructor can introduce malfunctions to train the operators in handling abnormal situations. The modular construction allows it to be used as a training centre also for natural gas combined cycle plants. There are two installations, one at the US National Energy Technology Laboratory and one at West Virginia University, both in Morgantown, West Virginia and may be used (for a fee) by anyone wanting to train their operators prior to start up.
One of the more challenging aspects of gasifier operation is responding to a change in coal quality, since the temperature inside the gasifier can react rapidly to such a change. Automating the gasifier control response requires on-line measurement of both temperature and coal quality. Work on on-line coal quality determination has been performed in the past, but has been applied commercially only to only a very limited extent. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) presented promising new work at the Gasification Technologies Conference in both these areas, which when combined offer the possibility of improved gasifier operation.
Into the construction phase
All in all the conference showed that after the collapse of so many markets in 2008, gasification is at least picking up with new projects moving into the construction phase and others coming along behind.
Starting up: Duke Energy's 618 MWe Edwardsport IGCC