A few years ago, the Wuhan Iron & Steel (Group) Company (WISCO), already China’s largest steel mill, was plotting new growth. The company needed to expand its power supply, but wanted to keep emissions in check. The mill’s managers looked at their options and found one they liked. They would make electricity from blast furnace gas [BFG], a waste gas made during the steel-making process.
Very few companies have the technology to pull this off and GE jumped at the chance. It quickly hit a snag. “Blast furnace gas is outside of the flammable range, it won’t burn in our combustors,” says Bob Jones, manager for GE’s synthetic gas products. Engineers at GE Energy scrambled for a solution. It was staring them in the face. WISCO makes its own coke and coke ovens produce gas rich in energetic hydrogen. They scrubbed the coke gas – it contains tar – mixed it with BFG, and pressurized it in rugged compressors using GE’s oil and gas technology.
What Waste?: GE technology generates enough electricity from WISCO’s blast furnace gas to make 20 million tons of steel and power 260,000 homes.
The mix clocked in at about 15 percent of the heating value of natural gas, enough to ignite inside GE’s fuel flexible synthetic gas combustors installed in the 9E Heavy Duty Gas Turbine. “They are the workhorses in the industrial segment,” Jones says. “We have hundreds of them out in the field.”
The first unit of the WISCO power plant opened in late 2009, and a second unit a year later. The plant is now working around the clock, generating 1 billion kilowatts hours of electricity, enough to make 20 million tons of steel and even kick electricity back to the City of Wuhan to power 260,000 homes. The technology also scrubs 2 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere and saves WISCO $32 million in annual operational expenses.
Key parts of the Wuhan power plant have been designed by American engineers in Schenectady, New York, and Greenvile, South Carolina. GE talked about the WISCO story and the technology behind it at AISTech 2012, a large steel industry gathering held in Atlanta last week. It built a website that illustrates how the power plant works. Find out more about it here.