Asia’s growing energy demand is putting a strain on already limited resources. The region is experiencing strong sustained growth not only in exports, but increasing domestic demand as well.
The growth in domestic production has pushed up power demand by approximately 6 per cent per annum.
Energy producers need to be able to generate new capacity to meet existing and future demands. In the production of energy, technology advancement has made it possible to produce more energy from existing resources through harnessing residual thermal energy.
Energy producers face challenges in meeting the growing demand with the limited resources available. However, it is possible for them to increase energy efficiency by extracting more energy from existing resources.
Challenges of power generation
Cost of carbon emissions and fuel consumption
Fossil fuels are the most common source of raw material for power generation. Unfortunately, the combustion of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, for electricity generation results in high levels of CO2 emissions that are harmful to the environment. Environmental agencies have enacted hefty fines for plants that expel more than the regulated allowance. Energy companies are faced with the dilemma of having to produce more power, yet abiding by regulatory standards.
The highly volatile price market of fossil fuels also poses high costs of fuel consumption that energy companies are vulnerable to.
Barriers to entry for renewable/alternative energy
The awareness around renewable energy as an alternative source of power generation is high in Asia. However, the potential for alternative sources such as wind and solar energy is quite restricted for the region. The lack of strong, consistent winds and the thick overcast, due to the region’s geographical location, reduces the amount of direct solar radiation and potential wind energy that can be harnessed. The only potential lies in renewable sources such as hydro and biomass that cost more than fossil fuels.
The availability of natural gas in the region is increasing, fuelled by the growth in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals and the discovery of shale gas. Asia is already witnessing the growth of gas- fired power in the generation of energy. Today, Singapore generates 78 per cent of its energy from natural gas. Tuaspring Desalination Plant, which has an integrated natural gas-fired combined-cycle
power plant (CCPP), will be generating 411 megawatts (MW) of environmentally-friendly electricity for Singapore. Siemens will be supplying the power block and main components.
Getting more out of the source
Most countries in Asia-Pacific are operating combined-cycle power plants to increase the efficiency in sustainable power generation. This involves the inclusion of both gas and steam turbines.
Increase efficiency and output
In generating energy through gas turbines, residual heat is released during combustion. Solutions such as heat recovery steam generators harness the heat exhausted from gas turbines and converts this into steam that is used for the generation of additional electricity by a downstream steam turbine.
The use of the residual heat to generate more electricity increases overall output of the plant. Siemens achieved 60.75 percent efficiency at a capacity of 578 MW for the Ulrich Hartmann power plant in Irsching, Bavaria, setting a world record in CCPP technology.
By harnessing excess energy and not letting it go to waste, energy producers can reduce the fuel consumption. This increases efficiency and the energy generated from the same amount of fossil fuels. As a result of this increased efficiency, less fuel is consumed, lowering overall costs.
Cutting carbon emissions
On average, power plants worldwide emit roughly 578 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour. Environment and climate compatible fossil-fuelled plants are important to reduce carbon emissions for climate protection. With energy efficient solutions such as Siemens’ CCPP, emission rates can be cut down to around 330 grams per kilowatt-hour. This results in reduced CO2 emissions by 40,000 metric tons a year (which is equivalent to the emissions of 10,000 middle-class cars driven 20,000 km a year).
Another example in Singapore – In 2010, Siemens replaced PowerSeraya’s three oil-fired plants on Jurong Island with two high-efficiency combined-cycled units, thereby improving fuel efficiency by up to 75 per cent.
Generating for the future
Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources and run the risk of depletion in being utilized faster than they are replaced. Being the main source of energy, its shortage and continued demand will result in further price increase.
The best way to overcome this is to increase the efficiency of power plant operations and convert all energy, including residual output, into resources to generate even more energy.