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Repowering our way to a decarbonised future

Legacy power-generation assets like coal-fired power plants can be given a new – and environmentally cleaner – lease of life through the adoption of newer technologies like repowering.

Repowering our way to a decarbonised future

Siemens Energy's SGT6-5000F gas turbine offers best-in-class emissions values and is one example of how they are contributing towards decarbonisation. Photo: Siemens Energy

Sea levels are rising and glaciers are retreating. Extreme weather events – like Hurricane Ian and flooding in Bangladesh – are becoming more common. Believe it or not, these are unmistakable signs of one of the biggest challenges of our time: The climate crisis is upon us. 

In February, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued a “dire warning”, stating that irreversible climate impacts are happening faster and with greater intensity than ever before, and called for urgent action to mitigate this. In addition, the 2022 Asia Pacific Energy Transition Readiness Index found that while many APAC business leaders and policymakers have lofty ambitions in this space, many likely require support as the region’s energy transition remains in its infancy.

The IPCC report highlights the need for an entirely new approach to energy production, said Siemens Energy chief executive officer and chief sustainability officer Dr Christian Bruch.

“For the first time, we recognise that we really need to change the boundary conditions. It’s not about introducing new technology. It’s not about saving a little bit of energy. It’s about a fundamental change in our approach to consuming and producing energy,” he asserted.

THE REPOWERING REMIT

Siemens Energy’s Brownfield Transformation solutions are a holistic approach to decarbonising legacy coal, oil and gas-fired power plants using existing assets and infrastructure. The company’s portfolio of strategies combines energy technologies and solutions such as repowering, which lay the groundwork for mid-term solutions such as plant hybridisation, ultimately paving the way for future net zero energy systems.

Brownfield Transformation forms part of Siemens Energy’s commitment to sustainability in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG7, which calls for “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” by 2030.

Repowering offers a range of benefits, including bolstering asset resilience for investors by equipping gas power plants with the ability to substitute natural gas with hydrogen over time.  According to Siemens Energy, repowering can potentially slash CO2 emissions by up to 70 per cent.

Repowering is based on the premise that the world cannot realistically rebuild energy generation from scratch. Rather, legacy assets viewed as burdensome today – such as coal power plants – must be repurposed as bridges to a new energy future.

The need for this is urgent. Coal-fired power plants, which contribute over 75 per cent of global CO2 emissions in the energy sector, are often at the centre of global conversations around decarbonisation. In the APAC region, for instance, coal use continues to grow as rapid economic development spurs demand for power.

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR FUTURE NET ZERO ENERGY SYSTEMS

Siemens Energy’s focus on harnessing gas power as a bridging technology allows immediate action to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In working with its customers, Siemens Energy found that every organisation is at a different stage of the energy transition. This calls for inclusive strategies that can help meet customers at different starting points while moving at varying speeds on the road to net zero.

Turning the ambitions of SDG7 into a reality within a short timeframe requires solutions that take advantage of different clean-energy technologies to help speed up the transition to cleaner energy use. This allows customers to tap into solutions that increase energy efficiency, leverage alternative energy sources like e-fuels and reduce CO2 emissions.

For instance, several solutions that reduce CO2 emissions exist. Some of these, like Siemens Energy’s BlueVault lithium-ion battery-based solutions, offer additional spin-off benefits.

Last year, Siemens Energy announced that two jack-up drilling rigs owned by Maersk Drilling were retrofitted with the BlueVault energy storage system. The use of these batteries meant that the rigs’ onboard internal-combustion engines were used less often. This in turn led to decreased CO2 emissions and use of fossil fuels, while increasing energy efficiency.

Carbon capture, use, and storage technologies take CO2 emissions from fossil power generation and industrial processes and either re-use these or store them deep underground. This prevents CO2 from entering the atmosphere, helping countries meet their energy demands and produce cleaner energy.

Siemens Energy’s Silyzer 300 proton exchange membrane electrolyser uses wind and solar energy to produce hydrogen.

Working with SWW Wunsiedel, Siemens Energy produced an electrolyser plant that helps generate “green” hydrogen from renewable energy which reduces CO2 emissions by about 13,500 tons per year. More efficient energy production solutions abound as well, like heat pumps that absorb thermal energy from existing low-temperature sources of heat – such as geothermal energy and waste heat from industrial plants. This generates more heat while consuming less energy. 

Such solutions lay the groundwork for future net zero energy systems and set a baseline for more advanced technologies that can be adopted for the long haul towards a lower-carbon future.

This is particularly relevant for APAC countries like Singapore, which are already gearing to incorporate forward-looking energy sources like hydrogen into their energy mix.

“The IPCC report has shown us that we have to move fast, and we have to move differently. We need to bring all stakeholders together to shift gears. The time to act is now,” declared Dr Bruch.

Find out how Siemens Energy is advancing affordable and clean energy through its innovative, future-focused technologies.

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