Introduction :

The gas turbines represent the most satisfactory way of producing very large quantities of power in a self-contained and compact unit. The gas turbine may have a future use in conjunction with the oil engine. A gas turbine is used in aviation and marine fields because it is self-contained, light weight not requiring cool water and generally fit into the overall shape of the structure. Gas turbine is generally selected for power generation because of its simplicity, lack of cooling water, needs quick installation, and quick starting. It is used in oil and gas industry because of its cheaper supply of fuel and low installation cost.

The mechanical efficiency of a gas turbine is quite high as compared to I.C engine since the I.C engine has large number of sliding parts. Gas turbines are widely used for power generation than steam turbines because maintenance of steam turbines is costlier when compared to that of gas turbines, as well as the efficiency of steam turbine is comparatively less with gas turbines. In this writing, complete information regarding power generation in a gas turbine power plant is discussed. 

A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a type of internal combustion engine. It has an upstream rotating compressor coupled to a downstream turbine, and a combustion chamber in between.

The basic operation of the gas turbine is similar to that of the steam power plant except that air is used instead of water. Fresh atmospheric air flows through a compressor that brings it to higher pressure. Energy is then added by spraying fuel into the air and igniting it so the combustion generates a high-temperature flow. This high-temperature high-pressure gas enters a turbine, where it expands down to theexhaust pressure, producing a shaft work output in the process. The turbine shaft work is used to drive the compressor and other devices such as an electric generator that may be coupled to the shaft. The energy that is not used for shaft work comes out in the exhaunst gases, so these have either a high temperature or a high velocity. The purpose of the gas turbine determines the design so that the most desirable energy form is maximized. Gas turbines are used to power aircrafts, ships, trains, electric generators and tanks.

Working of Gas Turbines :

Gas turbines are comprised of three primary sections mounted on the same shaft: the compressor, the combustion chamber (or combustor) and the turbine. The compressor can be either axial flow or centrifugal flow. Axial flow compressors are more common in power generation because they have higher flow rates and efficiencies. Axial flow compressors are comprised of multiple stages of rotating and stationary blades (or stators) through which air is drawn in parallel to the axis of rotation and incrementally compressed as it passes through each stage. The acceleration of the air through the rotating blades and diffusion by the stators increases the pressure and reduces the volume of the air. Although no heat is added, the compression of the air also causes the temperature to increase. 


The compressed air is mixed with fuel injected through nozzles. The fuel and compressed air can be pre-mixed or the compressed air can be introduced directly into the combustor. The fuel-air mixture ignites under constant pressure conditions and the hot combustion products (gases) are directed through the turbine where it expands rapidly and imparts rotation to the shaft. The turbine is also comprised of stages, each with a row of stationary blades (or nozzles) to direct the expanding gases followed by a row of moving blades. The rotation of the shaft drives the compressor to draw in and compress more air to sustain continuous combustion. The remaining shaft power is used to drive a generator which produces electricity. Approximately 55 to 65 percent of the power produced by the turbine is used to drive the compressor. To optimize the transfer of kinetic energy from the combustion gases to shaft rotation, gas turbines can have multiple compressor and turbine stages.

Because the compressor must reach a certain speed before the combustion process is continuous – or self-sustaining – initial momentum is imparted to the turbine rotor from an external motor, static frequency converter, or the generator itself. The compressor must be smoothly accelerated and reach firing speed before fuel can be introduced and ignition can occur. Turbine speeds vary widely by manufacturer and design, ranging from 2,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) to 10,000 rpm. Initial ignition occurs from one or more spark plugs (depending on combustor design). Once the turbine reaches self-sustaining speed – above 50% of full speed – the power output is enough to drive the compressor, combustion is continuous, and the starter system can be disengaged.

Working of Gas Turbine Power Plants :

The combustion (gas) turbines being installed in many of today's natural-gas-fueled power plants are complex machines, but they basically involve three main sections:

  • The compressor, which draws air into the engine, pressurizes it, and feeds it to the combustion chamber at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour.
  • The combustion system, typically made up of a ring of fuel injectors that inject a steady stream of fuel into combustion chambers where it mixes with the air. The mixture is burned at temperatures of more than 2000 degrees F. The combustion produces a high temperature, high pressure gas stream that enters and expands through the turbine section.
  • The turbine is an intricate array of alternate stationary and rotating aerofoil-section blades. As hot combustion gas expands through the turbine, it spins the rotating blades. The rotating blades perform a dual function: they drive the compressor to draw more pressurized air into the combustion section, and they spin a generator to produce electricity.

Land based gas turbines are of two types: (1) heavy frame engines and (2) aeroderivative engines. Heavy frame engines are characterized by lower pressure ratios (typically below 20) and tend to be physically large. Pressure ratio is the ratio of the compressor discharge pressure and the inlet air pressure. Aeroderivative engines are derived from jet engines, as the name implies, and operate at very high compression ratios (typically in excess of 30). Aeroderivative engines tend to be very compact and are useful where smaller power outputs are needed. As large frame turbines have higher power outputs, they can produce larger amounts of emissions, and must be designed to achieve low emissions of pollutants, such as NOx.

One key to a turbine's fuel-to-power efficiency is the temperature at which it operates. Higher temperatures generally mean higher efficiencies, which in turn, can lead to more economical operation. Gas flowing through a typical power plant turbine can be as hot as 2300 degrees F, but some of the critical metals in the turbine can withstand temperatures only as hot as 1500 to 1700 degrees F. Therefore, air from the compressor might be used for cooling key turbine components, reducing ultimate thermal efficiency.

Gas turbines have a very high power to weight ratio and are lighter and smaller than internal combustion engines of the same power. Though they are mechanically simpler than reciprocating engines, their characteristics of high speed and high temperature operation require high precision components and exotic materials making them more expensive to manufacture.

Applications :

Gas turbine Power Plants can be used for large scale power generation. Examples are applications delivering 600 MW or more from a 400 MW gas turbine coupled to a 200 MW steam turbine in a co-generating installation. Such installations are not normally used for base load electricity generation, but for bringing power to remote sites such as oil and gas fields. They do however find use in the major electricity grids in peak shaving applications to provide emergency peak power.

Low power gas turbine power plants generating sets with capacities up to 5 MW can be accommodated in transportation containers to provide mobile emergency electricity supplies which can delivered by truck to the point of need.