Forrest Gump, Plant Tours and Turbines

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Drew Robb Editor-in-Chief[/caption]

Plant and facility tours are always a worthwhile activity. As the mother of Forrest Gump said concerning life being like a box of chocolates, “You never know what you are going to get.” Despite the obvious similarities, there is no getting away from the uniqueness of every site and each organization. Last month, for example, we visited the new L.A. Turbine headquarters  in Southern California. Among many interesting aspects of the turboexpander manufacturing process, we were introduced to a veteran technician who could detect the frequency of metal components by flicking them with his finger and listening intently. Electronic measurement only served to confirm his assessment. This reminded me of the urgency of addressing the aging workforce situation in our industry and the terrible loss of know-how that takes place with each passing day as our engineers retire. But I was heartened to see that L.A. Turbine is not only accutelely aware of the issue, it is effectively dealing with it by assigning apprentices to each of its long-term turboexpander experts in design, manufacturing, assembly and quality control. Knowledge transfer should be a priority for every turbomachinery firm.

Late last year we stopped by another facility, the Morro Bay Power Station in California. That plant is about to close permanently, a victim of once-through cooling policy combined with the old age of its turbomachinery.

Which brings me to our cover story: “Turbines versus Engines”. While a war is being waged right now pitting coal against gas-fired generation and renewable energy, one wonders if the battleground might shift to gas versus renewables in a few short years. So our cover story topic may become moot. But for now, it offers a comparison of these two competing technologies. Of course, the author is clearly a fan of the turbine side. But he does highlight some of the advantages of recips in certain applications. Anyway, I’d be willing to give column inches to someone from the other side of the fence if they provided their own balanced comparison.

The annual PowerGen show from late last year provided the raw material for another feature in this issue. It covers diverse topics such as aeroderivatives, demand management, the power market outlook, gas turbines both large and small, and Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSGs).


Our contributed articles showcase bearing selection, protecting steam turbines and extending rotor life. And our regular columnists continue to produce the goods. Turbo Tips tackles piping design while our Myth Busters take issue with chronic oversizing of plants and turbomachinery. All are well worth reading.

Coming up, expect to hear about the annual GE Oil & Gas conference in Florence, Italy. That trip may see us visit more facilities in Italy.

We hope 2014 has started well for you and that the rest of this year sees an uptick in the sector as a whole.

The soon-to-close Morro Bay Power Station in California[/caption]