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LEADING TRENDS INCLUDE LOCALIZATION, AUTOMATION, VIRTUAL REALITY, GREATER FLEXIBILITY, REDUCED MAINTENANCE BUDGETS AND FASTER TURNAROUNDS
By Drew Robb
Field servicing of gas turbines (GTs), steam turbines (STs) and centrifugal compressors is an essential part of maintaining their reliability and efficiency. That support needs to be high quality and provided in a timely manner in order to prevent extended shutdowns. Field service work incorporates testing, inspection and analysis, some of which can be done while the unit continues to operate. But in many cases, outages are required. If a major overhaul is involved, this may be for an extended period. Every day counts, and sound maintenance planning is vital if work is to be completed on time.
OEMs, such as Siemens Power & Gas, Atlas Copco, Ingersoll Rand (IR), Kobelco, Elliott, GE Power, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS), Man Diesel & Turbo, Doosan Škoda Power, PW Power Systems (PWPS), Ansaldo Energia and Solar Turbines, provide extensive field service teams. Many have global reach. In many cases, these companies venture beyond the servicing of their own equipment to provide field support for other types of turbomachinery.
They compete with a large number of non-OEM field service organizations, some local and others with regional, national or global reach. These independent service providers (ISP) are often manned by veteran service technicians with decades of experience under their belts. This includes companies, such as TAB Services, Sulzer, EthosEnergy, NAES, Pond & Lucier (PAL) and Trinity Turbine Technology.
Turbomachinery International interviewed many experts — OEM and non-OEM — to better understand ongoing field service trends. Some of the common denominators included the urge to do more with less, reduced budgets, faster turnarounds, the requirements of locally based personnel, greater flexibility and the incorporation of virtual reality (VR) tools.
Atlas Copco Gas & Process
Ton Teunissen, Vice President Aftermarket, Atlas Copco Gas and Process Division, said the low oil price has had a significant impact on its oil and gas business. “These days, customers have lower maintenance budgets and try to save on maintenance activities as much as possible,” he said.
At the same time, they continue to require maximum productivity, which in turn can create a dilemma: While cost awareness has increased, service tasks requiring expert knowledge are requested, and there is frequent demand and queries for OEM service or parts.
Most machines are critical for a plant’s production. The plant has to be shut down if machines are not working, and every day of lost production is very costly. Only a well-maintained machine provides the highest possible availability.
“Some tend to overlook the real cost driver: The potential loss of production,” said Teunissen.
To achieve the highest overall availability of a machine, you need to see the complete unit and not just individual parts in isolation, said Teunissen. “Once the scope of a service intervention is better understood, users can see the value, and we can help them achieve their production goals.”
The same situation applies to spare parts. With genuine parts from the OEM, the supplier is not only purchasing the part itself, but a warranty for the part and for the full machine in the event of failure. In addition, the OEM ensures the core spare parts are available over the machine’s entire lifetime. “Service needs to provide more commitment in terms of pricing, delivery time and machine availability,” said Teunissen. “We want to become an essential part of the customer’s production process. From what we’ve seen, the customer does not want a spare part or an experienced field service team: He wants a machine delivering output reliably.”
On the field service front, Atlas Copco Gas and Process Division supplies spare parts and service for its own integrally geared and non-geared turbocompressors and turboexpanders, as well as for non-OEM turboexpanders. This includes preventive maintenance, service plans, lifetime breakdown and repair services, lifetime upgrades and redesign and machine analytic services. “As our installed base becomes more mature, machine upgrades and redesigns are getting increasing attention,” said Teunissen. “It might become necessary to upgrade certain components.”
Take the example of control systems. In time, electronic components will no longer be available. A new control system becomes necessary on aging machines. Modifications of the control logic can generate efficiency improvements and better availability. Another example is machine redesign. This may be occasioned by changing process needs, the desire for more power, or to enable improved production. A 20-year old impeller could be replaced by a modern one with greater aerodynamic efficiency.
