Expert Santiago Bautista explains why "fast power" is especially important in Latin America and how it can be turned into long-term solutions. He sells fast power gas turbines and reports on how an Argentinian power plant generated power with new gas turbines within just six months of signing the contract.
Born and raised in Venezuela, and with more than 15 years' experience in the planning, construction, operation, and maintenance of thermal power plants, Santiago Bautista knows the ins and outs of South and Central American power systems: Today, Santiago Enrique Bautista Herman works as a sales manager for distributed power generation in Latin America. "The local energy landscape varies greatly from country to country, with technologies being dependent on the resources available. While Colombia and Brazil have a high proportion of hydropower – Paraguay even more so at 100% – Argentina, for example, has a large amount of natural gas deposits and mainly relies on gas-fired power plants in addition to wind and solar power plants. What's more, the markets are free and liberal to differing degrees," Bautista explains.
But there is one thing they all have in common: "Timing and rapid delivery are becoming increasingly important factors." Fast power supply helps to deliver energy to regions which are unable to wait for gradual development. It also helps to cover the short-term need for additional capacities in developed regions – the fast-growing demand for air conditioning, for instance, which causes the peak requirement in cities to soar. Power consumption in Argentina, for example, increases by about six percent every year. In order to meet this growing demand, the country has to invest extensively in new power plants. Bautista: "The faster the power flows, the better it is for customers."
Short delivery times guaranteed
That's indeed how it was in summer 2014. It was the summer of the fifth World Cup in Brazil. "My colleagues told me later," remembers Bautista, who joined Siemens one year later, "that they had an important meeting with a major Argentinian customer during an Argentinian game. And as luck would have it: Argentina won the game and Siemens the order – initially for the delivery of an SGT-800 gas turbine for a new power plant." The customer needed powerful, reliable equipment – within three months tops – to be able to fulfill their obligations towards authorities such as the Ministry of Energy, for example. "And Siemens delivered on time," Bautista confirms.
In 2015 he, too, set up shop in the open-plan office of the German group's premises in the Avenida Domingo in the Peruvian capital, Lima, where he joined the sales team responsible for products including the SGT-800 in Latin America. The SGT-800 and four other types of turbines are characterized by their extremely short delivery and installation times. "No more than half a year goes by from the time the contract is awarded to the time the system is connected to the grid at the customer's premises, for any of the turbines. That's really quick compared to time frames of a year or more for conventional projects, which is why it's called the "fast power" solution in this industry. And, unlike some competitors, we can actually guarantee these short delivery and installation periods," says Bautista.
To this end, the company keeps certain systems or parts for these turbines in stock, and employs a modular design along with standardized, pre-tested components whose compact design allows them to be swiftly transported and installed on site. Furthermore, these components can be flexibly used in a range of applications locally and easily expanded if needed.
The pace, however, depends on a number of aspects on the ground. If prior conditions are particularly good, i.e. so that no time-consuming preparations are necessary at the target location at the time the contract is concluded, and if the system is being connected to existing infrastructure, then said system could be up and running in less than six months. However, the opposite may also be the case. If it's still a wetland that needs to be prepared first, or perhaps a volcanic island on which special safety precautions have to be taken beforehand, then it may take longer. Ultimately, there is very little influence on the initial conditions at the target site.
From a gas power plant to a combined heat and power plant
In Argentina the infrastructure was not an issue. Since then, Siemens has delivered 12 further units of the SGT-800 gas turbines to the customer. According to Bautista, the customer was so satisfied that they expanded two of their power plants roughly one year later with three more steam turbines (three to one, two to one configuration Picture). The great thing about using these SST-600-series turbines is, what was originally a short-term energy solution has now become a long-term, sustainable and particularly efficient natural gas-driven combined cycle power plant. "The customer had this potential steam tailing expansion in mind from the start. As a result, the efficiency of the power plant has improved considerably reaching more than 50%. Aside from our guaranteed speedy delivery times, our coordinated gas and steam turbine portfolio together with the reliability of our products were therefore decisive in ensuring we got the very first contract," the engineer explains.
Siemens has already installed and commissioned the first units of SGT-800 in different regions in Argentina. At one site the customers operates 4 gas turbines on 2 steam tubines They generate a maximum of 150 megawatts of electrical power. The steam turbines are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2018, enabling the CHP plant, which will have a power generating capacity of 420 MW, to go into operation in 2019. Additionally, Siemens delivered four boilers for the project, two of these for 100-amp generators, the SIMATIC PCS 7 Process Control System for the gas turbines, as well as the SPPA-T3000 I&C system for CHP operation.
To date, Siemens has sold more than 30 gas turbine units in Argentina many of under "fast power" premises. The degree of reliability of the fleet installed in Argentina is 99.7 percent, according to Bautista. "Statistically speaking, that means we can expect an unplanned downtime of approximately just 26 hours per machine per year," says Bautista, doing the math. "Compared at an international level, that's a very good value. High product reliability is enormously important to our customers. For them, every hour of downtime is a loss."
Securing financing more easily
It goes without saying that the solutions, apart from being speedy and reliable, must also be affordable. "We don't just want to be a technology supplier, but a real partner to our customers," the Austro-Estonian mechanical engineer emphasizes. "That's why we offer an all-inclusive package, including extensive consultation and financing concepts tailored to individual customers' needs." Siemens Financial Services has decades of experience in this field. Securing financing can be the deciding factor in whether or not a region gets a new power plant.
“Fast power" solutions are on an upward trend not only in Latin America, but all over the world. They include quick-to-install and mobile power solutions of all kinds: mobile transformers, switchgear that can be delivered and set up rapidly, or mobile power plants based on the very mobile or modular pre-tested turbines we're talking about here.
One of the key aspects of the concept is that the systems have a high energy density. Size and weight are therefore low in relation to capacity, in order to make transport easier.
What is more, fast power supply from Siemens doesn't just come in the form of systems with a capacity of more than 50 megawatts; smaller turbines with lower capacities are also available. "This allows us to reach places that are unsuited to larger systems with higher capacity or that wouldn't be accessible otherwise," says Bautista.
Combined picture and media credits: Siemens AG
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