GRDA takes delivery of first M501J gas turbine deployed in western hemisphere

GRDA turbine elp

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas beat its deadline one month early in delivering a new, cutting-edge class of natural gas combustion turbine to Oklahoma.

The 350-ton M501J gas combustion turbine has arrived at the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Port of Catoosa, the inland-most point on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), which is buying the turbine to install in its forthcoming 495-MW combined cycle plant in Chouteau, Oklahoma, celebrated that delivery Wednesday at the port.

It is the first J-series turbine that MHPSA has deployed in the Western Hemisphere, although negotiations with GRDA started in Japan several years ago. This one was built at the Savannah Machinery Works along the Georgia coast before making the barge trek up the Mississippi, Arkansas and Verdigris rivers to Oklahoma.

“This helps us stay on the leading edge of what’s going on in technology,” GRDA CEO Dan Sullivan said in the ceremony marking the arrival of the turbine, while joking about the well-covered cargo, “It takes a little faith to believe what’s under that wrapper.”

Partners including Black & Veatch and Kiewit TIC worked with GRDA and MHPSA on making that leap. GRDA was considering options on how to shift its generating plants from 70 percent coal-fired to 30 percent when it landed on a combination of natural gas and wind power.

The M501J will be installed in the Grand River Energy Center as the main force in a 495-MW gas-fired combined cycle unit. This class of Mitsubishi gas-combustion turbines has an inlet temperature of about 1,600 C (2,900 F) making it extremely efficient in combined cycle operation, in which exhaust is used to heat a steam boiler for a second generator.

MHPSA President Dave Walsh said the result, compared to historic coal-fired units, will emit 67 percent less carbon dioxide, 96 percent less nitrogen oxide and 99.9 percent less sulfur dioxide. The turbine is expected to be commissioned in spring 2017.

“The benefit to the environment is enormous,” Walsh said Wednesday. “This is where green is at.”

He added that its capacity will generate enough power for about 500,000 homes. The J series, which has more than 20 units already in operation around the world, now has more than 200,000 operating hours at high efficiency.

“It’s tried and true,” Walsh said.

The M501J will be one of three new or adapted units operating at the Grand River Energy Center. The other two eventually include an existing coal unit being upgraded to meet environmental standards and another coal unit being converted to gas-fired power.

Charles Barney, assistant general manager for GRDA, was the project leader for the publicly-owned utility. He said the utility looked at numerous options once it decided to shift from primarily coal-fired power, adding that lowest cost option for customers in the long run was to have its own unit.

Barney would not give a dollar figure on the project, although he estimated that the cost will balance to less than $1,000 per kilowatt. He also marveled at what he believes the high-temperature M501J can do with its 23-to-1 compression ratio and other efficiencies.

Having seen the turbine series up close without Wednesday’s travel-safe shrink wrap, Barney also noted the precise finish, ceramic coating and other metallic nuances, going as far as to call it “a work of art.”

MHPSA’s Walsh said that GRDA’s order is just the first for the western adoption of the M501J. Dominion has three planned for Virginia facilities, while Iberdrola will put two in Mexico and another company is slotting two more for Canada.

This type of high-temperature, high-compression gas combustion turbine should be a long-term bargain for utilities regardless of what happens with the Clean Power Plan in the U.S. courts. The technology meets all of the present, proposed or “debated” regulations, he added, while also providing a major, reliable power source.

“For baseload, large-scale generation, fossil fuels, in particular natural gas, is really the future,” Barney said. “Renewables are not scalable to this level.”

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