NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - General Electric Co's power and water division said on Wednesday it won $1.2 billion in contracts from power producers in the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia for newly-developed heavy-duty gas turbines.
The deals for 19 turbines to be manufactured in Greenville, South Carolina, reflect a gradual, global shift toward using inexpensive natural gas rather than coal or oil to generate power, GE said.
"Natural gas is more and more becoming a fuel of choice around the world," said Paul Browning, who heads GE's thermal products division, the biggest within the industrial conglomerate's $28 billion power and water business.
GE says its new technology is more fuel efficient, enables power plants to ramp up and down faster, and incorporates energy from renewable energy sources.
GE will supply six heavy-duty gas turbines to Japanese utility Chubu for a 2,300-megawatt plant, and eight gas turbines for a Saudi Electric Co project in Riyadh.
The new turbines were developed, and will be manufactured and tested, at GE's facility in Greenville. Though GE did not break down the value of the Saudi and Japan orders, it said they represent a significant GE export to those countries.
"A lot of the power in Saudi is produced from crude oil, but more and more they want to preserve that for petrochemical export markets," Browning said in an interview.
GE expects to deliver the turbines between 2013 and 2016. The remaining orders are for projects in the United States, including the Cherokee project near Denver owned by a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, that is converting from coal to gas. The transition is expected to cut in half carbon dioxide emissions from the Colorado plant.
GE will also supply two gas turbines and a steam turbine to Hess Corp, and one turbine to an unspecified U.S. industrial client.
It forecasts that more U.S. power plants will be fueled with natural gas than with coal by 2017.
GE declined to forecast growth rates for its turbines business but said demand for power generation equipment is only partly affected by economic ups and downs.
"We are impacted by the global financial crisis of a few years ago," Browning said. "We've bottomed and are coming out the other end of that. We're feeling pretty good about the prospects."