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HOW GAS TURBINE POWER PLANTS WORK

The combustion (gas) turbines being installed in many of today's natural-gas-fueled power plants are
complex machines, but they basically involve three main sections:

The compressor, which draws air into the engine, pressurizes it, and feeds it to the combustion
chamber at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour.

The combustion system, typically made up of a ring of fuel injectors that inject a steady stream
of fuel into combustion chambers where it mixes with the air. The mixture is burned at
temperatures of more than 2000 degrees F. The combustion produces a high temperature, high
pressure gas stream that enters and expands through the turbine section.

The turbine is an intricate array of alternate stationary and rotating aerofoil-section blades. As
hot combustion gas expands through the turbine, it spins the rotating blades. The rotating blades
perform a dual function: they drive the compressor to draw more pressurized air into the
combustion section, and they spin a generator to produce electricity.

Land based gas turbines are of two types: (1) heavy frame engines and (2) aeroderivative engines. Heavy
frame engines are characterized by lower pressure ratios (typically below 20) and tend to be physically
large. Pressure ratio is the ratio of the compressor discharge pressure and the inlet air pressure.
Aeroderivative engines are derived from jet engines, as the name implies, and operate at very high
compression ratios (typically in excess of 30). Aeroderivative engines tend to be very compact and are
useful where smaller power outputs are needed. As large frame turbines have higher power outputs, they
can produce larger amounts of emissions, and must be designed to achieve low emissions of pollutants,
such as NOx.
One key to a turbine's fuel-to-power efficiency is the temperature at which it operates. Higher
temperatures generally mean higher efficiencies, which in turn, can lead to more economical operation.
Gas flowing through a typical power plant turbine can be as hot as 2300 degrees F, but some of the

critical metals in the turbine can withstand temperatures only as hot as 1500 to 1700 degrees F.
Therefore, air from the compressor might be used for cooling key turbine components, reducing ultimate
thermal efficiency.
One of the major achievements of the Department of Energy's advanced turbine program was to break
through previous limitations on turbine temperatures, using a combination of innovative cooling
technologies and advanced materials. The advanced turbines that emerged from the Department's
research program were able to boost turbine inlet temperatures to as high as 2600 degrees F - nearly 300
degrees hotter than in previous turbines, and achieve efficiencies as high as 60 percent.
Another way to boost efficiency is to install a recuperator or heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) to
recover energy from the turbine's exhaust. A recuperator captures waste heat in the turbine exhaust
system to preheat the compressor discharge air before it enters the combustion chamber. A HRSG
generates steam by capturing heat from the turbine exhaust. These boilers are also known as heat
recovery steam generators. High-pressure steam from these boilers can be used to generate additional
electric power with steam turbines, a configuration called a combined cycle.
A simple cycle gas turbine can achieve energy conversion efficiencies ranging between 20 and 35
percent. With the higher temperatures achieved in the Department of Energy's turbine program, future
hydrogen and syngas fired gas turbine combined cycle plants are likely to achieve efficiencies of 60
percent or more. When waste heat is captured from these systems for heating or industrial purposes, the
overall energy cycle efficiency could approach 80 percent.

Gas turbine engines


Gas turbines range in size from microturbines at < 50 hp (37.3 kW) to large industrial turbines of
> 250,000 hp (190 kW). This page focuses on the gas turbine engine, the differences between
types of turbines, and items to consider when they are applied as the prime mover.
Contents
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1 Process

2 Design consideration and operation


o

2.1 Maximum cycle temperature, TRIT

2.2 Airflow

2.3 Speed limitations

2.4 Temperature limitations

2.5 Rating point

2.6 Site rating

2.7 Inlet air temperature

2.8 Increasing turbine efficiency

2.8.1 Simple cycle

2.8.2 Recuperative cycle

2.8.3 Combined Cycle


2.9 Air inlet system

2.9.1 Pressure drop

2.9.2 Noise attenuation

2.9.3 Air inlet

2.9.4 Exhaust

2.9.5 Casing/gear box/driven equipment

2.9.6 Oil cooler

3 Types of gas turbines


3.1 Types of duty

3.1.1 Aircraft turbine engines

3.1.2 Heavy industrial gas turbine engines

3.1.3 Light industrial gas turbine engines


3.2 Combustor types

3.2.1 Radial or annular combustor

3.2.2 Can combustor

3.3 Shaft configuration

3.3.1 Single shaft

3.3.2 Two shaft

3.3.3 Degree of packaging


4 Exhaust emissions

4.1 Oxides of nitrogen (NOx)

4.2 Carbon monoxide (CO)

4.3 Unburned hydrocarbons (UHC)

4.4 Particulates

4.5 Sulfur dioxide (SO2)

5 Emission control

6 Exhaust heat

7 References

8 Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

9 External links

10 See also

Process
As shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2, the open Brayton cycle is the thermodynamic cycle for all gas
turbines. This cycle consists of:

Adiabatic compression

Constant pressure heating

Adiabatic expansion
The gas turbine is made up of the following components:

An air compressor

A combustor

A power turbine, which produces the power to drive the air compressor and the output
shaft

Fig. 1Simplified simple-cycle gas turbine diagram.

