Working together for greater energy efficiency at SEAT's production site

In Martorell, Spain, the automobile manufacturer SEAT operates one of the most energy-efficient production sites in Europe. At its heart is an gas turbine from Siemens Energy that was installed in the cogeneration plant and now helps to keep power supply reliable and at a very low cost.


By Tim Beuten

It’s a clear winter morning. Enrique López and Carlos Cachadiña are standing together on the roof of the SEAT plant on the outskirts of the small Spanish town of Martorell, gazing out over the production site. “Today it’s almost like the turbine doesn’t exist. It’s been operating without interruption, it doesn’t cause any problems, it’s just there,” says Enrique López of SEAT Martorell. The two men know that it wasn’t always this way. “There were some difficult moments, especially during the first two to three years,” says Carlos Cachadiña, a project manager at Siemens Energy.

A new gas turbine for the cogeneration plant


Six years earlier, a decision was made to install a new turbine in the cogeneration plant at SEAT’s Martorell plant. López has been responsible for operating the plant for the past 24 years. “We installed the Siemens gas turbine SGT-400 (15 MW) because it’s the most powerful machine in its class.” Cachadiña has also been involved in the project from the very beginning. “What’s special about the turbine we installed at SEAT is that at over 8,000 hours per year, it’s practically in continuous operation. With the power generated, you could supply electricity to a large city of 15,000 people. At the same time, the plant’s emissions were reduced by 30 percent compared with the previous technology.

The importance of a reliable power supply


The turbine was the world’s first 15-MW version ever to be commissioned. Like most branches of industry, automotive manufacturing depends on a reliable power supply. At the SEAT plant, three production lines run in parallel. A car rolls off the assembly line every minute. If the gas turbine – the heart of the cogeneration plant – isn’t functioning properly, power cost would drastically increase.

Close collaboration on-site


The turbine did break down a few times during the first year. “We knew it was the first one ever to be installed. We knew it was going to be a challenge,” recalls López, “but we also knew that we would manage it with Siemens Energy as our partner.”

SEAT and Siemens Energy have been collaborating on various projects at the Martorell plant since 1993. From the very start, on-site service was an important part of their collaboration, and together they were able to overcome the obstacles in the turbine’s first year of existence. “The most important thing to me is that Siemens Energy was always present. I could mention any number of people that I know personally, that I call by their first name and can phone any time. This closeness enabled us to build a team that could raise the machine to its current level and make it the best machine in its class,” says López. He and Cachadiña became friends through the project.

One of the most energy-efficient production sites of its kind


There hasn’t been another unscheduled downtime in over a year. “The turbine has continued to develop in a very positive way. We’ve managed to achieve extremely high values that even exceed the efficiency level originally foreseen for the plant.” Ninety-five percent of the thermal energy consumed in the factory is recovered from cogeneration, making it one of the most efficient production sites in Europe.

When López and Cachadiña now meet, they discuss new ideas. They want work together to promote digitalization in manufacturing with more projects. According to López, “To view the machine remotely, to be able to predict potential failures – to me, that’s the future.”

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September 26, 2018

Tim Beuten is an independent journalist based in Berlin, Germany.



Picture credits: Jörg Zirnbauer