Tim Ralston, President, TAB Services, noted that maintenance spend seems to have slowed down in recent years as customers are lengthening the time between scheduled outages. But on the other side of the coin, his company has benefitted from the need for quick power in Central and South American countries. They are installing used gas turbine generator sets, which has created the need for experts to work on these units.
“Previously, customers only wanted OEMs working on their units,” said Ralston. “But some have changed that opinion after seeing OEMs send out engineers with many years less experience and at twice the cost of smaller companies, like TAB, Pond & Lucier, and others.” TAB Services has over 35 years of experience in gears, generators and vibration analysis. The company is particularly adept at determining the cause of vibration issues. It also offers on-site consultation in resolving problems and general maintenance of turbines, generators and gears, as well as customer witness of work being done in service shops.
TAB Services has over 35 years of experience in gears, generators and vibration analysis. The company is particularly adept at determining the cause of vibration issues. It also offers on-site consultation in resolving problems and general maintenance of turbines, generators and gears, as well as customer witness of work being done in service shops.
Larry Tondre, U.S. Division Superintendent Field Services for Sulzer, said its GT field services encompass areas, such as combustion inspections, hot gas path inspections, and addressing major outages whether planned or unforeseen. In addition, non-destructive testing (NDE), borescope inspections and control system checks may be required. Lifting beams, laser alignment systems and borescopes are a few of the items included in the field service toolkit.
Take the case of primary fuel nozzles. Operators generally maintain a spare set, which have been refurbished prior to a planned outage. When the field service team arrives, they can rapidly install a complete set of nozzles with minimal delay. Sulzer has expertise in resolving fuel leakage issues on 6B DLN and 7EA DLN primary fuel nozzles. This encompasses a proprietary nozzle seal design which reduces repair time and delivers zero leakage. At the same time, this helps to maintain exhaust emissions within prescribed limits.
PAL Turbine Services
David Lucier, Owner, General Manager at PAL Turbine Services has observed several trends in the field service arena. “There seems to be a resurgence in the GE MS5001 GT, perhaps because of their black start capability,” he said. He added that many owners are following GE’s life extension program to revive older Frame 5 units. Also, there seems to be interest in conversions.
For example, to operate a couple of units in a 4- or 8-unit power block in the “isochronous” mode to establish 60-cycle systems should a blackout occur. PAL provides field engineering services on GE gas, steam, generator, Speedtronic controls (all Marks), generator excitation & protection systems.
All PAL engineers have been through GE’s field engineering programs (FEP) in those disciplines and have 35+ years of experience. This in-house talent has been harnessed to accomplish such daunting tasks as changing out the Variable Inlet Guide Vanes (VIGV) without removing the compressor rotor on GE MS5001, 5002, 6001 and 7001 machines. This field service project takes two weeks.
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Trinity Turbine Technology
Chris Green, Vice President of Field Service Operations, Trinity Turbine Technology, points to government intervention as a major contributor to a downward spiral in the power sector. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations have led to the shutdown of over 400 coal plants. With so many turbines no longer in service, Green said, this caused the market to slow for parts repair, new part sales and other field service work.
“The loss of all this power forced gas and steam turbines to keep running longer,” said Green. “This caused normal scheduled field service to be either canceled or pushed back.”
In addition, sluggish economic growth has cut investment in the power sector. Coupled with a glut of mergers, Green believes we have a serious backlog of maintenance work to address. “Rotating equipment does not recognize recession; sooner or later, neglect of field maintenance will cause them to fail,” said Green.
Trinity Turbine is a provider of field inspections, overhauls and component repair for GTs, STs, large and small rotating machines. Trinity offers parts repair, coatings, parts sales, fabricating and field services in turbine overhauls and plant maintenance. This includes full service outage support and contractual maintenance. The company also provides borescope inspection services, metallurgical evaluations and reverse engineering. In addition, it can provide new or refurbished capital spare parts for many mature frame gas turbine models.
MAN Diesel & Turbo
Localization of manpower within field service is the trend noted by J. Timo Gleichner, Senior Manager, Head of Field Service Turbomachinery at MAN Diesel & Turbo in Switzerland.
