COMPELLING CASE FOR GAS-GENERATED ELECTRIC POWER

The case for gas engines as an alternate power generation technology is becoming more compelling along with significant gas discoveries in southern Africa. This is due to proven, reliable gas engine technology that can be quickly and efficiently installed and, of course, the cost benefits of gas compared to diesel and conventional grid power.

"Southern Africa is fast becoming a gas economy with significant natural gas discoveries, particularly in Mozambique, and supportive gas prices can facilitate resolving electricity supply constraints," points out Nalen Alwar, business development manager – Gas at Boksburg-based Barloworld Power.

In southern Africa the cost of electricity from natural gas is demonstrably cheaper than diesel given the difference in the equivalent energy tariffs. Gas engine technology is a continuous operation that enables use of the recoverable heat to create further offsets in energy efficiency.   The share of waste heat utilisation is important to improving the economics of the application, particularly since natural gas has a price premium compared to other low energy fuel gases such as biogas and landfill gas from organic waste, which also provide attractive business opportunities for the gas-to-power concept.

Reliability

In the last decade the uptime of the gas supply in South Africa has been impressive, competing extremely well with diesel. Given the upstream supply chain risks for both options, a gas pipeline supply can be considered more reliable, which assists in achieving the uptime of an engine-based power plant.

"It is also worth noting that these are power plants with proven technology that typically require only a year from placement of an order to delivery of power. Such construction milestones for grid additions or even if used locally by the customer cannot be ignored in the larger power supply context that operates not only in a deficit, but with continuous impediments to meeting targeted on-stream dates," Alwar points out.

"Reliable technology and fast-track delivery, with connectivity to local and national grids taking up minimal land and space, have to feature as part of meeting our urgent electricity demands."

"Larger power plants of 100MW to 200MW are definitely possible using gas engine-based technology and, with the right construction partners, immediate impact for sustainable growth can be achieved."

Caterpillar technology

Barloworld Power, a division of Barloworld South Africa (Pty) Ltd, is strategically positioned to meet a broad range of energy and commercial engine solutions in the southern African market. Barloworld Power is the dealer for Cat Power, including gas and diesel driven power systems, in southern Africa as well as Spain, Portugal and a large part of Russia. Caterpillar has sold engine-based technology for gas to power for the past 77 years.

In terms of its electrical generation supply focus, Barloworld Power responds to power security and sustainable energy management, two of the most pressing issues facing the private and public sectors locally and internationally.

Alwar explains that Barloworld Power Southern Africa launched its gas to power business in 2012 and has since grown its capabilities with organisational infrastructure that comprises sales, design engineering, commercial proposal and after-sales resources.

Caterpillar supplies the core internal combustion or reciprocating engine technology that is integrated with an alternator to create a gas generator set. Barloworld Power adds value by designing the rest of the customer solution such as heat recovery equipment in the form of plate-type or shell and tube heat exchangers, and electrical scope such as switchgear, transformers and control panels and cabling for the necessary connections. Barloworld then undertakes the supply, installation and commissioning of the power plant.

In 2011 Caterpillar acquired the MWM factory in Mannheim, Germany. MWM has an impressive 140-year history which began when Carl Benz built the first automobile with a gas engine. The acquisition, rebranded as Caterpillar Energy Solutions in November 2013, gave Barloworld Power access to another highly reputable brand and the company is now well positioned with a large range of gas generator product offerings.

"From an environmental perspective, gas generator sets enable the reduction of methane, the primary fuel component of natural gas, biogas and landfill gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is about 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Gas generator sets also have lower exhaust emissions than those using diesel or coal," says Alwar.

Standard Bank complex

The new Standard Bank complex in Rosebank, Johannesburg, is considered a flagship project for Barloworld Power in which the gas power plant was completed a month ahead of schedule.

The gas-powered solution provided consists of a 1 MW Cat G3512E gas-powered generator set, heat recovery equipment and an absorption chiller. The generator set runs on natural gas supplied to the bank by Egoli Gas. The electric power produced supplies one fifth of the bank’s electric power demand, with the generator set’s thermal energy recovered for the bank’s hot water and air conditioning requirements.

Alwar explains that banks are data centres, requiring power supply systems that must satisfy the objectives of both reliability and energy efficiency.  The bank thus has the utility (Eskom) supply, gas engine power plant supply, and diesel back-up as components of enhanced system reliability.  However, unlike diesel powered gensets, which are typically used as a standby power source in cases of utility power failures, the gas generator set runs continuously to reduce the building’s requirement for utility power.

