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ETN Young Engineers contribute to FLEXnCONFU project

ETN Young Engineers contribute to FLEXnCONFU project

In April 2020, the Horizon 2020 project – FLEXnCONFU [1] – officially launched, with the aim to demonstrate high-TRL level Power-to-X-to-Power (P2X2P) gas turbine systems fueled by green hydrogen (H2) and ammonia (NH3) blended with natural gas (NG) to reduce gas turbine carbon dioxide emissions and support intermittent renewable generation. The €12.6M FLEXnCONFU project, which stands for FLEXibilize combined cycle power plant through Power-to-X solutions using non-CONventional Fuels, consists of 21 partner organizations from industry and academia across 10 European countries, coordinated by RINA Consulting SpA (Italy). As partners in FLEXnCONFU, ETN has invited two members of its Young Engineers Committee, Dr. Daria Bellotti from University of Genoa and Dr. Jon Runyon from Cardiff University, to discuss how their research groups are contributing to this ambitious project to enable low-carbon gas turbine technology.

To learn more about the FLEXnCONFU project, be sure to register for ETN's upcoming webinar, "FLEXnCONFU: Power-to-X-to-Power solutions for flexible, carbon-free and efficient energy generation" on 3rd November 2020 from 12:00-13:00 CET. Registration is available at this link: https://etn.global/events/flexible-power-generation-etn-webinar-2nd-episode/

University of Genoa (UNIGE)

The University of Genoa [2], under the direction of the prof. Renzo Di Felice, prof. Loredana Magistri and Prof. Mario Ferrari, will lead FLEXnCONFU Work Package 4 – Advanced solutions for Power to Ammonia, supervising all the activities related to the development of the Power-to-Ammonia-to-Power (P2A2P) demo that will be installed at its Innovative Energy Systems (IES) laboratory. Moreover, being the leader of Task 4.5 – TRL6 lab campaign, monitoring, and model validation, UNIGE will be responsible for the micro gas turbine (mGT) demonstration test campaign. A simplified layout of the P2A2P demo is shown below. 

It is the integration of two different systems that work in a complementary way to improve grid flexibility. On one side, the innovative P2A system will be designed by Technische Universität Darmstadt and Proton Ventures to comply with the requirements of high flexibility and responsiveness, converting, and storing the electrical energy surplus into ammonia. The P2A system will be manufactured by ICI Caldaie as a modular solution inside a portable container to be installed at the UNIGE-IES lab, shown below.

On the other side, the A2P system consists of a Turbec T100 mGT, that, thanks to a new combustion chamber properly designed by RINA Consulting, will be able to use the stored ammonia to generate electricity when required. The NOx detector system will also be installed to evaluate system performance in terms of emissions. The UNIGE group will provide the mGT to be modified, available in a flexible test rig shown below, and equipped with several sensors to perform the experimental activities [3,4]. 

Once the P2A2P integrated pilot is installed, including the control system developed by MAS Europe, UNIGE, thanks to its experience in the field of innovative energy systems and process integration, will perform the test campaign to evaluate the system performance in terms of flexibility, efficiency, and environmental impact. The IES Lab is the proper environment to test the performance and the potentiality of the P2A2P solution due to the rig flexibility and the possible integration with the existing smart poly-generation grid of the Savona Campus [5].

Cardiff University Gas Turbine Research Centre (GTRC)

Under the direction of lead investigator Dr. Agustin Valera-Medina, Prof. Richard Marsh, and Prof. Phil Bowen, the GTRC [6] will lead on WP2 – Turbomachinery compatibility with non-conventional fuels and Task 2.3 – Experimental tests of NG+H2 and NG+NH3. To deliver this task, the GTRC’s experimental combustion facility [7] will be utilized to study the effects of H2 and NH3 blending on premixed methane swirl flames. This aims to characterize fuel effects on NOx formation and flame stability, quantified using a combination of industry-standard emissions measurement system, high-speed imaging (Phantom V1212 camera and SIL-3 intensifier, >10k frames/s, shown below), and dynamic pressure measurements. 

The combustion studies will be conducted at industrially-relevant conditions of elevated combustor inlet temperature and pressure using the GTRC’s optical pressure vessel and generic swirl burner, shown below burning a stoichiometric, premixed NH3-air blend at 25 kWth (‘zero CO2’!). 

Note the yellow-orange color of the pure NH3 flame, which differs from the blue flame typical of lean premixed natural gas combustion (as seen in the previous image above). Due to the lack of carbon in the fuel, the reactive CH* radical, which typically emits blue chemiluminescence at 432 nm, is not present in the NH3-air flame. Instead, the yellow-orange color is attributed to multiple bands of light emitted by the reactive NH2* molecule. We can filter and utilize this light to aid our study of the underlying chemistry occurring in these flames. This industrial experimental program will complement fundamental studies undertaken by Université D’Orléans and inform ammonia combustor development by RINA Consulting for the mGT to be operated at University of Genoa. The experience gained will also support high-TRL NG+H2 demonstrations in EDP’s 1.2 GW Ribatejo (Portugal) combined cycle power plant powered by V94.3 gas turbines. The FLEXnCONFU project builds on the GTRC’s ammonia combustion experience [8, 9] in projects including the Innovate UK Green Ammonia Demonstrator [10], the Welsh European Funding Office FLEXIS project [11], and the ongoing UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Storage of Ammonia for Energy (SAFE) - AGT Pilot project [12].

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ETN: @etngasturbine (Twitter), ETN Global (LinkedIn), ETN Young Engineers Committee (LinkedIn)

University of Genoa Thermochemical Power Group: TPG UNIGE (LinkedIn)

Cardiff University Gas Turbine Research S (LinkedIn)


[1] FLEXnCONFU, 2020, FLExibilize combined cycle power plant through power-to-X solutions using non-CONventional Fuels, link

[2] University of Genoa, 2020, Thermochemical Power Group, link

[3] Ferrari, M.L. et al., 2017, Experimental Dynamic Analysis on a T100 Microturbine Connected with Different Volume Sizes, Proceedings of the ASME Turbo Expo, link

[4] Ferrari, M.L. et al., 2019, Microturbine-Based Test Rig for Emulation of SOFC Hybrid Systems, E3S Web of Conferences, link

[5] University of Genoa, Smart Polygeneration Grid Savona Campus, link

[6] Cardiff University, 2020, Gas Turbine Research Centre, link

[7] Runyon, J. et al., 2020, Characterization of Additive Layer Manufacturing Swirl Burner Surface Roughness and Its Effects on Flame Stability Using High-Speed Diagnostics, Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines and Power, link

[8] Valera-Medina, A. et al., 2017, Ammonia–methane combustion in tangential swirl burners for gas turbine power generation, Applied Energy, link

[9] Pugh, D. et al., 2019, Influence of steam addition and elevated ambient conditions on NOx reduction in a staged premixed swirling NH3/H2 flame, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, link

[10] Knight, H., 2018, Ammonia goes green in carbon-free energy demonstrator, The Engineer, link

[11] FLEXIS, 2020, FLEXIS lead research into the world’s first ammonia/hydrogen gas turbine, link

[12] UK Research and Innovation, 2020, Storage of Ammonia For Energy (SAFE) - AGT Pilot, link

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