Fig. 2Typical open Brayton cycle for gas turbines.


Air enters the compressor inlet at ambient conditions (Point 1), is compressed (Point 2), and
passes through the combustion system, where it is combined with fuel and fired to the
maximum cycle temperature (Point 3). The heated air is expanded through the gas producer
turbine section (between Points 3 and 5), where the energy of the working fluid is extracted to
generate power for driving the compressor, and expanded through the power turbine to drive the
load (Point 7). The air is then exhausted to the atmosphere. A starting system is used to get the air
compressor up to sufficient speed to supply air for combustion with the fuel injected into the
combustor. A turbines continuous-burning combustion cycle, combined with continuous rotation
of the turbine rotor, allows virtually vibration-free operation, as well as fewer moving parts and
wear points than other prime movers.

Design consideration and operation


Maximum cycle temperature, TRIT

The output power of a gas turbine may be increased by increasing the maximum cycle
temperature. The maximum cycle temperature is designated TRIT, which stands for turbine rotor
inlet temperature. API 616 defines rated firing temperature as the vendors calculated turbine
inlet temperature (TIT) immediately upstream of the first-stage turbine rotor for continuous
service at rated power output. TRIT is calculated immediately upstream of the first-stage turbine
rotor and includes the calculated effects of cooling air and temperature drop across the first-stage
stator vanes.

Airflow
The output power of a gas turbine may also be increased by increasing the mass flow of air
through the gas turbine. The geometry of the gas turbine, particularly the compressor, and the
speed of the compressor dictate basic air mass flow. An increase in flow requires an increase in
speed, which is limited to the maximum continuous running speed of any particular design. At a
given speed, an increase in inlet air density increases air mass flow. Inlet air density increases
directly with barometric pressure and inversely with ambient temperature.
The main parameters affecting output power are speed and TRIT for any given
mechanical/aerodynamic design. Increasing any one of these parameters increases the output
power capacity of the gas turbine. Speed and temperature may be dictated by the output power
and heat rate desired within the constraints imposed by the following factors:

Component life

Cost

Technical feasibility

Speed limitations
As the speed of a gas turbine increases, the centrifugal forces on the rotating components
increase. These forces increase the stress on the rotating components, particularly the following:

Disks

Blades

Blade attachment to the disk


Component materials have stress limits that are directly proportional to their speed limits and
should not be exceeded. Thus, the maximum continuous speed of the rotating element is a
function of:

Rotor geometry

Component material properties

Safety design factors


It is the highest allowable speed for continuous operation.

Temperature limitations
One way to increase output power is to increase the fuel flow and therefore TRIT. As TRIT
increases, hot section components operate at higher metal temperatures, which reduces the time
between inspection (TBI) of the gas turbine. Because the life of hot section materials is limited
by stress at high temperature, there are limitations on the maximum temperatures for a given
TBI. Material life decreases rapidly at higher temperatures. TBI is a function of time at TRIT and
the rate of TRIT change during transients such as startup. The creep or stress rupture limit is
established by the material properties as a function of their stress level and operating
temperature.

Rating point
A rating point can be established for determining gas turbine performance for specified ambient
conditions, duct losses, fuel, etc.
The International Standards Organization defines its standard conditions as:

59F

1.013 bar

60% relative humidity with no losses


This has become a standard rating point for comparing turbines of various manufacturers and
designs.

Site rating
The site rating is a statement of the basic gas turbine performance under specific site conditions,
including:

Ambient temperature

Elevation

Duct pressure losses

Emission controls

Fuel composition

Auxiliary power takeoff

Compressor air extraction

Output power level


For instance, an increase in ambient temperature reduces output power at a rate influenced by gas
turbine design.

Inlet air temperature


Fig. 3 relates the following to inlet air temperature at optimum power turbine speed for an
example gas turbine:

Output power

Fuel flow

Exhaust temperature

Exhaust flow

Fig. 3Output power vs. compressor inlet air temperature.

Increasing turbine efficiency


Simple cycle
Most of the mechanical energy extracted from the gas stream by the turbine is required to drive
the air compressor, with the remainder available to drive a mechanical load. The gas stream
energy not extracted by the turbine is rejected to the atmosphere as heat.

