Siemens strengthens U.S. gas turbine manufacturing
In mid-November 2011, Siemens Energy substantially increased its capacity to produce advanced gas turbines in the U.S. by officially opening a 450,000 ft2 (41,800 m2) expansion to the company’s Charlotte, N.C., facility. The state-of-the-art manufacturing center adds ability to build gas turbines, in addition to generators and steam turbines already produced there.
Completed in 13 months, expansion of the Charlotte plant creates a manufacturing hub for Siemens fossil-power generation equipment intended mainly for the 60-Hz market in North and South America. However, 50-Hz machines also could be built at Charlotte as dictated by future production needs. The new plant reportedly incorporates the most advanced gas turbine production know-how in North America. In addition, the plant will provide a key service center function. Servicing customer equipment and producing replacement parts are significant parts of Siemens’ fossil-power generation business.
"The Charlotte plant will not only supply the U.S. and other countries that use 60-Hz grids, but will also export our advanced power plant technology around the world,” said Michael Suess, member of Siemens AG Managing Board and CEO of the company's Energy Sector. “We project that exports from this location will increase to more than $400 million annually. After Berlin, Charlotte is the second key pillar in our international manufacturing network.”
Adding gas-turbine manufacturing capacity is in line with worldwide demand for high-efficiency gas power plants. Most energy-efficient of gas power plant types is the combined-cycle (CC) plant, where the gas turbine, steam turbine, and generator comprise three main elements—all to be built at Charlotte. The fourth major part of a CC gas power plant is the heat recovery steam generator (HRSG).
Among Siemens’ advanced gas turbine offerings, the largest is the H-class machine. In May 2011, a 50-Hz version of that turbine (SGT5-8000H) achieved record 60.75% efficiency in a CC power plant (read more at online Ref. 1).
According to Siemens, the present industry trend to build efficient gas power plants is driven by:
- High availability of natural gas
- Aging power plant inventory
- Desire to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Apropos to the last point above, producing 60-Hz gas turbines in the U.S. means a shorter shipping distance to more customers, which will also help reduce CO2 emissions. This is in addition to inherently lower CO2 emissions of gas power plants.
Siemens’ investment in the Charlotte facility is said to be more than $350 million. The plant expansion is expected to create 700 new jobs initially, with the total number of existing and projected jobs at the site growing to 1,800 by 2014. A comparable number of additional indirect jobs are foreseen at suppliers and service provider companies.
First gas turbine shipped
Two other noteworthy developments coincided with the plant expansion celebrations at Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 16, 2011. First product out from the new factory is an SGT6-5000F gas turbine destined for the La Caridad I combined-cycle power plant located in Sonora State, Mexico. Siemens is building that 250-megawatt (MW) CC power plant as a turnkey project for Minera México—a subsidiary of Grupo México, the country's largest mining company and one of the world's largest copper producers.
Besides the gas turbine, other major Siemens equipment going to La Caridad I include SST-900 steam turbine, electric generators, HRSG, and complete electrical and SPPA-T3000 instrumentation and control equipment. Scheduled for commercial operation in summer 2013, La Caridad I will supply electric power to Minera México’s copper mines.
Also announced at the plant ceremonies was the signing of another agreement to supply a second 250-MW combined cycle power plant to Grupo México for its La Caridad 2 project, located adjacent to La Caridad Unit 1. Equipment to be supplied for this power plant is much the same as for Unit 1, with another SGT6-5000F gas turbine as the key element. Commercial operation of La Caridad 2 is expected in spring 2014. Siemens’ role comprises full turnkey supply of both plant units, which includes plant engineering, procurement, and construction.
In a larger view, Siemens has had a long history of providing electrification and power plant technology to Mexico. In fact, the first series of turnkey CC power plants built in Mexico was supplied by Siemens.
The U.S. electricity market is the world's largest, comprising one-fifth of both global demand and power plant capacity. Power plant solutions from Siemens provide a third of the U.S. power supply, according to the company. "We consider the U.S. a very attractive market, and we will play an important role in covering U.S. and worldwide demand for clean, affordable, and dependable energy," Suess added.
Some 10,000 employees make up Siemens Energy Sector’s workforce in the U.S.—representing about 17% of total employees spread over all 50 states.
Frank J. Bartos, PE, is a Control Engineering contributing content specialist. Reach him at braunbart(at)sbcglobal.net
Ref. 1 – “Siemens gas turbine breaks 60% efficiency barrier”