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Bigger is better, is an oft-repeated mantra. In our business, this has given rise to gas turbines that have become much larger with each new generation. There is certainly a place for this in the industry. But it is important to not lose sight of market needs. That’s why small and mid-sized gas turbines continue to have a place, as you can read about in our cover story.
From a marketing perspective, there are two approaches that can bring success. The first is to create something and find a market for it. The other is to find out what the market really needs and design it well to fulfill demand. Let’s look at both sides.
Bigger is better
Without the drive to build bigger, better and more efficient gas turbines, we would not be where we are today. In the early days of the industry, demand was absent. It was up to engineering pioneers and promoters like the founder of this magazine R. Tom Sawyer to bring new equipment to the world and create demand.
That approach remains important. It has given rise to huge combined cycle power plants capable of replacing large steam turbine-driven coal plants. But it is also a high-risk strategy.
Take the case of aeroderivatives. Successive generations of aeroderivative GTs such as the LM2500, LM5000, and LM6000 led inevitably to the much larger LMS100. But that machine has struggled to find its place in the new world power generation order. More than a decade after the release fanfare that greeted the LMS100, it remains far behind its smaller cousins in terms of numbers deployed.
Further, the manufacturers of ever-larger turbines are currently struggling due to a lack of orders. The forecast for large gas turbines remains sour for the next few years.
Find a niche
The alternate strategy is to find a niche and serve it well. The NovaLT line from Baker Hughes GE is a case in point. Designed in the 5 MW to 16 MW range to serve specific oil & gas needs, it is now finding new opportunities in power generation.
The cover story recounts numerous examples of small and mid-sized machines from a great many manufacturers that serve certain requirements. By fulfilling the needs of their corners of the oil & gas or power generation market, many are flourishing.
In some ways, this echoes how oil & gas facilities operate. Rather than buying a gas turbine or centrifugal compressor and trying to shoehorn their processes to fit it, they typically demand machines that serve specific needs.
Going forward, we need both approaches: bigger machines as well as products that the market demands.
The morale of the story might be written as follows: Bigger turbines are often better, but smaller may sometimes be smarter.
Beyond the cover story, we have an excellent issue for you. You can read about a more optimistic tone for the future in our PowerGen Show Report. There are also stories on: dry gas seals and when to deploy them; challenges in commissioning of gas turbines; and air and gas flow measurement. ■