Recuperative cycle
In the recuperative cycle, also called a regenerative cycle, the compressor discharge air is
preheated in a heat exchanger or recuperator, the heat source of which is the gas turbine exhaust.
The energy transferred from the exhaust reduces the amount of energy that must be added by the
fuel. In Fig. 4, the fuel savings is represented by the shaded area under 2 to 2. The three primary
designs used in stationary recuperators are the:

Plate fin

Shell and tube

Primary surface

Fig. 4Recuperated cycle.


Combined Cycle
Adding a steam bottoming cycle to the Brayton cycle uses the exhaust heat to produce additional
horsepower, which can be used in a common load, as shown in Fig. 5, or for a separate load. The
shaded area represents the additional energy input.

Fig. 5Combined cycle.

Air inlet system


Inlet Air Filtration. The quality of air entering the gas turbine is a very important design
consideration. Turbine efficiency will decrease over time because of deposits building up on the
turbine internal flow path and rotating blades. This buildup results in increased maintenance and

fuel consumption. Selecting and maintaining the proper inlet air filtration system for the specific
site conditions will affect the rate of decrease of efficiency over time.
Pressure drop
It is critical to minimize the pressure drop of the air passing through the: Inlet ducting Inlet air
filter Inlet silencer (see Noise Attenuation below)
Pressure loss on the atmospheric air entering the turbine greatly affects the performance of the
gas turbine.
Noise attenuation
The noise produced by a gas turbine is primarily in the higher-frequency ranges, which are not
transmitted as far as the lower-frequency noises produced by slower-speed prime movers such as
reciprocating engines. Most high-frequency noise produced by the turbine is generated in the air
inlet, with a smaller amount coming from the exhaust. The sources of noise and method of
attenuation are as follows:
Air inlet
The inlet silencer should be specifically designed to the noise profile of the gas turbine and the
site requirements. This silencer is installed in the air inlet ducting between the air filter and the
turbine air compressor inlet.
Exhaust
The exhaust silencer should be specifically designed to the noise profile of the gas turbine and
the site requirements. The exhaust stack height in conjunction with the silencer is an important
consideration. Discharging the hot exhaust gases as high as practical reduces the measurable
noise at ground level plus has the added benefit of reducing the chance of recirculation of the hot
exhaust back into the air inlet. Pressure loss (backpressure) on the exhaust of the turbine greatly
affects the performance of the gas turbine.
Casing/gear box/driven equipment
Sound-attenuating enclosure(s) can be installed directly over the equipment such as skidmounted walk-in enclosures or a building containing the equipment insulated to meet the
requirements or both.
Oil cooler
The most common method of cooling the oil is the use of air exchanger/fan coolers. These
generate fan noise that can be controlled with fan tip speed. The use of shell and tube water
coolers can be noise-efficient if the cooling media is available.

Types of gas turbines


Turbine designs can be differentiated by:

Type of duty

Combustor types

Shaft configuration

Degree of packaging

Types of duty
Aircraft turbine engines
Aircraft turbine engines or jet engines are designed with highly sophisticated construction for
light weight specifically for powering aircraft. These designs require maximum horsepower or
thrust with minimum weight and maximum fuel efficiency. Aircraft turbines have roller bearings
and high firing temperatures requiring exotic metallurgy. They can be operated on a limited
variation of fuels. When a jet engine is used in an industrial application, it must be coupled with
an independent power turbine to produce shaft power.
Heavy industrial gas turbine engines
The basic design parameters for heavy industrial gas turbine engines evolved from industrial
steam turbines that have slower speeds, heavy rotors, and larger cases than jet engines to ensure
longer life. These gas turbines are capable of burning the widest range of liquid or gas fuels.
Light industrial gas turbine engines
The basic design parameters and technology used in aircraft turbines can be combined with some
of the design aspects of heavy industrial gas turbines to produce a lighter-weight industrial
turbine with a life approaching that of a heavy industrial gas turbine. These engines are called
light industrial gas turbine engines.

Combustor types
Radial or annular combustor
This combustor surrounds the gas turbine rotating parts and is integral to the engine casing (Fig.
6). Aircraft turbines and light industrial gas turbines use this design.


Fig. 6Typical gas turbine cutaway.
Can combustor
This is a single- or multi-combustion system that is separated from the rotating turbine as
external combustion cans (Fig. 7). Designs using this type of combustor can burn a wider range
of fuels.

Fig. 7Typical gas turbine with can combustor (cutaway).

