Saga of the first GE LM2500 powering a BRUSH ac generator - II

Published on: 

This is the second part of the series, the first part can be read here and the third part here

We had another meeting at the Mobil office Monday morning about 9:30 and listened to Bill Millard's story about the LM2500.  We had yet another meeting with the Elliott Compressor people and in the afternoon and in the evening Carolyn and I at 7:00 PM attended our school PTA meeting.  On Tuesday we met with the Ingersol Rand compressor people in the late morning and had an internal Mobil meeting in the afternoon.  Finally on Wednesday I packed my stuff and caught a plane back to London and flew with both Arne Erichen and Bernie Evans.  Our US field trip was now over and we had accumulated a lot more data to use in making a wise decision on the selection of the drivers for Statfjord A platform.

On Friday, February 7, we met and discussed the possibility of using the 2500 KW Allison 501-K13  gas turbine for the platform auxiliary power – for start up and drilling –  and asked Mathew Hall to obtain a quote for 3 such generator sets.  The load for this service was 4 to 5,000  KW and two units would be needed and third for stand by to make an ideal arrangement.  This engine had been thoroughly tested and developed  by the US Navy and was being used for the DD 963 destroyer program.  On Saturday I phoned Jim Strothers of  Allison at his home to get the ball rolling.

Platform Driver Recommendation Report

Mobil management told me that they now needed a full report as to what to select for the main platform power units and compressor drivers. They gave me a date of no later than the last of February.  I, with the help of Statoil engineer Arne Erichlen, had to move to get it done by then.  We had all the data we needed and it was a matter of putting it all together and assembling all of my field reports etc. to complete the report.  There was a lot of writing and typing to do in a hurry as well as a number of graphs to be drawn.   After making a decision Mobil through Mathew Hall could go out for the initial screening bids and then for the final bids there after which was Mobil's practice.

On February 20th I flew to Stavanger from London.   Arne Erichen and I then worked continuously on the report, literally day and night.  I stayed at the SAS Royal Atlantic Hotel and worked on the report out of my room with Arne.  We worked most of Friday on the report.   We worked all day Saturday until 9:30 PM.  On Sunday we worked most of the day until 3:00 AM the next morning to get it ready to be typed.   On Monday morning we had the typing started and in the afternoon we flew back to London and holed up at the Westbury Hotel.  I hired a typist to type on the report until 11:30 PM.  We continued to work until 2:00 AM and then went to bed.

The report was shaping up and on Tuesday morning we had the Mathew Hall typist continue on the report.  We continued on it at the Westbury Hotel using my hired typist and one from Mathew Hall.  On Wednesday February 26th at about 11:00 PM the report was done all but for correcting a few typographical errors.  We both signed the cover of the report and gave John Schoenthaler the original and one copy at 11:30 PM.   Arne promised to have the errors corrected the next day in the office and have an appropriate number of copies run off and numbered for Mobil.  We got it finished in time for Mobil management.  It was over one inch thick and full of facts and figures and as accurate as we knew how to make it because we knew it would be closely scrutinized by Mathew Hall and Statoil who wanted to purchase the R- R Olympus or the T P & M GG 4s.  We were recommending the purchase of the GE LM2500.

I returned to Houston on Thursday morning, February 27th and wrote a report cover letter from my Houston office the next day and mailed it to Mobil Oil, London.  The fat was now in the fire.  I now had the ASME Gas Turbine Division annual conference to worry about to be held in Houston that year the coming week including a private meeting and dinner with Tom Sawyer and Sir Frank Whittle on Saturday afternoon and evening along with my wife, Carolyn, at the Regency Hotel and then a conference TV interview on Sunday as I was chairman of the division.  Without Carolyn and her extra ordinary love and help we could not have pulled all of these things together successfully, but we did it, we did it together.

The conference went fine and I even had a couple of meetings with the Mobil engineers that week to boot including a luncheon meeting with Mobil and Dr. Rizk of GEC, UK. There were ASME executive meetings to chair and committee meeting to attend also.

Ordering 6 C-W GE LM2500 Compressor and Generator Packages

Even before the technical report was finalized and issued, Mobil Oil had already pretty much decided to use the GE LM 2500 to drive the compressor trains, but the gas turbines to drive the electric generators were yet to be chosen.  Sixty Hertz was favored because of size and weight.  There never was a question about using the BRUSH generator because it was considered by Mobil to be a  very reliable and  a quality field tested product.  There was a question whether to install two 50 % compressor trains or three.

The 3rd one had yet to be justified.  However neither Statoil nor Mathew Hall was convinced that the LM2500 was the way to go for the compressors or the electric generators.  Statoil seemed to favor using the T P & M GG 4 whereas Mathew Hall wanted to use the R–R large Olympus for the compressors and the generators.  The selection of the compressor manufacturer was yet to be decided.   Also the packager to use had yet to be decided.

