UK to Gather Energy from Gas Pipelines Using Mini-Turbines

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Mini turbines will be installed inside the UK’s gas pipeline grid later this year in an attempt to gather energy from pipeline pressure. The set-up will be tested in east London and should produce 20MW by 2010. If successful, future installations across the country could produce up to 1GW. That’s the same amount of power produced by a coal or nuclear power station.

The UK’s National Grid and a company called 2OC have teamed up to install the turbo expanders, which generate electricity when gas pressure is reduced. Each expander is only 20cm in diameter, but can generate a relatively impressive 1MW of electricity.

The technology for turbo expanders has been around until the 1980s, but up until now it was too expensive to pursue. With rising energy prices, the expanders have become a viable option.

Costs may also be reduced by combining the turbo expander with a combined heat and power (CHP) engine that can generate electricity and heat. This could boost the CHP’s efficiency to over 70 percent. The CHP engine could potentially run using vegetable oil from local rapeseed or synthetic oil made from wood.

None of these ideas have been tested on a large scale, however, so tangible results are probably many years away.

Photo Credit: Flickr user rickz under a CC license

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