Natural gas power plants are one type of thermal power station, which burns fuel to create heat that is then converted into electricity. Natural gas power plants process methane and other chemical energy contained in natural gas. This is converted into thermal energy, which powers turbines to create electrical energy. There are several types of natural gas power plants, which include simple-cycle gas-turbine, combined-cycle gas-turbine, and reciprocating engine natural gas power plants. Currently, natural gas power stations generate nearly a quarter of global electricity.
Natural Gas Power Plant Types
Natural gas power plant types are differentiated by their turbine or generator system. Simple cycle gas-turbine power plants use heated gas to power a turbine, converting the gas-generated thermal energy into mechanical energy to ultimately create electricity. Simple-cycle gas-turbine power plants are also called open-cycle gas-turbine (OCGT) power plants. They are lower cost to build, can be started quickly, but they are inefficient compared to other types.
Combined-cycle gas-turbine (CCGT) power plants are more sophisticated. They use a thermodynamic system known as the Brayton cycle, combined with a heat recovery steam generator and steam turbine that operates on the Rankine cycle. These power plants use different turbine combinations, which often include two gas turbines and one steam turbine. CCGT power plants are more complex and expensive than OCGT power plants but they are more efficient. Reciprocating engine power plants use a reciprocating engine and tend to be smaller supplemental power plants that support renewably-sourced energy generation.
Peaking Plants And Electricity Demand
Peaking plants are supplement power plants or power generation resources that are reserved for operations when energy demand is high. Peaking plants are almost always operated in combination with a base load power plant that provides a consistent source of power.
In the past, peaking plants were mainly used with coal-burning plants, but the model has also been applied to combined-cycle natural gas plants, which meet peak energy demands by running second power generation cycles using the waste heat of the first cycle. Open-cycle gas turbine systems will sometimes be used as a peaking plant for a combined cycle gas turbine system.
Gas Power Generation As An Energy Source
Gas power generation is an effective means of generating electricity from natural gas deposits in the earth. Natural gas is non-renewable and shares many qualities with petroleum. It is sometimes created as a byproduct of oil production. The methane contained in natural gas provides chemical energy that can be converted into heat, which can then be used to create mechanical energy, which is then used to generate electricity.
Gas power plant utilities have been a source of energy generation since the 1800’s. More recently, natural gas’ contribution to greenhouse gases, environmental impact, and climate change have led to efforts to curb and eliminate reliance on natural gas as a power resource. In some cases, gas power generation is used to supplement renewable and carbon-neutral energy production, including solar and wind power.
Generators That Run On Natural Gas
Natural gas generators are an alternative to conventional gasoline and diesel-powered generators. They are efficient and can also be more economical. These generators are used as either standby generators, which provide power to commercial and residential buildings when blackouts occur, or prime generators, which provide continuous power when no local utilities are available.
Natural gas generators are favorable power sources where power supply is critical, such as for hospitals and municipal facilities that are essential in an emergency. Gasoline’s limited shelf life and the problems of diesel emissions can make generators that run on natural gas a better option for long-term and critical use. However, natural gas generators can pose a greater safety hazard if natural gas lines are not carefully maintained. They are also somewhat less efficient than diesel generators.