The lower cost of gas contributes to cost efficiency, but total energy efficiency is achieved with the recoverable heat from the gas engine, used for the building’s thermal energy requirements (such as hot water and air conditioning), further offsetting utility consumption and cost.

Biogas

Barloworld Power has recently won a pioneering contract to provide an equipment solution to the biogas field, still in its infancy in South Africa. “Biogas is a cheap fuel which is highly sustainable as a source of power generation in the long term and is therefore attracting a lot of attention,” says Alwar.

The contract, the first of its kind in South Africa, calls for Barloworld Power to supply Cat equipment for a 4MW biogas-to-power project in Bronkhorspruit. The clean electricity produced by the project will be used by an energy-intensive manufacturer to provide power to its plant in Pretoria.

Biogas is produced when organic matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen, and can be used as a renewable, clean energy source. The Bronkhorspruit Biogas Power Plant (Pty) Ltd is an independent power producer (IPP) formed by Bio2Watt, which has a contract to purchase waste from Beefcor, a cattle farm in the area.

About 40 000 tons per annum of cattle manure and a further 20 000 tons of mixed organic waste will be fed into two anaerobic digesters that will produce the biogas feedstock for a combined heat and power application using Cat internal combustion gas generator sets.

Bio2Watt has attracted significant co-funding from the Industrial Development Corporation and other foreign and domestic investors for the project and has signed a power purchasing agreement with the manufacturer.

Bosch Projects has been contracted to build the plant. Barloworld Power will supply four 1MW Cat CG170-12 generator sets with ancillary items for stepping up the produced power to a 22kV distribution system, as well as heat recovery equipment for the digester operation.

Community projects

"Local municipalities are looking increasingly at gas generators using biogas produced from their wastewater treatment plants to produce power," says Alwar.

“Maintaining correct operating temperature parameters during waste digestion using recovered heat from the genset not only improves biogas yield for electric power, but increases throughput of waste through proper bio-digestion processes, thus reducing the need for sewerage storage space,” he explains.

In theory biogas can be produced from organic waste generated within informal communities to produce electricity for the community. But Alwar stresses that for biogas-powered plants to become a reality, communities will require co-funding from government or private sector participation to raise the capital to establish innovative power supply solutions.  

"Southern Africa is fast becoming a gas economy with significant natural gas discoveries, particularly in Mozambique, and supportive gas prices can facilitate resolving electricity supply constraints," points out Nalen Alwar, business development manager – Gas at Boksburg-based Barloworld Power.

In southern Africa the cost of electricity from natural gas is demonstrably cheaper than diesel given the difference in the equivalent energy tariffs. Gas engine technology is a continuous operation that enables use of the recoverable heat to create further offsets in energy efficiency.   The share of waste heat utilisation is important to improving the economics of the application, particularly since natural gas has a price premium compared to other low energy fuel gases such as biogas and landfill gas from organic waste, which also provide attractive business opportunities for the gas-to-power concept.

Reliability

In the last decade the uptime of the gas supply in South Africa has been impressive, competing extremely well with diesel. Given the upstream supply chain risks for both options, a gas pipeline supply can be considered more reliable, which assists in achieving the uptime of an engine-based power plant.

"It is also worth noting that these are power plants with proven technology that typically require only a year from placement of an order to delivery of power. Such construction milestones for grid additions or even if used locally by the customer cannot be ignored in the larger power supply context that operates not only in a deficit, but with continuous impediments to meeting targeted on-stream dates," Alwar points out.

"Reliable technology and fast-track delivery, with connectivity to local and national grids taking up minimal land and space, have to feature as part of meeting our urgent electricity demands."

"Larger power plants of 100MW to 200MW are definitely possible using gas engine-based technology and, with the right construction partners, immediate impact for sustainable growth can be achieved."

Caterpillar technology

Barloworld Power, a division of Barloworld South Africa (Pty) Ltd, is strategically positioned to meet a broad range of energy and commercial engine solutions in the southern African market. Barloworld Power is the dealer for Cat Power, including gas and diesel driven power systems, in southern Africa as well as Spain, Portugal and a large part of Russia. Caterpillar has sold engine-based technology for gas to power for the past 77 years.

In terms of its electrical generation supply focus, Barloworld Power responds to power security and sustainable energy management, two of the most pressing issues facing the private and public sectors locally and internationally.

