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Turning emissions from a steel mill into electricity

Turning emissions from a steel mill into electricity

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General Electric engineers tinkered with one of the company's gas turbine designs to find a way to use emissions from a steel mill to generate electricity. The idea could help clean up China's skies.

General Electric engineers have devised a way to take emissions from iron and steel production and use it to power a gas turbine to generate electricity. The technology will now be put to work at a new 170-megawatt power plant at Handan Iron & Steel Group's mill in Handan City, China. Work on the plant is scheduled to begin next year.

Instead of burning waste gas in a boiler, the emissions from the factory's blast furnace and coke oven will power a GE 9E gas turbine to generate power. The waste gas was initially considered too low quality for high efficiency power generation. GE engineers got to tinkerin' and came up with a way to compress the gas and make it more burnable so it could be used to power a heavy-duty gas turbine.

"In effect, we re-engineered the fuel instead of re-engineering the plant," GE Energy Global Industries President Keiran Coulton said in a release today.

Granted, this is just one steel mill in a sea of inefficient, polluting manufacturing plants in China. However, as the Chinese government tightens regulations on steel mill efficiency and industrial activities, more technological solutions like this will be adopted.

This particular GE gas turbine was originally designed to burn a range of fuels including natural gas, crude, residual oil, syngas and biofuels. Steel mills can now  opt to use their own emissions to generate electricity. The technology has already been tested at another Chinese steel mill, GE said.

Photo: Flickr user fung leo, CC 2.0

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure