Access to electricity is a key necessity in today’s World for economic growth and improvements in quality of life. However, the global challenge is addressing the so-called Energy Trilemma: how to provide secure, affordable electricity while minimizing the impact of power generation on the environment. The rapid growth in power generation from intermittent renewable sources, such as wind and photovoltaics, to address the environmental aspect has created additional challenges to meet the security of supply and affordable electricity aspects of this trilemma. Fossil fuels play a major role in supporting intermittent renewable power generation, rapidly providing the security of supply needed and ensuring grid stability.
Globally diesel or other fuel oils are frequently used as the primary fuel or back-up fuel for fossil-fueled power generation plants at all scales, from a few kiloWatts to hundreds of MegaWatts, and helps provide millions of people with secure electricity supplies. But diesel is a high polluting fuel, emitting high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of fuel input compared to natural gas, as well as high levels of combustion contaminants that are potentially hazardous to the local environment and human health. Additionally, diesel can be a high cost fuel in many countries, with imports consuming significant portions of sometimes scarce foreign currency reserves.
Most observers consider that natural gas is the ‘fuel of choice’ for fossil power generation due to its reduced CO2 emissions compared to coal and diesel. However, access to gas supplies cannot be guaranteed even with the increased availability of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Additionally where natural gas is available, operators may opt for an interruptible gas supply contract which offers a lower tariff than a firm gas supply contract, therefore there is a need for a back-up fuel to ensure continuous power supplies. While traditionally diesel or Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) has been used as fuel where gas is not available or as a back-up fuel, propane offers a cleaner and potentially lower cost alternative. This paper compares the potential economic, operational and environmental benefits of using propane as a fuel for gas turbine-based power plants or cogeneration plants.