Shaft configuration
Single shaft
The gas turbine can have either a single-shaft or a two-shaft design. The single-shaft design
consists of one shaft connecting the air compressor, gas producer turbine, and power turbine as
one rotating element (Fig. 1). This design is best suited for constant-speed applications such as
driving electric generators for a constant frequency.
Two shaft

The two-shaft design has the air compressor and gas producer on one shaft and the power turbine
on a second independent shaft. This design provides the speed flexibility needed to cover a wider
performance map of the driven equipment more efficiently. This allows the gas producer to
operate at the speed necessary to develop the horsepower required by the driven equipment such
as centrifugal compressors or pumps. Fig. 6 shows a cutaway view of a typical two-shaft gas
turbine. Major components include the compressor, combustion system, gas producer turbine,
and power turbine. This design includes a two-stage gas producer turbine and a two-stage power
turbine.
Degree of packaging
The norm for most gas turbines used in industry consists of incorporating the gas turbine into a
base frame/skid with all the components required for the basic operational unit. This includes
such systems as the:

Start system

Fuel system

Lubrication system

Local controls

In some cases the gear box and driven equipment


Additional operationally required systems are all generally separate pre-engineered packaged
systems that can be provided and customized by the turbine manufacturer. Included in this
category are systems such as:

Air inlet filtration/silencing

Oil coolers

Remote control systems

Sound-attenuated enclosures

Exhaust silencers

Exhaust emissions
Deterioration of the atmosphere by gaseous pollutants is an important environmental issue. The
gas turbine by basic cycle design gives a cleaner combustion and produces a lower level of

pollutant compared with other prime movers, which is a major advantage. The gas turbine
pollutants that typically are regulated are:

Oxides of nitrogen

Carbon monoxide

Unburned hydrocarbons

Particulates

Sulfur dioxide
The solution to some, but not all, of these pollution problems lies within the gas turbine
combustor. A brief discussion follows.

Oxides of nitrogen (NOx)


Only two of the seven oxides of nitrogen are regulated: NO and NO2, referred to collectively as
NOx. Almost all emission concerns involving prime movers relate to NOx production and NOx
controls. The gas turbine is relatively clean compared with other prime movers. For example, gas
turbines burning natural gas generally produce 4 to 12 times less NOx per unit of power than
reciprocating engines produce. However, NOx is the major factor in permitting gas turbine
installations.

Carbon monoxide (CO)


CO is also at a very low level in turbine exhaust because of the excess air in the combustion
process. Therefore, it is usually not a problem. However, in some areas where the ambient level
of CO is extremely high or when water injection is being used for NOx control in the gas turbine,
CO may be a factor in obtaining permits.

Unburned hydrocarbons (UHC)


Unlike reciprocating engines that produce a significant amount of UHC, gas turbines produce a
low amount of UHC because the large amount of excess air involved in the gas turbine
combustion process completely combusts almost all the hydrocarbons. Consequently, UHC
emissions are rarely a significant factor in obtaining environmental permits for gas turbines.

Particulates
No particulate measuring techniques have been perfected that produce meaningful results on gas
turbine exhausts. This is rarely a factor in obtaining permits for gas turbines when clean fuels are
burned in the gas turbine.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2)


Almost all fuel-burning equipment, including gas turbines, converts all the sulfur contained in
the fuel to SO2. This makes SO2 a fuel problem rather than a problem associated with the
characteristics of the turbine. The only effective way to control SO2 is by limiting the amount of
sulfur contained in the fuel or by removing the SO2 from the exhaust gases by means of a wet
scrubbing process.

Emission control
The need to meet or surpass the emission standards set by federal, state, and local codes has
required industrial gas turbine manufacturers to develop cleaner-burning turbines. Dry emission
systems have been developed with lean-premix fuel injectors, special combustion technology,
and controls for reducing emissions of NOx and CO by creating lower maximum flame
temperatures and more complete oxidation of hydrocarbon fuels. All industrial gas turbine
manufactures have dry low emission products. The performance varies with the individual
product because of differences in combustor design.
These lean-burn systems reduce the formation of NOx and CO to very low levels, thus making it
unnecessary to use expensive high-maintenance catalytic converters to eliminate NOx and CO
after they are formed. In extreme high-attainment areas, it may be necessary with some gas
turbines to use selective catalytic converters to further reduce the level of NOx and CO. The fuel
of choice for the gas turbine is clean dry natural gas, which produces the cleanest exhaust.

Exhaust heat
Gas turbines have most of the heat loss from the cycle going out the exhaust. This heat can be
recovered and used to increase the overall thermal efficiency of the fuel burned. The most
common method of exhaust heat use is in the production of steam.