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NETL-Developed Fast Gas Analyzer Moves Toward Commercialization

A leading-edge sensing technology developed by NETL researchers designed to enable more flexible operation of gas-fired power plants is advancing toward commercialization as part of a partnership with turbine manufacturer Solar Turbines Incorporated.

NETL’s Raman Gas Analyzer provides the capability for real-time control of turbine machinery based on fuel composition. A cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with Solar Turbines provided testing to help advance this technology toward commercialization. Its eventual implementation will enable more flexible operation of gas-fired power plants, creating clean, affordable power from domestic fuel sources.

Natural gas-fired power plants make up a significant portion of America’s energy infrastructure. These plants mainly rely on combusting natural gas but can also combust a variety of other fuel gases, including syngas, coal bed methane, landfill gas, digester gas, associated gas and others. However, accommodating other fuel gases alongside natural gas has presented significant challenges for achieving efficient control of the combustion process. Real-time fuel gas composition sensing is needed to enable the turbine control system to adjust and maintain optimal combustion conditions.

This is where NETL’s Raman Gas Analyzer comes in. The advanced technology uses a technique called Raman laser spectroscopy, in which laser light interacts with molecules to provide characterization information about the gas. This enables a continuous readout of the composition of the gas being combusted, which can allow operators to better control the combustion process for more efficient energy production.

“No commercial technology has the combination of speed, accuracy and multi-gas capability as NETL’s Raman Gas Analyzer,” said Ben Chorpening, a researcher with the NETL Innovative Energy & Water Processes team. “Our partnership with Solar Turbines is a crucial step toward its eventual implementation in power plants across the country, where it can benefit the American people by improving and enhancing our nation’s energy production.”

NETL has constructed two field prototypes of the Raman Gas Analyzer that have demonstrated remarkable success in testing. In a separate partnership with Alaska-based company Oxergy Inc., NETL is also investigating the technology for its uses in supercritical water gasification and other applications.

Partnerships with NETL facilitate the commercialization of critical technology to help keep up with the demands of today’s expanding energy industry. Developing the technology surrounding home-grown energy sources like natural gas is invaluable in securing and enhancing America’s energy foundation.