To reduce Bulgaria’s heavy dependence on imported energy, a landmark biomass-to-energy plant powered by GE’s (NYSE:GE) Jenbacher gas engine technology is being built near Stroevo, in Plovdiv province. The 5-megawatt (MW) Karlovo plant will use three of GE’s fuel-flexible, robust and high-efficiency Jenbacher engines—one J612 and two J620 units—powered by syngas derived from straw and wood chips and will produce enough electricity to power 2,000 homes. Such organic waste is normally difficult to gasify effectively, but tight integration of EQTEC Iberia’s biomass-gasification technology with GE’s proven gas engines will provide high levels of emissions performance, efficiency and economy. Scheduled for completion by the end of 2014, the plant is being built by EQTEC Iberia, part of Spanish holding company Ebioss Energy AD (MAB: EBI). It is the latest development in Ebioss’ strategy to apply its Integrated Biomass Gasification Cogeneration Power Plant (IBGPP) technology throughout Europe to help countries reduce their dependence on foreign energy supplies and to increase the proportion of energy from renewable sources. The country’s target is for 16 percent of its energy demand to be met by domestic renewable sources by 2020, but at present more than 70 percent of its energy is from imported natural gas and oil. 1 “Gasifying biomass for energy usage—in this case, straw and wood chips—requires special know-how, and our engineers and GE’s team worked as one team to integrate EQTEC Gasifier Technology and GE’s power generation technologies for improved performance and economics,” said Luis Sanchez CEO, EBIOSS. “The IBGPP plant we developed achieves a far higher electrical efficiency than the thermal technologies traditionally used in a plant of this size. For example, a typical Rankine thermal cycle-based plant offers an electrical efficiency of 18 to 20 percent from converting biomass to electricity compared to using GE’s Jenbacher gas engines that offer approximately 28 percent electrical efficiency and almost 70 percent total combined heat and power efficiency. This will enable us to deploy the IBGPP technology economically with GE elsewhere in Bulgaria and in other nations to help them enjoy greater energy independence and fuel diversity.” Syngas is attractive because it is a continually renewable fuel that enables power to be produced economically on-site at the point of use, reducing losses inherent in electrical transmission. It also helps to solve a waste-disposal problem by converting organic wastes into fuel. With the EQTEC Gasifier Technology, steam and hot water can be generated with no reduction in output power, so overall plant efficiency will be much higher when the plant is used for district heating or other cogeneration applications in addition to power production.
“Using syngas as a fuel is uncommon in such plants and represents an innovative solution to the energy challenges Bulgaria and many other nations face; however, it is challenging to develop an integrated gasification design that doesn’t produce syngas containing impurities that can foul engines. The selection of technologies to work together is important; and the Karlovo plant features EQTEC Gasifier Technology, which produces cleaner syngas,” said Leon van Vurren, global sales leader, Jenbacher gas engines for GE’s Distributed Power business. “At the same time, GE has a proven technology suited to this type of application—GE’s Jenbacher gas engine, which has fuel flexibility and robustness that make it known for its performance even with non-traditional fuel gases.”This isn’t the first time EQTEC and GE have worked together. The collaboration debuted in 2008 with an IBGPP cogeneration plant in Spain at the alcohol distillery of the company MOSTOS, VINOS Y ALCOHOLES, SA (MOVIALSA) at Campo de Criptana in the La Mancha region. The plant is fueled by the gasification of residual materials from olive oil production. It uses three J620 Jenbacher engines producing a total of 5.9 MW of electricity, 5,600 Kg/h of saturated steam at 6 bar and 159 m 3/h of hot water at 90°C, which are used by the distillery. Together, these yield an overall plant efficiency of 63.8 percent. GE's Jenbacher J612 and J620 gas engines running on syngas from renewable biomass are part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio. To qualify for the ecomagination portfolio, products and services must demonstrate both improved economic value and environmental performance. Ecomagination is GE's commitment to innovative solutions that maximize resources and efficiencies and make the world work better. Overall, GE's Jenbacher gas engines product line has almost 100 units installed and operating on syngas from waste and biomass with an electrical output of about 100 MW. GE Power & Water’s Distributed Power is a leading provider of power equipment, engines and services, focused on power generation at or near the point of use. Distributed Power’s product portfolio includes GE’s aeroderivative gas turbines and Jenbacher and Waukesha gas engines, which generate 100 kilowatts to 100 MW of power for numerous industries globally. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Distributed Power employs about 5,000 people around the world.