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Jet Engine Tech from Air Force One is Helping Egypt Keep the Lights On

Egypt’s economic reforms and rapidly growing economy are drawing billions of dollars in new investments. But money is not the sole lifeblood of growth in this North African country of 85 million people.

Equally important is electricity and the country’s power plants – like almost anywhere on the continent – are already operating at peak capacity. “We’ve seen this most recently during the holy month of Ramadan, which ended in mid-July and fell on one of the hottest periods of the year,” says Sofiane Ben Tounes, president and CEO of GE North East Africa. “During Ramadan, peak demand doesn’t last just a few hours, but into the night after people break their fast at sunset.”

GE has been helping the Egyptian government keep the lights on. The company said that it has added 1.84 gigawatts of new power generation capacity this year and plans to deliver a total of 2.6 gigawatts this summer.

The rapid rollout is part of a power deal that the Egyptian government signed with the company last December. When the 2.6 gigawatts come online, it will be enough to supply 2.5 million Egyptian homes.

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GE will supply Egypt with 34 “aeroderivative” gas turbines to boost the country’s power supply. That total includes 14 LM6000 aeroderivatice turbines whose beating heart is a high pressure compressor originally developed for the CF6 high-bypass turbofan jet engine that powers many Boeing 747s, including Air Force One. Image credit: GE Reports. Top: The Pyramids at Giza Image credit: Getty Images

Many of the GE machines that are already producing electricity in Egypt are so-called aeroderivative turbines. They can be mounted on trailers and quickly deployed pretty much anywhere. The turbines are built around technology from GE jet engines – hence the “aero” in their name – and ramp up to full power in just 10 minutes – almost like a plane readying for takeoff. GE calls this technology sharing among its businesses the “GE store.”

Aeroderivatives are ideal for bridging electricity needs before large, permanent power plants come online, and also for generating backup power.

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The rotor from the high pressure turbine of the CF6 jet engine. The blades are peppered with tiny holes that bleed in cooling air and prevent them from melting. Image credit: GE Reports

According to Egyptian estimates, the country must increase its capacity every year by an average of 5.2 gigawatts through 2022 to meet the rising demand. The government calls the roadmap for this ramp up the Egyptian Power Boost Program.

When the “power boost” is completed, there will be over 130 new GE gas turbines generating 11.68 gigawatts in Egypt. That’s enough to meet the power demand of the equivalent of 10.5 million local homes. By then, GE technology will be supporting over 30 percent of the country’s electricity needs.

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New power lines in Egypt. Image credit: GE Power & Water

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A mobile power plant using an aeroderivative gas turbine. Image credit: GE Power & Water

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A new power plant built in the Egyptian desert. Image credit: GE Power & Water

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