Energy Independence: Why Russia Needs to Produce Its Own Gas Turbines
Next year, Russia may become energy independent, not only in terms of resources but also in the production of equipment for electricity and heat generation. For the first time in the country’s history, a fully owned, high-capacity gas turbine will appear, created with the support of the RUSNANO’s Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs.
What Is a Turbine and What Is It for?
Gas turbines along with steam turbines are used in thermal power plants. A mixture of natural gas and air under high pressure is burned in the combustion chamber. Then the expanded gas (combustion products) is fed to the blades, which rotate under gas pressure, and due to this rotation, the generator generates electricity. Specifically, the GTD-110M gas turbine, created with the assistance of the RUSNANO’s Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs, is the first high-capacity gas turbine created entirely in Russia. It can be used in new or upgraded gas-fired combined heat and power plants (CHPP), which produce the most energy, and turbines for them are a guarantee of light, heat, and communication in our homes.
How Did We Live without This Turbine?
Since Russia did not have its own large-capacity gas turbines, they had to be purchased abroad—mainly from Siemens or General Electric, but also from Alstom and Mitsubishi. Power engineers either imported units from abroad or assembled them in Russia under a foreign license. Accordingly, the rights to the turbines belonged to foreigners. The CHPP modernization program was launched in 2009, and at that time the need for turbines was covered by foreign supplies. As part of the new program, it is planned to upgrade more than 40 GW of power capacity, which is about a quarter of all thermal generation in the Unified Energy System in Russia.
Why Can’t We Keep Buying from Abroad?
We still can, but only domestic developments ensure the country’s independence in terms of technology. Under conditions of political instability and supply constraints, this becomes strategically important. For example, when Russia delivered two upgraded turbines made by Siemens (Germany) to Crimea, the company tried to block the delivery through a court (though unsuccessfully), and the EU imposed sanctions on companies and people involved in the supply of turbines. After the scandal, Siemens decided to limit its work with state companies in Russia. The development of the Russian turbine is in line with Russia’s import substitution policy and the development of its own industry.
How Russia Created the Turbine
The development of a new high-capacity gas turbine began in Russia in the 1990s based on a turbine manufactured by Ukraine’s Zorya Mashproekt. But attempts to modify it were not successful. In 2013, the RUSNANO’s Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs, Inter RAO, and UDK-Saturn (part of Rostec) took on the task and created a consortium for this purpose. The total cost of the project was estimated at RUB 2.93 bln. After several years of complex teamwork, the turbine successfully passed its first tests. It was installed at Ivanovskiye CCGTs (Combined Cycle Gas Turbines), where the operating time of the turbine exceeded 5.7 thousand equivalent hours. Next year, it is planned to begin serial production—Rostec has created an individual subsidiary for this purpose.
How Efficient the Turbine Is?
It has a capacity of 115 MW and an efficiency of 37%, the characteristics that have increased as a result of finalizing the project, the Fund reported. “The sore spots that the turbine had before the modernization were cured,” said Yuriy Udaltsov, Deputy Chairman of the RUSNANO Management Board and member of the Executive Board of FIEP. According to him, there were malfunctions during the tests, but their causes were eliminated. The turbine blades can make up to 3,000 revolutions per minute. The weight of the unit is about 60 tons, and the turbine can run on both gas and liquid fuel—kerosene and diesel. The unit is being developed by Rostec’s ODK-Saturn (Rybinsk).
Is It Better Than the Foreign Ones?
Rostec stated that the GTD-110M was not inferior in its characteristics to the imported gas-turbine engines, including those from Siemens or General Electric. At the same time, it will cost significantly less, and the turbine itself will be smaller and lighter, making it more convenient for transportation and modernization of existing plants, the state corporation claimed. ODK-Saturn assures that the turbine offers the best combination of high efficiency, size, and turbine weight in the segment. It can be delivered to the CHPP fully assembled, which will significantly speed up delivery times. The advantage of the Russian turbine is also cheap maintenance. Foreign turbines are expensive to service while using a domestic unit is about 30% more profitable in terms of capital costs and twice as much in terms of subsequent maintenance, said Yuriy Udaltsov. “Inter RAO was ready to buy two Russian turbines for RUB 2.6 bln in the summer of 2020”.
Is the Turbine only Used in CHPP?
Not only that: it can also be used as a drive-in compressor stations to supply natural gas to liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants. This is an actively developing energy sector: Russian LNG is actively exported also to European countries. The first LNG plant was launched in Sakhalin in February 2009; since then, several more such facilities have appeared in the country.
What Is the Role of the RUSNANO Group?
The Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs acted as an investor in the project and invested about RUB 1 bln. The company was involved in the development of the unit. Plakart, a portfolio company of RUSNANO, which had created thermobarrier nanostructured coatings, also took part in its creation. “Inter RAO estimated the value of the RUSNANO’s share in the project at RUB 3.8 bln, taking into account a premium for risks and successes.”
What Are the Benefits for the Country?
In addition to achieving independence from foreign supplies of equipment, creating a proprietary domestic turbine has several other advantages. The processes of turbine development, production, installation, and maintenance entail the creation of new jobs. The complex engineering project will advance Russian research and development, which will become the basis for subsequent developments. Once the demand in the domestic market is satisfied, the units can be introduced to the international market: competing with Western counterparts and supplying their own turbines to other countries.