After a rest in Spring, Texas, I returned to London on March 9th, arriving early the morning of the 10th, to start working on the above problem areas.   After checking in at the Westbury Hotel I phoned the Mobil office and went there for a meeting to start working on the above.  By Wednesday we started elimination some of the bidders and selecting what compressor manufactures to use.  On Thursday we started in on the electric driven reciprocating compressors  – 5 or 6 to use-- and the flow turn down of the centrifugal compressors  from 80 % to 50 %.  In the end, 5 Ingersoll Rand 3800 HP electric motor driven recip compressors were selected for the high pressure compression duty to require a large part of the on deck electrical power.  By Friday we reviewed whether to use 2 or 3  50% compressor trains. Bob Bolfing of Houston played a key part in these overall decisions to be made.  Work continued into the next week and on Wednesday, March 19, the big bid evaluation meeting was set with Mathew Hall for Friday.

The Big Bang Meeting

The long awaited evaluation meeting took place in the afternoon on Friday, March 21, as planned.  Bob Bolfing and I were ready for the scrap that was bound to take place.  We had it out and won but not without a fight.   Mathew Hall wanted to use the R-R Olympus to wave the British flag all the way and Statoil the T P & M  GG 4s.  Bob and l wanted the LM 500.  Arne Erichen of Statoil was caught in the middle because he had his signature on our technical report which upset Statoil.  I sure was glad I got him to sign the report and so was Bob.  One member of Mathew Hall became quite obnoxious and started screaming at us.  Bob abruptly jumped to his feet and shouted him down and said he was not technically qualified to even have a vote in the matter.

The Statoil engineers and purchasing people were polite but were insistent on getting the GG 4 with its FT4 power turbine.  Finally the Mobil Oil manager, Clifford Case, got up and said in the end it was Mobil's decision to make and it would be the LM2500 as recommended by Bolfing, Rice and Erichen.   This firey, boiling, red hot, turbulent three hour meeting was then over and we all got up and left the meeting room.  A closed internal Mobil Oil discussion meeting immediately took place and we wrote a letter for Clifford Case to sign confirming the selection of the GE LM2500s for the compressor packages.  In attendance were:  Case, Bolfing, Rice, Schloentlhaler and Erichen.  The door was thus wide open to use the LM2500s for the generator packages for reasons of duplication and operation.

This decision was important to Brush because it opened the door for them to sell many more electric generators for the GE LM2500 which indeed they have done as stated at the beginning of the story.  The decision was upsetting to the GE Heavy Duty group as they had been trying to keep the 3600 RPM LM2500 off the electric power generating market.  Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce were also upset.

We continued to work on the remaining problems to be resolve.  I returned to Houston on March 27 and went back to London the first day of May.  We solved most of the outstanding bid problems and justified using three LM2500 20 MW generator sets and three for  the compressor trains by March 20, but a final full second evaluation report was not issued by me and Arne Erichsen until the April 4.  At first Statoil was upset at Arne, but later on the company realized that the right decision had been made and he rapidly rose within the Statoil organization.

I was able to get GE to store a spare gas generator in a canister on the platform for one year free of charge after start up through the help of Arne who did the actual negotiation over the phone just before the order was placed.  He and I got along very well and was very good to take my advice on matters of all kinds.  He was a big help with the report.

Orders Given to Curtiss- Wright

The order for the LM2500s was broken down into two parts, one for the compressor packages and one for the electric generator sets.  On Thursday morning, April 24, Curtiss-Wright was given an order by Mathew Hall for three LM2500 compressor packages incorporating Elliott compressors.  Septimus van der Linden picked up the order for C-W from Mathew Hall just before noon that day.  He was ever so happy to get it after such a long struggle.  A week later Sep picked up the second order for three more LM2500 packages with BRUSH 60 Hertz electric generators from Mathew Hall on the morning of May first, again on a Thursday.  In the end Bob Bolfing and I got what we wanted and so did Mobil Oil for a real breakthrough and game changer.

Curtiss-Wright Selection of the Brush Generator

Curtiss-Wright elected to use the BRUSH generator for good reasons.  I only had a couple of meetings with the BRUSH engineers in London before the order was placed because Mobil fully accepted the use of the BRUSH, but C-W had in depth meetings investigating using the BRUSH.  Septimus van der Linden has written me his story of as to why C-W selected the BRUSH electric generator.  C-W was the very first packager to apply the BRUSH generator to be driven by a large aero type engine.  John Brown and others had already used the BRUSH for the GE Frame 5s and Mobil was using 3 of them for the Beryl A platform.

