Gas Turbine Power Plants

How Gas Turbine Power Plants Work
May 9, 2013 – 12:21 pm

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.

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