Integrally geared compression, decarbonization, and emerging markets.

Turbomachinery Magazine, Handbook 2022,

Ulrich Schmitz, Vice President of Marketing Atlas Copco Gas and Process, discusses integrally geared compression, and how the company is responding to emerging markets for decarbonization, hydrogen, and CCUS.

TELL OUR READERS ABOUT ATLAS COPCO GAS & PROCESS.

Gas and Process is a division within the Sweden-based industrial group Atlas Copco, which has about 40,000 employees. Gas and Process is part of the Compressor Technique business area. We provide centrifugal gas compressors according to API 617 chapter 3, as well as turboexpanders per chapter 4, air compressors according to API 672, API 610 centrifugal pumps, and gas screw compressors.

Gas and Process is active in all segments of hydrocarbon processing, power generation (both conventional and renewable), industrial gases, as well as new energy and circular economy markets. It has production facilities in Germany, the United States, India, China, Canada, and Korea, and offers its corresponding aftermarket services worldwide.

Traditionally, Atlas Copco Gas and Process has deep roots in air separation. We are still very active in this growth market; it is currently fueled by tremendous growth in chip and electronics production, for example, and this industry’s need for air and nitrogen. But today, the the majority of our business comes from hydrocarbon processing.

TELL OUR READERS ABOUT YOUR INTEGRALLY GEARED TURBOCOMPRESSORS

Integrally geared compression (IGC) has been used successfully for more than 70 years. It is the core technology offered by Atlas Copco Gas and Process. IGC was originally developed for air separation and has seen growing use in chemical/petrochemical driven by several factors: Advances in dry gas seal technology, modern aerodynamics, rotor dynamic and thermodynamic knowledge; and advanced manufacturing and testing methods producing accurate rotating parts and complex components at reasonable cost.

In 2002, API included IGC in the 7th edition of API 617 under chapter 3. This confirmed its industry acceptance. Today our IGCs are used in industrial gases, power generation and all kind of hydrocarbons, as well as in new energy and emerging markets for decarbonization.

Generally speaking, since they are a high head technology, IGCs are a good fit for all kinds of gases. In decarbonization, they are well suited for high mole-weight gases such as CO2.

WHAT MAJOR TRENDS HAVE YOU OBSERVED?

The overriding trend is decarbonization, which causes processes to change and impacts compression. In emerging decarbonization markets, IGCs have gained a foothold as an efficient and reliable alternative to other compression technologies. Decarbonization of hydrocarbon processes is intertwined with the move towards carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). These factors drive R&D efforts of turbomachinery OEMs as they advance CO2 and hydrogen compression.

Hydrogen is challenging because of its physical properties and low molecular weight, as well as possible hydrogen embrittlement. But it provides many new opportunities.

For CO2, Atlas Copco Gas and Process is focused on: using the existing and available CO2 molecules such as CO2 post-combustion processes; and blending CO2 with hydrogen.

WHAT DO YOU OFFER IN NON-GEARED TURBOCOMPRESSORS?

Our non-geared compressors for polyolefines and main air handle flows up to 65,000 m3/h, with a max. input power of 10 MW and max. pressure of 45 bar. Our non-geared compressors for main air handle flow volumes up to 500,000 m3/h, with a maximum input power of 30 MW. They are a good choice for applications with high flows requirements (we are now seeing requirements of 600,000 m3/h, or power requirements of 40 or more MW. In the hydrogen market, non-geared compressors could be an option for large flows since hydrogen does not require intercooling, and volume changes are minimal.

HOW ABOUT YOUR COMPANDERS?

Companders combine compressor and expander functionalities: they are installed on a single gearbox and skid. Companders are used in several hydrocarbon processing applications, including carrier LNG, small-scale LNG and chemical/petrochemical, as well as sCO2. A compander is a feasible choice when the process provides an opportunity for energy recovery (process waste heat) or pressure reduction, with compression required from the adjacent processes.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES FOR HYDROGEN-RICH TURBOEXPANDERS?

ne of the key elements for hydrogen liquefaction is a turboexpander providing efficient refrigeration down to 20 degrees Kelvin. Radial inflow turboexpanders have been used in hydrogen-rich petrochemical applications (ethylene and propane dehydrogenation plants) for off-gas recovery for many years. The process gas for these petrochemical applications contains up to 90% hydrogen. However, the turboexpanders required for hydrogen liquefiers using pure or very high hydrogen mixtures are more challenging. This is due to high isentropic enthalpy drop, low volume, and speed limitation. These turboexpanders need aerodynamic and mechanical designs such as low-flow coefficient turboexpander wheel, high peripheral speed, thermal management, special materials, and innovative sealing. For standard 10-30 TPD liquefiers, oil-free bearing turboexpanders with hydrogen compressor load are preferred.

WHAT TURBOEXPANDER PRODUCT IS AVAILABLE FOR GLOBAL GAS PROCESSING?

While the oil and gas industry is typically viewed as a custom design market, local gas processing developers require standard package turboexpanders for plant sizes ranging 80-400 MMSCFFD. Early on in the shale gas boom, the market demanded turboexpander-compressors to be standardized for quick delivery. To meet this demand, Atlas Copco developed a product we call ECOTS (Expander Compressor Off The Shelf). Apart from the aero dynamic flow path parts, the package is a standardized and modular design. Our recently released ECOTS Plus has a smaller footprint, improved efficiency, and configurability to suit international gas processing markets.

WHAT NEW AFTERMARKET SERVICES DO YOU OFFER?

We recently added remote servicing and support through our family of connectivity solutions. Turboview enables us to connect to the customer site, identify problems, and provide initial advice remotely. We equip our technicians with Hololens technology, enabling aftermarket back office to better guide and support them at the customer site.