“It is essential to have an extensive service network to get quickly to the customer’s site when they need us,” he said. “I also notice the increased importance our customers put on high specialization throughout all the services we offer.”
Continued economic and political instability has a significant impact on MAN’s field service business. The company is currently working on an oil & gas project in Iraq, about 200 km southeast of Bagdad, where six MAN compressor skids are being installed in a gas treatment plant. For the staff deployed in the region, said Gleichner, there is a preliminary preparation phase, which involves Hostile Environment Awareness Training. This includes rehearsal and practice of various safety and security procedures.
Overall, MAN conducts the planning and execution of installations, commissioning, inspections, retrofits and maintenance work for turbomachinery plants all around the world. Its service portfolio comprises on-site technical and operational support; performance of inspections, revisions and repairs; implementation of modernizations on compressors, STs, expanders, GTs, auxiliaries and control systems; planning, education and qualification of manpower; and spare parts and tools.
With more than 100 service shops worldwide MAN is focusing on in-depth training of local field service staff around the globe. The goal is to give them the access to its accumulated knowledge and experience. The company also extends its field service capabilities into zones of advanced technology. It possesses expertise in hermetically sealed motor-compressor systems with active magnetic bearings. And it is investing in other evolving service technologies.
“We are working on digitization projects to further enhance the quality of our service,” said Gleichner. “For instance, augmented reality technology has the potential to be successfully implemented in our work processes.”
Klaus Alin, VP, Head of Field Service and Commissioning, MAN PrimeServ (the service solution provider of MAN Diesel & Turbo), added that customers expect high-quality solutions from a single-stop shop, with an increasing focus on flexibility and reaction times. “Across all branches, clients tend to concentrate more on their core business,” said Alin. “To keep their production processes running, maintenance, operation and sophisticated field services are increasingly outsourced to partners that preferably offer everything from a single source.”
The increased use of integrally geared centrifugal compressors (IGCs) and advances in control systems are a couple of the noteworthy trends highlighted by Mark Molnar, Global Field Service Manager at Ingersoll Rand’s GES Group. He said IGCs are being harnessed for fuel gas boosting and more complex process applications. This has particularly been the case since the inclusion of IGCs in the seventh addition of the API 617 specification for process gas compressors.
He has observed a shifting market toward the development of power generation infrastructure in emerging economies due to increased demands for electricity. Countries, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan are developing gas-fired power plants and require fuel gas boosting compressors due to the lack of sufficient gas pipeline pressure for gas turbine operation.
“In addition, advances in control system technology are creating increased demand for advanced logic programming in control system design and field programming capability for equipment commissioning,” said Molnar. “This trend has given rise to third-party control system integration companies that provide these services as a complement to the equipment provided by the compressor manufacturer.”
However, Ingersoll Rand has invested in the capability to provide these services in-house. He stated that the company’s factory direct technicians combine over 600 years of experience on the centrifugal compressor market. Its installation and commissioning engineers are capable of field programming Allen-Bradley and Siemens PLC-based control systems.
As a whole, IR provides installation, commissioning, upgrade and overhaul services for engineering, procurement, and construction companies (EPC’s), air separation, plant (utility or instrument) air and all API centrifugal compression units. It can perform turnkey installations and contracting of third-party construction groups. This includes mechanical, construction supervision, and field programming and modification of PLC systems.
“Ingersoll Rand offers proactive service programs, called CARE plans, which are designed to provide preventative maintenance and diagnostic analysis services to equipment to prevent events that cause unplanned downtime to ensure equipment stays running at optimal performance throughout the operating lifecycle,” said Molnar.