Alwar explains that Barloworld Power Southern Africa launched its gas to power business in 2012 and has since grown its capabilities with organisational infrastructure that comprises sales, design engineering, commercial proposal and after-sales resources.

Caterpillar supplies the core internal combustion or reciprocating engine technology that is integrated with an alternator to create a gas generator set. Barloworld Power adds value by designing the rest of the customer solution such as heat recovery equipment in the form of plate-type or shell and tube heat exchangers, and electrical scope such as switchgear, transformers and control panels and cabling for the necessary connections. Barloworld then undertakes the supply, installation and commissioning of the power plant.

In 2011 Caterpillar acquired the MWM factory in Mannheim, Germany. MWM has an impressive 140-year history which began when Carl Benz built the first automobile with a gas engine. The acquisition, rebranded as Caterpillar Energy Solutions in November 2013, gave Barloworld Power access to another highly reputable brand and the company is now well positioned with a large range of gas generator product offerings.

"From an environmental perspective, gas generator sets enable the reduction of methane, the primary fuel component of natural gas, biogas and landfill gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is about 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Gas generator sets also have lower exhaust emissions than those using diesel or coal," says Alwar.

Standard Bank complex

The new Standard Bank complex in Rosebank, Johannesburg, is considered a flagship project for Barloworld Power in which the gas power plant was completed a month ahead of schedule.

The gas-powered solution provided consists of a 1 MW Cat G3512E gas-powered generator set, heat recovery equipment and an absorption chiller. The generator set runs on natural gas supplied to the bank by Egoli Gas. The electric power produced supplies one fifth of the bank’s electric power demand, with the generator set’s thermal energy recovered for the bank’s hot water and air conditioning requirements.

Alwar explains that banks are data centres, requiring power supply systems that must satisfy the objectives of both reliability and energy efficiency.  The bank thus has the utility (Eskom) supply, gas engine power plant supply, and diesel back-up as components of enhanced system reliability.  However, unlike diesel powered gensets, which are typically used as a standby power source in cases of utility power failures, the gas generator set runs continuously to reduce the building’s requirement for utility power.

The lower cost of gas contributes to cost efficiency, but total energy efficiency is achieved with the recoverable heat from the gas engine, used for the building’s thermal energy requirements (such as hot water and air conditioning), further offsetting utility consumption and cost.

Biogas

Barloworld Power has recently won a pioneering contract to provide an equipment solution to the biogas field, still in its infancy in South Africa. “Biogas is a cheap fuel which is highly sustainable as a source of power generation in the long term and is therefore attracting a lot of attention,” says Alwar.

The contract, the first of its kind in South Africa, calls for Barloworld Power to supply Cat equipment for a 4MW biogas-to-power project in Bronkhorspruit. The clean electricity produced by the project will be used by an energy-intensive manufacturer to provide power to its plant in Pretoria.

Biogas is produced when organic matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen, and can be used as a renewable, clean energy source. The Bronkhorspruit Biogas Power Plant (Pty) Ltd is an independent power producer (IPP) formed by Bio2Watt, which has a contract to purchase waste from Beefcor, a cattle farm in the area.

About 40 000 tons per annum of cattle manure and a further 20 000 tons of mixed organic waste will be fed into two anaerobic digesters that will produce the biogas feedstock for a combined heat and power application using Cat internal combustion gas generator sets.

Bio2Watt has attracted significant co-funding from the Industrial Development Corporation and other foreign and domestic investors for the project and has signed a power purchasing agreement with the manufacturer.

Bosch Projects has been contracted to build the plant. Barloworld Power will supply four 1MW Cat CG170-12 generator sets with ancillary items for stepping up the produced power to a 22kV distribution system, as well as heat recovery equipment for the digester operation.

Community projects

“Local municipalities are looking increasingly at gas generators using biogas produced from their wastewater treatment plants to produce power,” says Alwar.

"Maintaining correct operating temperature parameters during waste digestion using recovered heat from the genset not only improves biogas yield for electric power, but increases throughput of waste through proper bio-digestion processes, thus reducing the need for sewerage storage space," he explains.

In theory biogas can be produced from organic waste generated within informal communities to produce electricity for the community. But Alwar stresses that for biogas-powered plants to become a reality, communities will require co-funding from government or private sector participation to raise the capital to establish innovative power supply solutions.

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