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Floating Power Plants (FPPs)

David Waller's picture
President Waller Marine.Inc.

David Waller hails from the British Shipbuilding industry and educated at King's College, Durham Universitywith a BS in Naval Architecture. His intial years in the marine industry were spent in...

  • Member since 2003
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  • Sep 18, 2017

Based upon a renewed global interest in the application of floating power plants (FPPs) Waller Marine, Inc. has developed a series of new designs based on aero derivative and industrial gas turbines ranging from 100 MW simple cycle facilities to 850 MW combined cycle plants. Present interest stems from national utilities looking to expand their present capacities with more efficient generation to developers entering the unregulated generation markets and the installation of new distributed power in third world countries. These advanced designs bring a new capability to the power generation industry where a company can contract for a complete, tested, ready to go, manufactured power plant for fast track installation at a selected site. These designs have already successfully challenged old technological ideas of FPPs and their perceived limitations having now permitted an advanced engineering capability to design these larger capacity units. This development coupled with an expanded LNG market that is able to supply smaller scale capacities to fuel these units has given impetus to WMI’s capability of producing these new, efficient, clean burning floating facilities.

Historical Perspective         

Floating power plants (FPPs); clearly not a new idea, but one that is now seeing a significant resurgence as new generating technologies are being applied and natural gas fuels are becoming globally available.

Power Ship Sturgis

Considered as the first FPP, the SS. Jacona, a 20 MW steam generation vessel was constructed by Newport News Shipbuilding for the New England Public Service Company in 1931. This was followed by 30 MW steam barges built for the Army Corps of Engineers and a power ship constructed for the Navy for deployment in the Pacific Theater during the Second World War.  A nuclear powered ship, the Sturgis, was developed by the US Army for the specific purpose of deployment at remote, inaccessible sites and saw service in the Panama Canal Zone from 1968 to 1975.    

It is interesting to note that the largest floating power plant installation in operation today is in the New York area. Recently acquired by Eastern Generation, LLC, the two separate facilities located on the Gowanus Canal and at the Narrows in Brooklyn were constructed in the early 1970s with GE Frame 5 industrial gas turbines having a combined capacity of 992 MW. It is understood that there are plans to upgrade this FPP installation with new, modern, efficient technology that may permit the units to operate as a baseload generator in the future.   

Gowanus FPP Installation – New York

Interest in floating power was renewed in the late 1980s when the economies of countries began to expand and found themselves seriously short of electrical capacity. Power barges became the immediate answer due their fast production and simple installation and several FPPs were constructed during the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. These comprised simple cycle gas turbine barges ranging from 30 to 105 MW operating on diesel fuels and a significant number of medium speed diesel installations operating on HFO with capacities ranging from 30 to 120 MW.

The global population of FPPs today stands at some 70 units scattered around the world and is a mix of medium speed HFO diesel vessels, aero and industrial gas turbine installations. There are a number of large capacity PowerShips and barges recently developed by Karadeniz of Turkey; their latest units being fitted with tri-fuel (HFO, diesel & gas) medium speed diesel technology. Karadeniz has increased the FPP population considerably over the past five years with new installations worldwide, demonstrating the viability and need of FPPs in this modern world.

While Waller was one of the earlier designers and developers of HFO diesel power barges in the late 1980’s, the Company has concentrated on gas turbine generating technology in recent years. Initially designing and constructing small 30 MW simple cycle GE 6B FPPs for Nigeria the Company quickly advanced its capability to design a 220 MW, now upgraded to 250 MW, combined cycle FPP for operation in Mangalore, India. Based on GE LM 6000 aero derivative generating technology with heat recovery and a 54 MW steam plant this unit remains the largest capacity combined cycle FPP in the world.

220 MW Combined Cycle FPP - India

Pushing the technology envelope for barge mounting large industrial gas turbines WMI designed and constructed the largest single industrial FPP in operation today; the barge mounting of a 171 MW GE 7FA. The technology behind this achievement was based on the concept of isolating the gas turbine from the barge structure such that it doesn’t know that it’s supported on a structure subject to thermal variations. This installation engineered and constructed by WMI in the US supplies 342 MW of capacity to Caracas. Its engineering success has provided the basis for WMI’s designs for the larger F and H Class machines in combined cycle mode.


New Designs & Concepts

Modular designs of FPPs and their controlled manufacture in a shipyard provides opportunities to produce new concepts for power generation that have not been previously available. Significant advancement in the design of large combined cycle FPPs has been made with the application of multiple industrial gas turbine generator packages providing lower cost and highly efficient units up to 500 MW such as the four x GE 6FA combined cycle module shown below.

450 MW GE 6 FA.03 Combined Cycle FPP

Various options for this design include onboard cooling towers, LNG storage in the hull, LNG transfer capability and regasification; producing a compact self sufficient design that only requires a suitable mooring, fuel supply and connection to the grid.

240 MW GE 6FA .03 Combined Cycle FPP

WMI has also created FPP designs for operation in unusual locations with special operational requirements including designs named “Self-Elevating Power Plants” or (SEPPs). Such designs have been produced that utilize offshore gas resources complete with gas treatment processes, compression and subsea cable transmission to shore. Additionally offshore SEPP designs have been produced that are supplied by LNG fuels complete with storage and regasification plus high voltage AC or DC subsea transmission systems dependent upon distance and generation capacity.

500 MW Simple Cycle SEPP

LNG Fuels

Recent advances in the global availability of LNG, spot markets and the fuel’s associated cost, combined with the push for environmentally clean burning power generation worldwide has provided opportunities for small to medium scale combined cycle FPPs to compete with any other form of generation. The success of such a strategy is in a low cost delivery and storage system that eliminates the high cost of typical land based LNG import installations. WMI achieved this with its ATB LNG RV systems that combine the transport of LNG with storage and a regasification capability. Similar to trailer truck operation supplying a gas station this system having obtained Approval in Principle from the American Bureau produces a virtual pipeline system of supply to the FPP.

Virtual LNG Supply Pipeline

Originally designed for supply of LNG from the US to power plants and general distribution in the Caribbean and Central America, the system has found other service opportunities for small scale US coastwise distribution and as feeder vessels from offshore storage facilities. Designs now range from 3,000 m³ to 30,000 m³ capacities.

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