Today gas turbines and combined cycle power plants play an important role in power generation and in the light of increasing energy demand, their role is expected to grow alongside renewables. In addition, the volatility of renewables in generating and dispatching power entails a new focus on electricity security. This reinforces the importance of gas turbines in guaranteeing grid reliability by compensating for the intermittency of renewables.

In order to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals, power generation must be decarbonized. This is where hydrogen produced from renewables or with CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) comes into play, allowing totally CO2-free combustion. Hydrogen features the unique capability to store energy for medium to long storage cycles and hence could be used to alleviate seasonal variations of renewable power generation. The importance of hydrogen for future power generation is expected to increase due to several factors: the push for CO2-free energy production is calling for various options, all resulting in the necessity of a broader fuel flexibility, in particular accommodating hydrogen as a future fuel feeding gas turbines and combined cycle power plants. Hydrogen from methane reforming is pursued, with particular interest within energy scenarios linked with carbon capture and storage, while the increased share of renewables requires the storage of energy for which hydrogen is the best candidate.

Compared to natural gas the main challenge of hydrogen combustion is its increased reactivity resulting in a decrease of engine performance for conventional premix combustion systems. The sequential combustion technology used within Ansaldo Energia’s GT36 and GT26 gas turbines provides for extra freedom in optimizing the operation concept. This sequential combustion technology enables low emission combustion at high temperatures with particularly high fuel flexibility thanks to the complementarity between its first stage, stabilized by flame propagation and its second (sequential) stage, stabilized by auto-ignition. With this concept, gas turbines are envisaged to be able to provide reliable, dispatchable, CO2-free electric power.

In this paper, an overview of hydrogen production (grey, blue, and green hydrogen), transport and storage are presented targeting a CO2-free energy system based on gas turbines. A detailed description of the test infrastructure, handling of highly reactive fuels is given with specific aspects of the large amounts of hydrogen used for the full engine pressure tests.

Based on the results discussed at last year’s Turbo Expo (Bothien et al. GT2019-90798), further high pressure test results are reported, demonstrating how sequential combustion with novel operational concepts is able to achieve the lowest emissions, highest fuel and operational flexibility, for very high combustor exit temperatures (H-class) with unprecedented hydrogen contents.

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