Electricity Generation Project Takes Center Stage in Oklahoma

by Teresa Hansen

I live in Oklahoma, which is a leader in U.S. oil and gas production. Most of the energy news coming from the state, therefore, relates to oil and gas exploration, production and transportation (pipelines). Recently, however, Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility, made an announcement that will shine the spotlight on an Oklahoma electricity generation project. Dan Sullivan, GRDA’s CEO and director of investments, signed a contract with Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas for the purchase of a 501J combined-cycle natural gas generation unit.

GRDA, like many U.S. utilities, is retiring some coal plants rather than spending money to bring them into compliance with environmental regulations. And, like many utilities, it is replacing much of that retired coal-fired capacity with combined-cycle gas turbines. The thing that makes this project noteworthy is that GRDA didn’t buy an F-, G- or even H-series machine as the replacement. It instead made the jump to the J-series machine.

GRDA is the first and so far only utility in the U.S. to purchase this advanced combined-cycle gas turbine. The $77.8 million J-series unit–the largest gas turbine in the world, according to Mitsubishi Hitachi–will produce 495 MW of electricity. GRDA said it has the potential to be the most efficient of its kind in the United States.

Yoshihiro Shiraiwa, president of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas, (left) and Dan Sullivan, Grand River Dam Authority CEO and director of investments, shake hands after signing an historic agreement between the two organizations during a March 21 ceremony in Tulsa, Okla.

“This is an historic agreement for both GRDA and Mitsubishi,” Sullivan said during the contract signing ceremony. “This unit will be the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. It is state-of-the-art technology, and as a combined-cycle unit, it will operate very efficiently while providing low-cost, reliable electricity for GRDA customers for decades to come.”

Bill Newsom, Mitsubishi Hitachi vice president of new equipment sales and commercial operations, said a big feature of the machine is its efficiency.

“At 50 percent output, you’re still above 55 percent combined-cycle efficiency,” Newsom said.

Nine Mitsubishi Hitachi J-series machines are in commercial operation worldwide, including six in South Korea, but none in the western world.

GRDA plans to begin construction in 2015 and anticipates the unit will be operational by March 2017. The unit will be located at the Grand River Energy Center (formerly GRDA Coal Fired Complex) east of Chouteau, Okla., which is the location of the soon to be retired coal-fired plant it is replacing.

I’m excited to have a front-row seat to this project and share its progress with you. Sullivan told me a groundbreaking ceremony will be held later this year, and I plan to attend.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

Teresa Hansen, editor in chief

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