Customers want greater flexibility, according to Norbert Kamberg, Director Global Operations Field Services and Tools, Siemens Power & Gas Services. They want qualified service personnel located in close proximity to their power plants with a clear focus on short response times. In addition, he mentioned the rise of condition-based rather than time-based maintenance. “On the turbine deck, we see that some customers like to bring in their own service and maintenance personnel,” said Kamberg. “So training is of utmost importance and we’ve invested in training centers for our technicians as well as those of our customers.” Additionally, Siemens is seeing the emergence of new technologies in field service. Virtual Reality (VR), for example, allows technicians to see drawings, sketches, installation steps via VR glasses while they are working on a piece of equipment. Yet another trend is a preference for repair over replace. “We see that customers increasingly prefer sophisticated repair methods for their components,” said Kamberg. “We can bring every machining method which you find in a classical factory or repair shop on the deck with the same quality without transport to and from site.” In the next few years, dynamic changes are anticipated. Digitized technologies complemented by mature methods will lead to step change, he added.
“On the turbine deck, we see that some customers like to bring in their own service and maintenance personnel,” said Kamberg. “So training is of utmost importance and we’ve invested in training centers for our technicians as well as those of our customers.”
Additionally, Siemens is seeing the emergence of new technologies in field service. Virtual Reality (VR), for example, allows technicians to see drawings, sketches, installation steps via VR glasses while they are working on a piece of equipment. Yet another trend is a preference for repair over replace. “We see that customers increasingly prefer sophisticated repair methods for their components,” said Kamberg. “We can bring every machining method which you find in a classical factory or repair shop on the deck with the same quality without transport to and from site.” In the next few years, dynamic changes are anticipated. Digitized technologies complemented by mature methods will lead to step change, he added. Additive manufacturing (3D printing),
“We see that customers increasingly prefer sophisticated repair methods for their components,” said Kamberg. “We can bring every machining method which you find in a classical factory or repair shop on the deck with the same quality without transport to and from site.”
In the next few years, dynamic changes are anticipated. Digitized technologies complemented by mature methods will lead to step change, he added. Additive manufacturing (3D printing), sensor-technologies and data analytics for non-destructive examination, welding and onsite-machining will bring about a new breed of field service offerings.
“The execution of projects will be impacted by new planning methods clearly focusing on the value chain,” said Kamberg. “Minimally invasive services will result, through which we can accurately predict and anticipate the precise services the equipment needs to operate efficiently and reliably.”
Siemens provides a wide range of field services from routine parts replacement to complex retrofits to the turnkey building and operation of entire power plants. It supports customers by offering short- or long-term operations and maintenance services, hands-on safety and technical training for their operator and maintenance personnel, and by providing both traditional and data-driven service solutions. By using its network of local service centers, it offers 24/7 call-out services, 365 days a year, as well as remote diagnostics and troubleshooting support for problems or unscheduled outages.
Recently, it has introduced digitally enhanced tools and services for remote outage support and is developing VR technology. For example, the Siemens Multi-Function Lathe is a mobile computerized numerical control-driven machining center for high precision turning, milling or grinding operations on rotors and other components in the field such as blade groove repairs. Combined with the Siemens Eddy-Current Array technique used to examine and locate any flaws in a rotor, this repair service avoids the need to ship rotors to machine shops or factories.
“Despite the fact that field service is and will always be a people business, digitized tools, additive manufacturing and robotics will be game changers,” said Kamberg.
GE Power Services
Jim Kaveney, Vice President of Power Services Global Operations at GE’s Power Services, stated that customers face overcapacity, cost pressures, increased energy regulation and changing needs to meet industry dynamics.
“The effects of baby boomers reaching retirement age are starting to impact the industry,” said Kaveney. “Retaining the knowledge base is critical for field service performance.”
GE is betting heavily on automation and digitization as a means to improving field service. That means field engineers must become comfortable with digital tools and processes. This has the potential to allow them more time on the turbine deck, while adding real-time access to engineering support and community expertise. This can facilitate quicker decision making.
“Knowledge management and analytics tools will use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze data and schedule the visits of field service engineers in a timely manner,” said Kaveney. “This is going to impact the performance of single assets as well as overall performance at a plant level.”
The GE vision for tomorrow’s field service technician is clear: Armed with smart wearable tools, digital workspace technicians and their robot assistants will collaborate to complete the required maintenance tasks faster and before issues become disruptions. Always-connected smart machines will continue to share data about maintenance tasks and their results, thanks to the Industrial Internet.
