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Annual Technology Baseline 2017

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Recommended Citation:
NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory). 2017. 2017 Annual Technology Baseline. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Please consult Guidelines for Using ATB Data:

Natural Gas Plants

A gas-fired combustion turbine involves:

  • An air compressor compresses air and feeds it into the combustion chamber at hundreds of miles per hour.
  • In a combustion system, a ring of fuel injectors inject fuel into combustion chambers where it mixes with the air and is combusted. The resulting high-temperature, high-pressure gas stream enters and expands through the turbine.
  • A turbine has alternate stationary and rotating airfoil-section blades that are driven by expanding hot combustion gas. The rotating blades drive the compressor and spin a generator to produce electricity.

Simple-cycle gas turbines can achieve 20%-35% energy conversion efficiency depending on the type and design of the system. Aeroderivative turbines are typically more flexible but more expensive than their industrial gas turbine counterparts. Combined-cycle natural gas plants include a heat recovery steam generator that uses the hot exhaust from the combustion turbine to generate steam. That steam can then be used to generate additional electricity using a steam turbine. Combined-cycle natural gas plants typically have efficiencies ranging from 50%-60%, and R&D targets have been set to achieve even higher efficiencies. Combined-cycle plants can be built using a variety of configurations, such as a single combustion turbine and steam turbine connected to a single generator (1x1) or two combustion turbines coupled with one steam turbine (2x1) (DOE "How Gas Turbine Power Plants Work").

Renewable energy technical potential, as defined by Lopez et al. (2012), represents the achievable energy generation of a particular technology given system performance, topographic limitations, and environmental and land-use constraints. Technical resource potential corresponds most closely to fossil reserves, as both can be characterized by the prospect of commercial feasibility and depend strongly on available technology at the time of the resource assessment. Natural gas reserves in the United States are assessed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS, "National Oil and Gas Assessment").

This section focuses on large, utility-scale natural gas plants. Distributed-scale turbines may be included in a future version of the ATB.

Cutaway of combustion gas turbine


Lopez, Anthony, Billy Roberts, Donna Heimiller, Nate Blair, and Gian Porro. 2012. U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. NREL/TP-6A20-51946.