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Answering the call for cleaner power – with gas

Wärtsilä Corporation
Governments are hard at work looking for new ways of curbing greenhouse gases, industry is busy meeting increasingly stringent environmental regulations, and people everywhere are calling for more action on climate change. Wärtsilä technology is helping in all these areas.

A paradigm shift is under way in the energy world, and Wärtsilä is at the forefront of this change. The fossil fuel mind-set that has dictated the use of oil and coal for virtually all our energy needs for decades is being replaced with new ideas. Renewable sources, such as wind and biofuels, are becoming increasingly viable – both technically and economically. But the biggest change has been the rapid growth in the use of gas as a fuel, and it is here that Wärtsilä’s intensive R&D focus on gas power solutions is proving a winner.

Cleaner, quieter power plants

Large conventional power plants, often with a large emissions footprint as well, are gradually disappearing from the landscape and being replaced by less conspicuous, more efficient units, many of them running on Wärtsilä gas engines.

Wärtsilä gas-fired power plants are designed for optimal performance in a wide range of decentralised applications, including base load electricity, peaking power, and combined heat and power systems. These reflect the growing trend towards using smaller units, located much closer to the consumers they serve, rather than massive facilities serving entire regions.

Gas-powered plants can also be built in the middle of densely populated areas, as they have minimal emissions and easily blend in with their surroundings.

Wärtsilä introduced its gas-diesel technology in 1987, with the launch of the Wärtsilä 32GD engine. This was the company’s first gas-fuelled engine and represented a major technical breakthrough – making it possible to run a power plant on either gas or heavy fuel oil, with the ability to switch from gas to oil if the gas supply becomes unreliable. As the engine can tolerate significant variations in gas composition, it is ideal for utilising the associated gas generated as part of oil production, eliminating wasteful flaring.

Wärtsilä’s introduction of gas engines for electricity generation has changed the face of the industry. Launched more than 10 years ago, the Wärtsilä 34SG gas engine has become a benchmark around the globe.

The latest addition to the company’s gas engine portfolio, the Wärtsilä 50SG engine, with an electrical output of more than 18 MW, is the largest gas-powered generating set anywhere. The Wärtsilä 50G is not only powerful, but also highly efficient, and capable of achieving an efficiency rating of more than 50% in combined cycle mode.

The world’s largest gas-fired power plant based on combustion engines – and made possible by Wärtsilä technology – was commissioned in Aliaga in Turkey in September 2010. The plant has 28 Wärtsilä 20V34SG gas-fired generating sets, capable of producing 270 MW of electricity, enough to serve some 350,000 households.

All in all, Wärtsilä has installed power plants in 166 countries, with a combined output of more than 45 GW.

The Aliaga power plant in Turkey – with 28 Wärtsilä 20V34SG gas-fired generating sets at its heart – is the world’s largest gas-fired power plant based on combustion engines.

More sustainable shipping

Wärtsilä gas engines are also having a notable impact on the maritime industry as it adjusts to new global environmental regulations, such as the new sulphur content standards set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which are set to change forever the way that ships are designed, powered, and operated.

Wärtsilä’s gas and dual-fuel engines enable ships to comply with even the strictest of these new regulations. Their SOx emissions are virtually zero, their NOx emissions some 80% below current IMO levels, and their particulate emissions less than 10% of those of conventional marine diesel engines. Gas operation also normally generates 25–30% lower CO2 emissions.

This clean combustion performance is seeing Wärtsilä gas and dual-fuel engines become the units of choice for some of the world’s most environmentally friendly ships.

Operators of coastal vessels, such as passenger ferries and tugs, are increasingly looking at the potential for utilising liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel. The Wärtsilä 50DF engine is particularly well-suited to this type of usage and has been used in marine applications since 2005, when Wärtsilä introduced its dual-fuel propulsion technology. These engines have been powering a growing number of LNG tankers across the world’s oceans since 2006, when Gaz de France began fitting its vessels with this type of propulsion.

The right engine technology alone is not enough, however. LNG usage also requires on-board gas storage, handling, and integration systems – and Wärtsilä has developed the technology to make this possible, in the shape of products such as the modular LNGPac system, which has been optimised for use with DF engines.


Typical of the trend towards LNG propulsion is the conversion project announced for the 25,000 dwt product tanker, Bit Viking. Operated by Statoil, the vessel is to be fitted with Wärtsilä 50DF engines running on LNG, which will allow her to qualify for lower NOx emission taxes under Norwegian regulations.

“The benefits of Wärtsilä’s emphasis on gas power are being felt everywhere, 
in lower costs, greater efficiency, but most of all, in less pollution.”

(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)