The changes in U.S. electricity supply and usage levels are rapidly reshaping utility load profiles and thus generation and transmission requirements for both new and existing resources.
The recent discovery of relatively cheap natural gas in the U.S. and growing use of the fuel as a baseload power generation source has also coincided with the rapid adoption of renewable resources in many parts of the U.S. These new components of the electricity supply stack continue to displace more traditional and older forms of baseload power generation, coal and nuclear units, for both economic and public policy motivations. Unfortunately, these growing pieces of the U.S. generation supply side all are subject to weather related intermittency.
The market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) is booming. International LNG trade is expected to exceed $120 billion this year, making it second only to oil as the most valuable world commodity, according to Goldman Sachs Group.
Demand for the product positions the United States – with its abundant natural gas — nicely to build an LNG export market. This is a big switch from a decade ago when the U.S. was experiencing tight energy supplies and thought by now it would rely on foreign LNG imports.
As a result of the industry shift, we are seeing keen market interest in development of liquefaction plants in the U.S. (and other parts of the world). The nation now has plants under construction to produce 44.1 million tons per annum (MTPA) of LNG and has proposed an additional 268 MTPA of capacity.
LNG plants can cost in excess of $8 billion to site, develop and build. So efforts are underway to make these new plants as cost-effective as possible – which is one of the reasons why the LNG industry is examining Turbine Inlet Air Chilling (TIAC).
In an ideal world, the most efficient equipment would also cost the least to buy and install. But in the real world that’s usually not the case.
Equipment often runs more efficiently because it’s made from higher grade materials. Higher grade materials cost more.
Anyone who has priced home air conditioning systems is aware of this. But as Energy Star labels often reveal, lower electric bills offset the higher cost to purchase the AC system over time. The efficiency pays off by making the house cheaper to operate.
A similar principle applies to turbine inlet air chilling (TIAC) systems for power plants, but on a much larger financial scale. Lower capital costs (capex) may mean higher operating expenses (opex). That’s why it’s important to consider the total lifecycle costs — and how to minimize them — when investing in a TIAC system.