Wartsila to supply three dual-fuel engines for 50-MW project in Michigan

Wärtsilä said Nov. 20 that it will supply a 50 MW Smart Power Generation power plant to the Marquette Board of Light and Power (MBLP) in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The contract includes three Wärtsilä 50DF dual-fuel engines running primarily on natural gas, with light fuel oil as back-up. The equipment will be delivered in the autumn of 2016 and the plant is scheduled to be fully operational in early 2017.

“We have a reliability problem due to aging coal units, no firm transmission service, and the closure of a 400 MW power plant. Wärtsilä’s solution is reliable, efficient, flexible in fuel choice, and is also environmentally sustainable. It will support our compliance with upcoming CO2 regulations,” says Paul Kitti, the Executive Director of MBLP.

Marquette is located at the far end of the electricity grid in the western Upper Peninsula, and the ability to import power to the area is very limited. Kitti said the black start capability and instant ramping of the Wärtsilä units will be a highly appreciated aid in keeping the lights on year round – especially during the winter when temperatures can drop to –40 Celsius.

In addition, the power plant will serve as a new source of income for MBLP. “Thanks to the ability to bring up the Smart Power Generation plant in less than 5 minutes, we will be able to follow spikes in the electricity price and sell power to the grid,” said Kitti. MBLP is a municipal electric utility serving approximately 17,000 customers in Marquette county.

“This technology provides the most efficient, reliable, and flexible production of electricity available in the industry today. This asset will generate tremendous cost savings and benefits to the Marquette community for decades to come,” says Gary Groninger, Business Development Manager at Wärtsilä.  

Wärtsilä’s installed power generation base in the United States is approximately 4,600 MW and globally 58 GW. Wärtsilä is based out of Finland.

The MBLP, at its Wright Street Complex, will build this project, called the Marquette Energy Center. By using natural gas-fired units, the MBLP said in a fact sheet on the project that it will reduce dependence on coal and support compliance with upcoming CO2 regulations.

Wartsila engines meet the MBLP’s requirement of quick start (ramp up to 25% load in 2 minutes and full load in 5 minutes) anytime generation. Wartsila units can be cycled on/off without reducing time to the next overhaul. Wartsila units have a very low heat rate (7,260 btu/kwh), use only one gallon of water per week, and operate throughout their load range with no loss of efficiency. Wartsila units do not require expensive natural gas compression (a recent 120 MW combustion turbine project required over $5 million for gas compression), the fact sheet added.

Wartsila 18-cylinder RICE units are the largest internal combustion engines in the world and weigh nearly 300 tons and produce 25,000 horsepower. These large engines will be shipped from Italy to the Shiras Coal Dock where they will be loaded onto trailers and transported to the Marquette Energy Center.

The $65 million Marquette Energy Center will be located at the Office/Warehouse Complex at 2200 Wright Street. The existing pole and transformer yard will be re-located to the west side of the complex. The site is sized for three 18-MW Wartsila RICE units with space for a future fourth unit. Seven days of fuel oil storage for back-up fuel will be located on site.

The MBLP’s last generation project dated back to 1982, with the installation of the 44-MW Shiras Unit No. 3.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.