Q & A: STANDARDIZATION, LNG, CO2 AND INTEGRALLY GEARED TECHNOLOGY

Figure 1. Included in the broad range of turbomachinery manufactured by Atlas Copco Gas and Process are integral-geared process gas compressors

Robert Radimeczky, President of Atlas Copco Gas and Process Division, discusses integral-gear technology, LNG and CO2 compression

What trends are impacting the turbomachinery industry?

The low oil price is the main factor. From upstream to midstream and downstream sectors such as chemical and petrochemical, all segments are affected. As a result, the number of favorable investment decisions is currently low; the same goes for larger turbocompressors. Also, the geopolitical instability around the globe, even in Europe, hampers new project investment. At the same time, this situation helps sectors that benefit from low hydrocarbon feedstock costs, including turbine or gas turbine- driven power generation, as well as fertilizer production, and any other process using natural gas as feedstock. Another trend is substantial merger & acquisition activity. As a result, capacity has been built up to provide larger turbomachinery, while current demand is low and equipment prices are driven down. End users, these days, are increasingly focusing on CAPEX savings, and going with industry standard specification for machinery. For most application scenarios, users should opt for standardized products.

How are these trends influencing Atlas Copco?

These trends, especially slumping oil and gas prices, have affected the hydrocarbon industry, one of the key markets we serve. We are accommodating these new realities with an even greater focus on agility.

How extensive is your range of turbomachinery products?

We provide integrally geared turbocompressors for all process gas and air applications: Industrial gas applications, LNG, chemical and petrochemical, fertilizer, as well as supercritical CO2, which is gaining interest as working fluid in power generation. For certain applications, such as CO2, our range covers pressures up to 200 bar. Factoring in our single-shaft compressors, we provide flow volumes of up to 480,000 m3/h effective.

On the turboexpander side, we focus on the process gas industry, especially midstream and downstream, and energy recovery. Rounding out our turbomachinery offering are gas screw compressors which can serve various gas applications. In gas processing plants, they may function next to our turbocompressors and turboexpanders. Furthermore, we supply piston compressors for gas applications.

Where does integral-gear technology fit into the turbomachinery sector?

Integral-gear technology is a good fit for a large range of gases, except for gases with lower and higher molecular weight. It serves applications with flow volumes up to 400,000 m3/h. In terms of pressure ratio, applications that require high-head technology are best served by integral-gear concepts. Over the last two to three decades, we have focused on delivering integrally geared solutions for a wide range of process gas applications. Generally, the goal is to aim for a machine that is the most energy efficient with the smallest footprint, lowest installation cost and high reliability. In many cases, that solution is integral-gear technology. But that’s not always the case. For applications falling outside of that range, such as scenarios where you have low mole weight in combination with high pressure ratio or for gases where the mole weight is very high — other solutions are a better fit.

Tell us about your new high-pressure CO2 compressor.

This development was prompted by market demand. We recognized the market requirement to apply high-pressure CO2 in carbon capture storage, enhanced oil recovery, urea fertilizer and, most recently, in the supercritical CO2 power cycle. We now have a product which is up to these challenges performing in the field.

Why did you develop the single-shaft radial compressor?

Our single-shaft turbocompressor development was in response to customer need to grow towards larger air compressors and even higher flow volumes. Meeting this market need, we are supplying a direct-driven inline compressor solution with three impellers and 28 MW on one shaft.

How are you addressing the LNG market place?

LNG is a broad and complex market, which we have served for the last forty years in the realm of LNG carriers, onshore liquefaction, floating LNG, onshore regasification plants, and floating storage regasification plants. Due to this experience, we are confident that we have viable product solutions to serve the LNG market today and going forward. We have developed integrally gear-based solutions for emerging applications, such as LNG as a fuel and small-scale LNG. Over the last few years we are seeing demand for nitrogen and mixed refrigeration- based solutions, especially from the U.S. and China. Overall, we view LNG as a comprehensive market that offers a lot of opportunities.s gas compressors