Septimus was working for C-W at the time and played a key role in bidding the packages, selling them and then following through all the way with the engineering details at the Wood ridge, New Jersey plant, in London, Holland and in Stavanger.  Quoted as follows is what Sep has written specifically for this story.  He was VP of  Marketing for C-W Power Systems at the time (1970 – 1983):

The Septimus Story and His Recollections

"There is always a story behind every headline. There is a starting point, a trigger point that begins an unknown path to success. This narrative is about that moment an order was placed by Curtiss-Wright for three BDAX 70-66PH CACW 20 MW 60 Hz generators to be driven by three Aero-derivative LM2500 Gas Turbines. This would be the first application for these TG Sets on a large North Sea oil production Platform by Statoil/Mobil for the Statfjord oil reservoir, the largest North Sea petroleum find.  This introduction is getting ahead of how BRUSH and Curtiss-Wright (C-W) began their successful business relationship which eventually led to the historic Statfjord Platform, the largest of its kind ever built and never duplicated with 120MW of GT capability.

In 1970, C-W decided to form a Power Systems Division to utilize their J65 aero engine for the power sector. Bill Pietrucha and I decided to join this venture but, on my insistence, to use the Rolls Royce (RR) Olympus engine of 20 MW capability as a gas generator. The deal was  made with RR and design work on a suitable Power Turbine was urgently launched as well as on packaging concepts (Modularization); the ModPod series of power units saw the light of day, causing an immediate challenge to the established suppliers of packaged power plants.

The C-W/ BRUSH Relationship

C-W had a need for an independent generator supplier and our search brought us to BRUSH. How would this play in the US?  Charles Francis Brush, the founder, was American born which made a good story and overcame any concerns that may have arisen. Furthermore, the end bell bearing designs of other suppliers did not meet our criteria, whereas the pedestal bearing design of BRUSH was the winner.

Bill Pietrucha and I, together with Lenny Schatz, our (C-W) Power Systems Leader, made several visits to BRUSH at their Loughborough facilities to learn about the design, manufacturing and support services. We were aware that BRUSH was a supplier to John Brown, a licensee of GE, but we were not too concerned about them in the market place. The facility was old but the quality of workmanship very good, especially as major supplier of traction motors for the British Rail system.

BRUSH management, including Managing Director J.M Durber (fondly known as ‘Mac”), and Sales and Marketing Director Brian Page must have been impressed with our upstart company and the brash young innovative engineers who didn’t hesitate to charge at giants in the


Power generation field; it must have been mutual trust or confidence or the British spirit of adventure that resulted in the decision to “Let’s give it a go.” Having secured agreements with BRUSH, the C-W Power Systems group went to market aggressively.

There was great support from Fred Robertson and Dennis Holey at BRUSH who made the market entry much easier with sales and technical information.  One could not have wished for more from the whole Loughborough organization. The first Unit - City of Norwich, Connecticut USA

Our response to the requirement for a 20MW “Peaker” unit was accepted, after evaluation in a public bid.  C-W’s  respected name in aviation as producer of the Bristol Siddeley Sapphire Jet engine known as the J65 stepped forward as a contender for power generating units, using a British supplier of turbine engines (RR) and generator manufacturer (BRUSH)  combined with Yankee ingenuity; quite a team. Incidentally, the sister City was Norwich City in the UK.

The first generator order from C-W to BRUSH was written and issued by Bill Pietrucha from the Project Group. The inauguration of this “First” was quite an event staged for the citizens of Norwich, who now would have dependable peak power support. In addition to the (C-W) leadership team, the Mayor of Norwich, BRUSH and RR dignitaries and local council members were in attendance. There was a special message delivered from the Mayor of Norwich UK to the Mayor of Norwich CT, USA. The remote start button was activated by the Mayor and the C-W ModPod 20 unit came to life. This was the start of C-W’s ModPod (Modularized Power on Demand) packaged power systems that enjoyed global success with BRUSH as the exclusive generator supplier.

The need for large units soon became evident to meet market demand, and the ModPod series covered 20/25/30 MW ratings as well as double-ended generator drives requiring generators of 40/50/60 MW; even larger machines were considered. This development opened up a new window for BRUSH for larger generators and also Power GT suppliers other than C-W. Our Power Systems group was in a hurry and, by 1975, several “double-ended” ModPod systems were sold and installed.

The Statoil/ Mobil Project

Based on early success, C-W Power Systems Marketing and Engineering group saw no limits for special opportunities for ModPod systems. One of our former Sales Engineers located in Houston suggested we respond to a bid that Mobil initiated for the Statfjord North sea platform. A small specialty offshore engineering company would provide conceptual designs for large modules that could be barged as complete self contained facilities and lifted on to the sea-bed concrete support structure hosting the base platform.

After much consideration, C-W Power Systems decided to venture forth: 3 x 20 MW Generating units and 3 x 20 MW Compression units. Wow! Six ModPod units utilizing the RR Olympus engine, coupled to the well proven C-W two stage power turbine. RR with 580 marine gas turbines sold


brought experience of operating in the extremes of ocean conditions. This was no small venture, ‘Modularization’ beyond just the packaged units resulting in module assemblies of 1350 ton and 650 ton, respectively. Four shipyard-assembled modules that could be barged and placed on the Platform to eventually form the completed structure of recovering oil and re-injecting natural gas to keep the field pressurized.

