GE gas engine hits milestone at biogas power plant

By GE Energy | August 21, 2012

Powered by GE gas engine technology, a combined heat and power (CHP) plant at Germany’s Bitburger Brauerei brewery has surpassed 50,000 hours of successful operation. Based on an ecomagination-qualified Jenbacher J312 gas engine, the plant converts biogas into electricity, steam and hot water to meet the brewery’s process requirements.

Since it began operating in 2005, the CHP facility has improved electricity supply for the brewery, reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an equivalent of 10,000 tons and demonstrated higher efficiency and economy compared to the site’s previous steam boiler technology by using biogas.

Biogas, created as by-product during the wastewater treatment process following beer production, is burned by the Jenbacher engine to produce electricity and heat. This efficient operation has enabled the brewery to realize prime energy savings of about 10 percent. The project is an example of GE’s ecomagination commitment to provide innovative solutions that maximize resources, drive efficiencies and help make the world work better.

“The use of GE’s Jenbacher CHP technology enables us to meet our energy and environmental goals while also reducing costs. The project builds on a strong relationship between our companies that has included the purchase of several Jenbacher engines during the past 20 years,” said Johannes Hankes, head of central engineering of the Bitburger Brewery. “For example, two of GE’s Jenbacher engines are installed near the Jenbacher J312 gas engine, operating in mechanical drive applications.”

The Bitburger Brewery is located in Bitburg, Germany, near Trier and the Luxembourg border. Founded in 1817, today it ranks among Germany’s best-selling breweries. The Bitburger Group operates five breweries in Germany.

“Working with Bitburger allowed us to develop a customized technology solution that met their specific needs,” said Rafael Santana, president and CEO of Gas Engines for GE Energy. “Our gas engine technology provides a high degree of fuel flexibility with the capability to operate on a wide range of gases such as biogas or natural gas for the Bitburger brewery. Its proven reliability and availability are keys to achieving the successful 50,000-hour operating milestone.”

The Jenbacher J312 gas engine at the brewery produces 624 kW of electricity and 700 kW of thermal power, including 330 kW of steam. The option to run the engine either on biogas resulting as a by-product of the production process or natural gas allows the brewery to run independently and operate smoothly in case the grid fails.

Like the other members of GE’s type-3 gas engine group, the J312 offers low fuel consumption, ensuring maximum efficiency of up to 90 percent, along with a high degree of technical maturity and reliability.

In all, GE has supplied about 2,200 Jenbacher engines for on-site power projects in Germany, representing more than 18 percent of GE’s globally installed Jenbacher fleet. Combined, these units generate electricity equivalent to the amount used by about 3 million average E.U. homes.

The successful collaboration at the Bitburger Brauerei is an example of GE’s focus on the global food and beverage sector by bringing energy management, CHP and other waste-to-value solutions to the industry, benefitting the companies involved in addition to their surrounding communities. The Bitburger Brewery project also illustrates how GE’s comprehensive suite of distributed power solutions—ranging in size from 100 kW to 100 MW—is helping customers worldwide to generate more reliable, on-site electricity and heat.

Breweries are a traditional segment for distributed power generation to meet on-site power needs. In general, CHP applications are growing in Germany specifically to support the country’s energy turnaround efforts, as well as throughout Europe, based on the CHP incentives that are a key part of the European Union’s 20-20-20 initiative.