When it comes to gas turbines, General Electric (GE) has repeatedly proven itself to be the worldwide leader. 73 years ago this July marks the first of many milestones with gas turbine innovation that GE is responsible for. It was in 1949 in Oklahoma City at the Belle Isle Station that GE put into commercial use its 3.5 megawatts (MW) gas turbine.
Over the past eight decades, GE has positioned itself as the worldwide leading manufacturer of not only gas turbines but also generators, condensers, and other large-format plant mechanical fixtures. Let’s go back in time and take a brief look at GE’s transformation from that first commercial gas turbine to the extensive power generation line-up it has today.
Many of these gas turbines are still in operation today and are serviced by Allied Power Group to maintain the reliability, output, and efficiency that customers have been accustomed to since their first hour of operation. As we look to the future, APG wants to be your partner for maintenance, modifications, and upgrades.
General Electric 3.5 MW Gas Turbine (1949)
The 3.5-MW gas turbine, also known as the Frame 3 unit, was GE’s first commercial power generating gas unit. It was installed to support the existing steam turbine at Belle Isle Station, owned by the Oklahoma Power and Electric Company. This unit exceeded design expectations as it routinely provided an electrical output far above its 3,500 kW rating. On many days its output reached 5,000 kW with an average of 4,200 kW daily over the three years from July 1949 to July 1953. Of special note is also how the exhaust from the unit was used to help power the adjacent steam turbine. This “combined cycle” setup was a first for the United States.
GE 5 MW Gas Turbine “Kilowatt Machines” (1951)
In 1951, Rutland, Vermont, become the recipient of three (3) 5 MW gas turbines based on the Frame 3 design but with some enhancements. These were a two-shaft variation giving the units twin recuperators and intercoolers. These became known as the “kilowatt machines”.
GE Blackout Busters (1967)
In 1967, in response to increased electric grid regulation, GE installed the first dedicated, combined-cycle plants in Ontario, Canada. For the City of Ottawa, it was the GE 11-MW FS3 model gas turbine and for Wolverine Electric of Ottawa, the 21-MW FS5 model was chosen. The Great Northeast Blackout in the fall of 1965 prompted regulators to require utility companies to install quick starting and compact power generating plants which would increase system reserve margins and help halt a blackout.
GE Frame 5 Upgrade (1970)
Frame 5 gas turbine model variations continued to be highly sought after not only by utility companies but also by industrial plants and factories. In response to a specific power consumption need, GE upgraded its Frame 5 gas turbine plant design to have the highest output rating yet of 24-MW. This install was for a smelting facility in Bahrain and was followed by many more.
GE Frame 7 Turbine (1970, 1971, 1972)
A new design emerges, the MS7000, which is a Frame 7 turbine. It’s rated at 47.2-MW. This prompts working with Alstom on the Frame 9 turbine, a 50 Hz design. This leads to several successful turbine lines developed in the 1970s including the 7E which was first put in service in Shoreham, UK, and the 7B rated at 51.8-MW.
GE Frame 9 (1975)
The GE Frame 9 debuts for the French utility company, EDF, with an 80.7-MW rating.
GE Frame 6B (1978)
The Glendive station of the Montana-Dakota Utilities system sees the first 6B turbine installed. This becomes the first of many hundreds installed around the world and is still in use to this day. With ongoing line upgrades and technology improvements, the 6B model continues to be a competitive option in the gas turbine marketplace.
GE F-Class Machines (1990)
In 1990, the first F-class machine was installed at the Chesterfield Power Station for the Virginia Electric and Power Company. For simple cycle service, it was rated for 147-MW, whereas in combined cycle mode, the output regularly reached 214-MW. With more than 1,500 turbines installed, the F-class has proven to be one of the most versatile gas turbine lines for GE and is currently available in simple and combined cycle models with outputs from 51-MW to over 1,000-MW.
GE H-Class Turbines (2003)
In 2003, Baglan Bay Power Station in Wales gets a 9H 480-MW single-shaft combined cycle turbine plant, the first H-class system. The H-class systems were a huge leap in technology but due to high initial startup and maintenance costs, they were discontinued. The silver lining of this cloud was that GE’s H-class system sparked and fueled more competition in the large turbine marketplace which led to technological innovations throughout the industry.
GE Frame 6C (2003)
First introduced in 2003 with a 42-MW model, the GE Frame 6C leads the way for combined cycle and cogeneration efficiency for turbines less than 100-MW. Remarkably, in cogeneration mode, it can reach rates of more than 80% efficiency, and in 2×1 combined-cycle operation, over 58% efficiency.
GE 9HA & 7HA Air-Cooled Turbines (2014)
With the release of two new H-class turbines, the 9HA and 7HA, GE showcased its advancements in manufacturing, aerodynamics, and materials. With a range of 290-MW to 571-MW, these air-cooled turbines offered great versatility in application. Combined with integrated software and onboard analytics, these turbines continue to set new efficiency records.
PSEG became the proud owners of the first dual-fuel H-class turbine. This 540-MW plant can operate on either natural gas or ultra-low-sulfur distillate fuel oil.
The latest in the 7HA turbine series, the 03 model is rated for single-cycle mode at 430-MW marking a sizable leap from the 02 models. For combined-cycle operation, it offers 640-MW with an efficiency of 63.9%.
In 2021, the first two GE 9HA.02 turbines begin operating at the Track 4A plant in Malaysia. With advancements in combustion and the premixing fuel nozzles, the combined cycle efficiency is greater than 64% and the 9HA.02 is rated for 575-MW.