Butane is a useful gas, with almost limitless applications. It’s used in lighters and portable stoves; it’s used as an aerosol propellant and a refrigerant; and now it’s being used in a world-first project to produce gas and electricity in Queensland.
The Capstone microturbine at the Wallumbilla LPG facility – five hours west of Brisbane – will make it the first gas site in the world to use a butane-fired, grid-connected microturbine to generate power onsite for site electricity demand, while exporting excess power to the grid.
It’s also the first Type B-certified butane-fuelled microturbine in Australia and the first microturbine to be connected to the grid in Queensland.
The microturbine replaces the three aging natural gas reciprocating generators on site, which were installed in the mid-1980s. It’s is expected save more than $800,000 per year, compared with the reciprocating generators.
Butane is a biproduct of natural gas production. The microturbine has an improved environmental footprint with decreased emissions and noise pollution – and, as the project’s Lead Electrical Instrumentation and Control Engineer Stephen McGachie notes, it will also generate revenue by supplying about 800kW of excess electricity to the grid.
‘The plant typically consumes about 200kW of electricity to run,’ Stephen said. ‘As we're only expecting to use about 20% of the electricity generated from the microturbine to power the plant, we’ll be feeding around 800kW excess into the grid.’
The decreased noise pollution is another major factor, particularly from a WHS standpoint; Head of Gas Operations Burk McCaul notes that visiting inspectors from the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy were able to hold a conversation with site staff while standing directly next to the microturbine.
The new microturbine is quiet – quiet enough to hold a conversation next to
‘It’s an innovative environmental improvement initiative,’ Burk said. ‘The project improves several operational needs, including the provision of stable secure power for the Wallumbilla facility, as well as ensuring continuity of gas supply to the Queensland network. The inspectorate was very impressed with the installation and how it integrates into the facility’s other systems.’
‘This is a representation of AGL’s strategy. We know what the future of energy looks like – renewables back by flexible storage technologies. One of the main drivers of the energy transition will be technology, and this project highlights how new technology and innovative thinking can improve both power security of supply and reduce energy costs – while reducing the site carbon footprint.
‘We’re pretty proud of it.’