There was no hesitation to use the compact and serviceable ModPod 20 with the Brush TEWAC generator for marine environment application. The Control and Electrical auxiliary modules were compact and factory assembled and tested as well for ease of installation in the Platform Modules.

Cloak and Dagger, the Plot Thickens

Overall, the proposal was in contention and favorably reviewed.  We took the complete Modularization concept into consideration, defining space and weight which was important criteria as well as the size and weight of the structural steel that formed the equipment platform Modules.

With a large international consortium such as Statoil/ Mobil and their different partners there were obvious preferences for different suppliers that would bring business opportunities to their country of origin. Thus there were many discussions to decide which prime mover would be selected for the project. Aero-derivatives were preferred over frame machines already on platform service; they were light weight, compact and quite efficient and totally serviceable on the platform or easy modular component replacement.

Gas Turbine consultant Ivan Rice was tasked by Mobil to evaluate the two Aero-derivatives, Olympus and P&W GG4 engine. The UK was leaning towards the Olympus, and the GG4 as a US supplier also had support. The missing link was the LM2500 from GE which had Marine application experience for the US DD 963 type Destroyer, but had never been applied as a stationary generator drive and or high power process type compressors. The LM2500 was applied as a gas generator for high speed power turbines driving pipeline compressors. Ivan Rice interfaced with the very same key figures that C-W (myself) interfaced with, such as Bob Bolfing (Mobil Houston), Berne Evans (Mobil London) and Arne Erickson of Statoil and many at Matthew-Hall in London; there was always a good relationship.

While this was going on behind the scenes, I made many trips to London Matthew Hall,  the overall platform designer and engineer selected by the Consortium, who were also coordinating the selection of the process compressors C-W was offering including Elliott who had a licensee in Holland Thomassen, who could also do full load testing of the train. The other contender was Nuevo Pignone of Italy—again many debates and technical overviews, however the Thomassen/Elliot train was accepted.

Sudden Change of Direction

Mobil convinced their partner Statoil that the LM2500 Gas Turbine with its lighter weight and more efficient 6 stage power 3600 rpm turbine would be preferred. The word came down:  C-W was in contention and could we incorporate the LM2500 GE gas turbine into both the Generator and Compression ModPod modules? If this is what the customer wanted, why not? We were already familiar with the LM2500 as the Gas Generator was considered an option for two gas generators on one power turbine and double ended a Mod Pod 75.

The task was set, BRUSH was locked in, as well as Thomassen, so some modifications were required to incorporate a single gas turbine engine with a 6 stage turbine as a single assembly. Not quite just a swap out, but a new design to accommodate the differences of air flow, inlet and exhaust ducting as well requirements to prevent inlet freezing conditions in North Sea winter. The new unit became the ModPod 20 HE (high efficiency)

Johnny Miller of GE was a constant caller from GE selling the virtues of a new generation of Prime mover that changed the industrial market place. Our visits to Evansdale, Ohio, were most informative. It was strange to walk around a former Curtiss-Wright WWII facility, very similar to Woodridge New Jersey.

Why Aero-derivative Verses Frame?

Weight and space was a major consideration for a Platform of the size envisioned that also hosted a complete hotel to accommodate the workers and operators of this million barrel per day enterprise. Aero engines had proven to be highly reliable and more efficient than other options for prime movers. Early operation would be on fuel oil, lower fuel consumption meant less platform storage requirements.

The ability to provide on board service in confined areas was another clear benefit to minimize down time for inspections, routine and major inspections. The C-W design allowed for easy removal of various engine modules, or complete engine removal and replacement of a spare unit that would be housed at a service facility in Stavanger, Norway.

International Cooperation

Within any international consortium there are undercurrents and subtle rivalries which impact any project and have to be dealt with diplomatically.

‘The largest oil field yet discovered at that time in the North Sea.’ It is situated about 180km due west of Sognefjord in blocks 33/9 and 33/12 on the Norwegian Continental shelf and about 185 km north-east of Shetland with about 11.11% of the reserves in the British sector in blocks 211/24 and 211/25. On the Norwegian side Statfjord is owned by the Statoil/Mobil Group.

On the British side it is owned by Conoco/BNOC. While Mobil is the operator for the field, the two groups have reached an agreement about joint development and production of the field. Production was scheduled to start in late 1978 and last for 25-30 years.

At the end of 2013 a decision was made to extend operations till 2020 targeted for 74% gas recovery with modifications and rebuilding the facility with $3.7 billion investment. The original target for oil was 40 % recovery but actually reached 66%.