Aeroderivative Gas Turbines: Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Energy Transition

How aeroderivative gas turbines can help Saudi Arabia reach its net zero goal

A prominent member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the largest per capita oil exporter in the world, over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has been making extensive efforts to become a key player in the transition towards lower carbon energy sources. While the Saudi Vision 2030 plan calls for a 35% reduction in carbon emissions and a 50/50 energy mix of renewables and natural gas, the Kingdom has also committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060.

To achieve these ambitious goals, Saudi Arabia has launched several endeavors such as the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), a roadmap to increase its reliance on clean energy, and leads the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI), which aims to foster cooperation and efforts in the region to increase climate action.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is making significant efforts towards becoming a major producer and exporter of clean hydrogen. It was recently reported that Saudi Arabia’s Neom Green Hydrogen Company is establishing the world’s largest green hydrogen production plant, which is set to produce up to 600 metric tons per day of carbon-free hydrogen by the end of 2026.

Importance of gas in the energy transition 

One of the most used phrases in the energy industry is that of the energy trilemma. Essentially, it refers to the need for countries to develop their power industries while simultaneously balancing affordability and energy security/availability, along with the development of sustainable, low-carbon energy systems.

The worldwide demand for electricity keeps rising, and Saudi Arabia has one of the highest per capita consumption of power in the world, with a concentration of energy-intensive industries such as oil & gas, smelters, and petrochemicals that need firm power on demand. Curbing industrial emissions is an important part of addressing the climate challenge as they represent up to 40% of Saudi Arabia’s total carbon dioxide emissions. In this context, the accelerated and strategic joint deployment of both renewables and gas power can play a pivotal role in addressing the energy trilemma and reducing the carbon intensity of power generated in the Kingdom.

By switching from liquid fuels to lower carbon natural gas, which has the lowest carbon emissions of traditional fossil fuels, Saudi Arabia can have reliable and flexible energy that can be ramped up or down as and when needed, thereby allowing greater investment in more variable renewables, and reducing the risks associated with interruptions in power supply. Additionally, existing and future gas power plants can avoid carbon dioxide lock-in by using low or near zero-carbon fuels such as hydrogen, combined with carbon capture technologies, both of which the Kingdom is beginning to make significant investments in.

GE Vernova, with its extensive portfolio of energy solutions, is well-poised to support Saudi Arabia in its energy transition.

GE Vernova’s enduring partnership with Saudi Arabia

GE Vernova’s contributions to the development of the Kingdom’s energy sector date back to more than 80 years ago when it provided solutions to the oil and gas sector. Today, GE Vernova’s power generation solutions are installed across the country, generating up to 50% of the country’s power and it has also invested heavily in the development of the wider power sector ecosystem in the Kingdom.

One of the crown jewels of the country’s power industry is the GE Manufacturing and Technology Center (GEMTEC) campus, which includes the GEMTEC Service and Repairs Center for gas turbines, the GE MENA Decarbonization Center of Excellence (COE), a Monitoring & Diagnostics Center for the remote monitoring of power generation assets, as well as GE Saudi Advanced Turbines (GESAT), a joint investment by Dussur and GE to manufacture heavy duty gas turbines and components in the Kingdom. To date, the GEMTEC campus has serviced more than 70 customers in over 40 countries, contributing to goals under Saudi Vision 2030 to diversify the economy, promote high value exports, strengthen local talent, and more.

As the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, some of the massive energy needs in Saudi Arabia as new cities are built and developed are far from major grids and existing metropolitan centers, therefore making energy supply to some areas challenging. Looking ahead, GE Vernova’s aeroderivative gas turbine technology can play a critical role in delivering fast, flexible, and sustainable energy, where and when needed, while supporting the Kingdom’s grid stability and further promoting the use of renewable energy.

Aeroderivative gas turbines: An excellent complement to renewables and grid stability

Given its location and climate, Saudi Arabia is well positioned to reap the fruits of both solar and wind power. While renewables exhibit lower operational costs and fewer greenhouse emissions, when integrated into the electrical grid, they can also introduce challenges such as intermittency, lack of synchronous inertia, and frequency and voltage irregularities.

GE’s aeroderivative gas turbines have a track record of addressing those challenges by operating concurrently with both conventional and renewable energy. With the option of getting to full power in as little as five minutes, their plug and play nature can provide flexible power where it is needed quickly and efficiently.

Aero’s fuel flexibility is another feature that can play an important role in Saudi Arabia’s transition to lower carbon energy generation. Many of these solutions can operate on liquid and gaseous fuels. Moreover, each gas turbine model has a specific capability for burning hydrogen, dictated primarily by the combustion system. The LM2500, can burn as much as an 85/15 hydrogen/natural gas blend.

GE is continuously collaborating with customers and other stakeholders on both hydrogen demonstration and commercial projects across the globe. More than 100 GE gas turbines have operated on hydrogen fuel blends that have accumulated more than 8 million hours of operation. This extensive experience enables GE to understand the unique challenges using hydrogen as a gas turbine fuel.

Work is underway to increase hydrogen burning capability across the entire aeroderivative portfolio, with a specific goal of achieving 100% capability within the decade. A first in Africa, during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC’s) 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27), a GE LM6000 aeroderivative gas turbine ran successfully on hydrogen-blended fuel at the Sharm El Sheikh Power Plant in Egypt. GE’s track record of success, exemplified by this project, demonstrates the potential of its aeroderivative gas turbines in delivering low-carbon power reliably and on-demand.

As Saudi Arabia strives to transition to a more sustainable energy landscape, GE Vernova can support its ambitions to drive this transformation. With a long-standing presence in the country and industry-leading solutions, GE Vernova can continue to provide innovative solutions that balance energy affordability, availability, and sustainability, enabling a lower carbon energy future in the Kingdom.

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