For many industries that rely on power plants to operate, gas turbines and gas engines are both efficient options for generating power. For combined heat and power devices as well as co-production CHP installations, both gas turbines and gas engines prove reliable and are used across various industries. Manufacturers and people in industries such as textiles, food processing, petrochemical refining, pharmaceuticals, electric utilities, and refining rely on one of these two power sources for their distributed generating systems. The quality of gas turbines and gas engines alike have improved over the years, yet for every application, one choice is superior to the other. This blog will explore the defining features and differences between gas turbines and gas engines so you are informed when purchasing a power source. A few distinguishing factors to consider include usage amounts, functionality, & performance.
Gas turbines obtain their energy from a combustion reaction and offer lower electrical efficiencies than gas engines, with the former ranging between efficiency values of 29% and 33% and the latter around 49%. Gas turbines are also referred to as combustion engines, because the combustion reaction turns the turbine to produce mechanical energy through thrust. This powers a generator which in turn produces an electric current. When producing energy, gas turbines rely on rotary motion, which means they produce less vibrations than gas engines. Additionally, they have less components, making them easier to maintain; however, they are much larger than engines at around 3 MW.
Gas engines are internal combustion engines and can rely on the expansion, combustion, or production of gas. They are often connected to other engines in power plants to form generating sets. Unlike gas turbines, gas engines contribute to CO2 reduction because they rely on natural gasses and city gasses rather than fossil fuels. Engines obtain power from the Otto cycle and rely on spark plugs that ignite the fuel. These heat sources are frequently hot oil, exhaust gas, or a gas-fuel mixture. While both technologies operate in slightly different manners, gas powered systems find value in both for different reasons.
In addition to size and electrical efficiency, it is important to consider a few differences when deciding between a gas turbine or gas engine. First, gas engines have significantly lower exhaust heat; however, they reach almost double the level of NOx emissions than gas turbines at around 57 ppm. Start up times are lower for gas engines which should be turned on 10 minutes prior to use. Gas turbines take a little longer at around 20 minutes of start up time. Lastly, the cogeneration efficiency is about 10% higher in gas turbines.
Gas engines are gaining popularity on the market as they are easier to maintain and offer rapid ramp-up/ramp-down rates; however, each technology is popular among consumers searching for reliable electrical and thermal options. Both designs have economic value and are used across various CHP applications, including power utilities, hospitals, universities, district heating, seawater desalination, food processing, textiles, petrochemical refining, chemical processing, pharmaceuticals, pulp, and paper, and general construction.
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