Gas to electricity

Natural gas is a pretty good choice for supplying Australia with steady reliable power, 24 hours a day (also known as baseload power), as well as helping us meet peak electricity demands. 

So, why is it a good choice? And how does it help? Let’s start at the beginning, and discover how gas makes electricity…

There are two main types of power stations used to turn natural gas into electricity. 

  1. Open cycle – natural gas is burned to produce pressurised gas which spins the blades of a turbine connected to a generator. Inside the generator, magnets spin, causing the electrons in wires to move, creating an electrical current, generating electricity.
  2. Combined cycle – in addition to burning gas to turn a turbine, combined cycle power plants also use the waste heat to boil water and produce steam which drives a second turbine, generating more electricity. This means that combined cycle power plants are generally more efficient than open cycle, generating around 50 percent more electricity.

Combined cycle power stations are generally used every day to supply baseload power. Whereas open cycle stations are ideal during periods of high peak demand, where the power system is stretch to its limits, such as on hot summer days.

This quick video explains the process. 

How is Natural Gas used to Generate Electricity?

In Australia’s National Electricity Market, natural gas generates about 12 percent of the electricity, while the majority (73 percent) still comes from coal and the remaining 15 percent from renewable energy sources.1

Unlike renewable energy sources, using natural gas to generate electricity does produce some greenhouse gases; however the emissions are around half of those produced from traditional coal-fired generators. This is why gas is sometimes referred to a ‘transitionary’ or a ‘cleaner energy’ fuel.

Electricity generation in Australia’s National Electricity Market2


Eastern Australia’s gas distribution system stretches almost 74 thousand kilometres.3


What is Origin’s natural gas used for?

As well as using natural gas to generate power, we also explore and produce it. In fact, we’re one of Australia’s largest gas producers and holders of gas reserve permits. 

Some of the gas we produce is sent to our six gas-fired power stations to make electricity. We also sell our gas to residential and business customers and other energy retailers. 

In the future, we will have some of our gas converted into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for overseas customers. 

Find out more about the different types of natural gas and how it’s formed here.

References

  1. With analysis from Origin Energy, National Electricity Market generation data is based on the State of energy market report 2014, Australian Energy Regulator, p.25-28.
  2. With analysis from Origin Energy, National Electricity Market generation data is based on the State of energy market report 2014, Australian Energy Regulator, p.25-28.
  3. Australian Energy Regulator (AER), State of the Energy Market Report 2012, AER.

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