According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2014 Annual Energy Outlook, more than 340,000 MW of gas-fired capacity will be added to the U.S. grid by 2038, accounting for a growth rate of 3.1 percent a year.

Coal currently accounts for about 41 percent of the nation’s power versus 27 percent from natural gas. But by 2035, the agency anticipates natural gas will be the primary fuel for power generation largely because of the development of shale gas, tight gas, and offshore natural gas resources, as well as technological advancements like those made at the El Segundo Energy Center in California.

The 550-MW El Segundo Energy Center consumes 30 percent less natural gas than the units it replaced and uses rapid-response technology to provide critical backup power for intermittent forms of generation such as wind and solar power. The new two-unit combined cycle cplant, owned and operated by NRG Energy, uses “Flex-Plant” technology from Siemens. Each unit features a SGT6-5000F gas turbine.

But as these plants run longer and harder, how important will it be for power producers to revisit and adjust their O&M strategies to reflect the actual operation of these plants? Thomas Alley, Vice President of Generation for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) chimes in.

“I do agree that it is expected that the gas fleet will experience more operation, but it will be accompanied by frequent starts, load-following, and shutdowns to meet seasonal demands,” says Alley.

“Maintenance internals and replacement part intervals for the combustion turbine typically are start-based or hours based, both of which I expect to increase so the frequency of outages and the costs of replacement parts will increase under these operational missions. We can easily predict that O&M costs are expected to increase. Owners of the equipment are wanting to understand the technical bases of inspection intervals and parts replacement intervals to evaluate strategies and opportunities to adjust these intervals to mitigate costs and optimize outages times. Understanding material degradation, improving inspection technologies and developing innovative approaches to parts management are priorities for many operators. This is particularly true for the older classes of turbines that have long-term service agreements that are expiring. EPRI has ongoing R&D to explore new NDE techniques for compressors, turbines and other components. We are also exploring ways to monitor combustion to extract data that can give us insights into the performance of the turbine and also provide early warning of component failure.”Fuel-Combustion-CTA

Excerpts from this article were taken from