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GE says helped Pakistan add a lot of power to national grid in least time


June 26, 2018

The power projects, involving General Electric’s (GE) cutting-edge 9HA turbines, have been executed faster than any combined cycle power plant of comparable size in Pakistan’s history and are expected to operate for up to 30 years, making a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of Pakistanis.

It was stated by John Lammas, vice president, Power Generation Technology and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) GE Power, in an exclusive interview with The News at his office in Greenville, South Carolina, USA.

Here are some highlights from the interview.

Q: Why were the latest and largest 9HA gas turbines considered suitable for Pakistan where supporting systems and infrastructure are not that advanced?

A: If you look at the 9HA, what it brings is large blocks of power and high efficiency levels. You know there was a need in Pakistan for a large amount of power to be brought into the grid relatively quickly. So, I think this is the solution as it has the best cost of ownership with lowest fuel bills because of the high levels of efficiency. Another benefit of installing these turbines (two each in the three power plants in Punjab) is that they can run on multiple types of fuels including the liquid ones when gas is not available.

Q: What were the major challenges GE faced during the installation of gas turbines in these plants and while making these functional?

A: GE’s scope of work was limited to supplying power train equipment, and we provided technical advisors to ensure international standards were met during installation works. During the course of the project, we worked with our engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partners to address several challenges. For example, there were delays in manufacturing the equipment as certain parts did not meet GE’s quality criteria. We addressed these issues, and to make up for the time lost to the extent possible, we provided 24 hours support, 7 days a week in various locations around the world, mobilised extra resources, and expedited transportation schedules for equipment delivery.

Q: What is your take on the media reports about some fault with 9HA machines installed in Punjab?

A: There was a minor issue with the seal of one of the turbines that moved slightly from its place due to the use of extraordinarily cold fuel in the form of LNG. And there was nothing wrong with the fundamental technology. We had tested these machines at our facilities in Greenville under different conditions but never expected that fuel of this type could be used. We replaced the seals of all the turbines with more suitable ones and the problem was fixed within weeks.

Q: Is required expertise available at the sites in Punjab to handle any future problems?

A: Here I would share with you that in addition to the support from well-qualified engineers on ground, the government also has multi-year agreements for the power plants from the EPC contractors and service agreements from GE for the gas turbines. Moreover, GE Power experts’ continuous monitoring of the turbines is also there for their smooth functioning. These experts based at the Monitoring & Diagnostics (M&D) Center of GE Power in Atlanta, Georgia, US receive data collected through the sensors installed in the turbines in real time via Internet. In case of any anomaly such as a major fluctuation in temperature in a particular part of the turbine, the experts will identify the problem and suggest a pre-emptive measure to the team present at the plant.

Q: What are the prospects of gas being a major fuel for power generation in the future?

A: There is no doubt that gas will continue to play a major role in the world’s energy mix and become a choice for customers because of its relatively economic costs, and a regular increase in its exploration. It is expected that the global supply of gas will be double that of today by 2040. It will be the time when, according to the International Energy Agency, the world’s energy demand would increase around 30 percent and so the dependence on gas, renewables and efficiency of power producing equipment becomes critical. Gas has prime significance in this context because it complements renewables wherever these are employed and provides the required back up in case of fall in power production. Besides, gas turbines have the highest efficiency rates in the world.

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