There is growing evidence to suggest that LPG will have an important role to play within the global Power Generation sector in the next 10 to 20+ years. As the trend towards renewables continues throughout many parts of the world, and with coal increasingly seen as a power generation source of the past rather than the future, the role of gaseous fuels as a lower carbon, flexible way to generate electricity has never been more important.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) anticipates a 50% growth in the demand for natural gas in the period 2016 to 2040 – with much of this growth associated with electricity generation, and a continuation of the trend away from using coal-fired power plants.
Where pipeline infrastructure exists in close proximity to the demand, natural gas is clearly the gaseous fuel of choice. However, many countries do not have an established network of natural gas pipelines. In countries where these do exist, infrastructure is often reserved for areas of high population density and/or centres of industrial activity, leaving more remote areas with little or no access to natural gas. In such cases, there is a clear opportunity for LPG to provide a solution for power generation – especially when new power plants are necessary to meet increasing electricity demand.
Over time, we expect natural gas grid infrastructure to expand in many regions throughout the world. However, in some countries, power shortages are becoming critical issues today and governments cannot afford to wait for five to ten years before natural gas pipelines are in place to fuel new-build power plants. Therefore, in a bid to provide security of electricity supplies, governments are increasingly considering the potential for using LPG as a ‘bridging’ fuel. In these cases, power plants fuelled by LPG are built – often with short one to two year lead times – but with a longer-term plan to convert to natural gas once the pipeline infrastructure is in place.
Once such example is the Bridge Power Plant, which is currently under construction in Ghana. This facility, which will ultimately have an electricity generating capacity of 400 MWe, is the largest power plant of its kind to be fuelled by LPG. The plant will use gas turbine generator sets with steam turbines in a CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) configuration. Once completed, it will represent over 15% of the country’s power generation capacity. In the short term, the plant will be run on LPG. However, the plant is ‘fuel-flexible’ with the intention to replace LPG with natural gas once the pipeline infrastructure is complete. There is also the option to fuel the plant with diesel should there be any disruption to supplies of either LPG or natural gas. This flagship project illustrates the potential for using LPG as a flexible, low-emission alternative to other fuel types within power generation facilities. Other, similar projects are expected to follow in the coming years as the potential for LPG becomes more understood.
In the future, there is also likely to be an emerging opportunity associated with the use of LPG Power Generation in combination with renewables such as solar PV (photovoltaics) and wind power. These ‘hybrid’ (or microgrid) projects are likely to be particularly well-suited to remote, or island, locations which currently rely on expensive diesel to meet their power needs. While this is not a topic explored within this study, it will likely be a focus area for future projects carried out by the WLPGA.