World's first trial run: Viennese gas turbine ready for hydrogen


Wien Energie, RheinEnergie, Siemens Energy and VERBUND are testing the use of hydrogen under real conditions – Donaustadt power plant is being prepared for admixture in 2023

By 2040, natural gas should have been completely replaced by climate-neutral sources of energy for the generation of electricity. For this reason, one of Austria's biggest gas turbines is currently being converted on the site of the Donaustadt power plant. In 2023, Wien Energie, RheinEnergie, Siemens Energy and VERBUND want to admix hydrogen for the generation of energy for the first time as part of a trial run. This trial is the first of its kind in the world on a commercial gas and steam turbine plant at this high level of output and efficiency. The collaborating partners are looking to obtain important findings from the trial for the conversion of combined heat and power plants to green sources. The conversion of the turbine is the first milestone of the project. The gas turbine itself is thus ready for the admixture of hydrogen. 
"The climate crisis will not be solved through talk alone! The conversion of the gas turbine and the world's first hydrogen trial run at the Donaustadt power plant are important steps for more climate protection and independence. In the future, we will also need power plants for the reliable supply of energy in the city. With the trial run, we are working with our collaboration partners on a specific solution for how we will be able to operate these facilities climate-neutrally in the future," explains Michael Strebl, chairman of the executive board of Wien Energie. 

Turbine conversion work completed by the middle of July

In addition to preparing for the admixture of hydrogen, Wien Energie can also increase the efficiency of the power plant by a total of around 23 megawatts, thanks to the turbine conversion. The conversion work will include improved turbine blades, a new combustion system, a heating gas analyser and a new control system. The combustion chamber has also been optimised and prepared for the trial run.
The conversion of the gas turbine, which started at the beginning of May and will be completed in the middle of July, is being carried out by Siemens Energy.  

Climate protection cooperation with a big impact

Wien Energie, RheinEnergie and VERBUND all use Siemens Energy gas turbines of type 4000F. As gas and steam turbine plants, these facilities are able to generate heat and electricity around the clock. Their flexibility will also be urgently needed in the future: the turbines can balance out daily fluctuations and seasonal production differences in the renewable electricity generation of wind and solar power. 

"We are testing and researching here together the use of hydrogen in the existing infrastructure of a thermal power plant, in order to advance the decarbonisation of the gas sector and reduce our dependence on fossil imports," says VERBUND Executive Board member Achim Kaspar. "That is more important than ever today."

The trial run can have a big impact on the conversion of power plants to climate-neutral sources worldwide. An admixture of just 15 percent of green hydrogen by volume would save around 33,000 tonnes of CO2 annually at the Donaustadt power plant, for example. The plant type in which the admixture is being tested carries in its class the main load of the supply on the electricity market in Austria and specifically for the supply area of Vienna. More than 115 gas turbines of this class are in operation in Europe with an installed capacity of more than 31 gigawatts.  

Initial results are expected at the end of 2023

The admixture of hydrogen should be tested in summer 2023. Further preparations will take place before then: the installation of the necessary hydrogen infrastructure, such as a technical supply facility and various measurement and analysis stations. The collaborating partners expect initial results from the trial and analysis at the end of 2023. In total, Wien Energie, RheinEnergie, Siemens Energy and VERBUND are investing around €10m in the project; grants have also been applied for, in order to be able to implement the project to its full extent.  

About the Donaustadt power plant

The Donaustadt power plant in Vienna is one of Austria's most modern combined heat and power plants. The power plant was commissioned by Wien Energie in 2001 and generates up to 350 megawatts of heat and up to 395 megawatts of electricity. In combined operation, efficiency is 86 percent; the conversion of the gas turbine will increase efficiency by a further 0.6 percent. The plant is therefore particularly efficient. In 2020, the Donaustadt power plant produced electricity for 850,000 households and heat for more than 150,000 households. 
Ingun Metelko Ingun Metelko

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