Recently, Hydrogen Working Group of European Turbine Network (ETN Global) published a new report entitled “ETN Hydrogen Gas Turbines – The Path Towards a Zero-Carbon Gas Turbine.”  The main objectives of this report is to highlight potential benefits and challenges on the hydrogen uses in gas turbines. The report also assesses pre-conditions to the implementation of a hydrogen power plant, requirements for retrofit of existing gas turbines, and current capabilities of gas turbines burning hydrogen. For next five weeks, we will take a deep dive into each of the following chapters:

01. Advantages of Hydrogen Gas Turbines
02. Pre-Conditions of a Hydrogen Power Plant
03. Hydrogen Combustion
04. Retrofit of Existing Gas Turbines
05. Current Capabilities of Gas Turbines Burning Hydrogen

01. Advantages of Hydrogen Gas Turbines

While worldwide decarbonization of the power generation sector is feasible by expanding its area to renewable energy sources (RES), these renewable sources provide a fluctuating electricity supply which needs to be retained by other forms of reliable, affordable, and sustainable power generation. ETN describes that use of hydrogen in the power sector will make a significant contribution to clean energy transition.

As of 2020, gas turbines already fulfill the balancing role in the energy system by extending the fuel capabilities to hydrogen, in addition to predominant roles in long-term energy strategies:

  • In combined cycle configuration (CCGT), gas turbines are already the cleanest form of thermal power generation
  • Mixing renewable gas (hydrogen, biogas, and syngas) with natural gas enables further reduction in net CO2 emissions.
  • Industries are committed to enable gas turbines to run entirely on renewable gas fuels by 2030 to achieve capabilities for zero-carbon gas-fired power generation
  • Gas turbines are flexible and complementary to the variable RES

ETN further describes the advantages of hydrogen gas turbines. Hydrogen gas turbines are complement the intermittent nature of wind and solar power as back-up power. Hydrogen can be produced through electrolysis, using excess renewable power during periods of abundant wind and daylight sources, or by natural gas reformation if carbon capture technology is utilized. This cyclic-generation process tells us that sufficient hydrogen supply can be generated on short notice, and further enables the creation of a hydrogen infrastructure including storage.

Retrofitting Existing Gas Turbines and Utilizing the Existing Natural Gas Infrastructure

The development of retrofit solutions for existing gas turbines will be a key enabler for the implementation of the hydrogen gas turbine technology. Relatively small modification to existing combustors would allow co-firing of hydrogen to significant fractions. With extensive field experience, new types of combustors can be developed which allows up to 100% hydrogen firing. Moreover, slight to no modification is required to the existing natural gas infrastructure in order to source the hydrogen fuel.

100% Emission Compliance and Sector Coupling For Deeper Decarbonization

With dry low NOx (DLN) technology, hydrogen gas turbine has the potential to reduce or eliminate NOx emissions. In addition to emission compliance, the wasted heat from hydrogen gas turbines in Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants can be used.

Wider Hydrogen Deployment

Development and utilization of hydrogen gas turbines can stimulate commercial demand for large amount of low purity hydrogen, thus reducing the production costs and to its wider deployment in multiple sectors. Shift from coal-fired to gas-fired power generation and to 100% carbon neutral gas-fired power by using hydrogen would accelerate decarbonization process globally in next 10 years.

Section summaries are adopted from ETN’s full report on Hydrogen Gas Turbines. This report can be found in Here.