Since January 1, General Electric Co. reports it has booked more than $1 billion in new orders for gas turbines from North American industrial and utility customers. The demand is paced by sustained, lower prices for natural gas, it said. The company also cited utilities’ interest in adopting cleaner energy technologies than existing generating methods, like coal-fired steam boilers.
“Several factors are driving strong interest in natural gas,” according to GE Power & Water president and CEO Steve Bolze. “The recent increase in production has helped to ensure reliable supply and a consistent price structure, making natural gas an economically viable, dependable option for power generation needs. It also is the cleanest fossil fuel and a strong fit for the flexible, efficient power generation that our customers need to enable the integration of more renewable resources into the power grid.”
An example of this demand is GE’s recent contract to deliver five LMS100 aeroderivative units to Edison Mission Energy for the 500-MW Walnut Creek power project in California. GE is set to deliver 19 LMS100 machines in Southern California between through 2012.
The aeroderivative business converts aircraft engines into 18-100 MW generators that use natural gas and/or biofuels.
At its announcement, GE introduced a new aeroderivative gas turbine, the FlexAero LM6000-PH, designed for businesses and remote communities. Earlier, it unveiled the FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant, a 510-MW plant developed to integrate renewable resources into the power grid. GE has more than 14,000 gas turbines installed across North America, with a total of 300 million hours of service.
Natural gas supplies are increasing in North America as suppliers expand drilling activity and exploit previously uneconomical sources, e.g., shale. Meanwhile, natural gas prices have settled below $7 per thousand cubic feet over recent years. Also, those prices show none of the volatility that characterized the natural gas market earlier this century.