“This self-healing equipment might sound futuristic, but it will be a reality soon,” said Kaveney. For today, GE Power provides outage services, upgrades, technical advisory services, operations & maintenance, on-site machining and repairs, project management, craft labor and installation services. On-site teams are available for maintenance and upgrade of total plant solutions, including steam, generator, boiler/Heat Recovery Steam Generator (HRSG), balance-of-plant (BOP) and cross-fleet assets.
GE recently created FieldCore, a standalone GE company that brings field services resources and activities together in one organization. It combines GE’s Power Services field engineers and Granite Services field engineers into one unit.
Doosan Škoda Power
Stanislav Šnejdar, Service Director, Doosan Škoda Power, said the market has changed in the past few years. Within new build projects, the long-term service agreement (LTSA) is becoming an integral part of project scope, particularly in Europe. In addition, he discussed lower investment into the service of coal-fired installations, the postponing of planned overhauls and the incorporation of reverse engineering. So what lies ahead? He expects greater use of predictive maintenance resulting from the rise of residual life assessments as customers seek to gain more life out of aging assets. He also called attention to the likelihood of growing non-OEM maintenance, repair and operations business, predominantly from newly installed Chinese machines. Doosan itself focuses on ST and BOP service including delivery of spare parts; repair of damaged or worn out parts; execution and supervision of regular inspections and overhauls; reverse engineering; special repairs (rotor disk welding, high speed balancing and re-blading), onsite machining; troubleshooting; residual life assessment of key turbine components; OEM and
So what lies ahead? He expects greater use of predictive maintenance resulting from the rise of residual life assessments as customers seek to gain more life out of aging assets. He also called attention to the likelihood of growing non-OEM maintenance, repair and operations business, predominantly from newly installed Chinese machines. Doosan itself focuses on ST and BOP service including delivery of spare parts; repair of damaged or worn out parts; execution and supervision of regular inspections and overhauls; reverse engineering; special repairs (rotor disk welding, high speed balancing and re-blading), onsite machining; troubleshooting; residual life assessment of key turbine components; OEM and non- OEM steam turbine retrofits, particularly those driven by lifetime extension, performance improvement or fuel conversion; LTSAs including the provision of a customer hotline, remote monitoring and an availability guarantee; and machine hall rehabilitation — BOP assessment.
Some bemoan the impact of generally lower oil prices. But Peter Venizelos, Aftersales Manager, Kobelco Compressors America (KCA), has noted an uptick in business as many have subsequently cut back their employee levels. As a result, KCA is seeing more requests for comprehensive onsite support and for LTSAs.
“Customers continue to search for ways to reliably extend the operating life and increase the lifecycle value of production units and critical equipment,” he said. Besides manufacturing compressors, Kobelco packages and supplies complete compressor systems (including compressor, motor drive, lube system, process vessels and PLC controls). Its field services cover all mechanical and electrical support required to commission and startup its systems.
Aftersales services support end users for the life of the equipment. This includes onsite services for routine maintenance and troubleshooting system operation, as well as planned and emergency compressor overhauls. “We have many compressor systems operating for decades,” said Venizelos. “With time, some of our end users tend to operate them off optimum design.
Consequently, KCA offers a Health Check, which includes a review of system operation and condition. This program helps customers maintain and operate compressor systems more effectively as per design.
The availability of skilled resources is the biggest customer concern mentioned by Eddie Tillman, Director of Elliott Field Service, Americas. Where in the past operators tended to treat service as transactional, today they view the service relationship as more of a partnership.
With older machines especially, much of the initial in-house expertise is gone due to attrition and retirement. Customers are increasingly understaffed in high-skill positions. The availability of resources, therefore, may be the biggest challenge affecting outage execution.
“To tackle this issue, customers are relying on their service partners more and more, and bringing them in much earlier in the planning process to help determine the best approach to achieve their goals,” said Tillman. In addition, he has perceived that operators are exhibiting increased awareness in providing a safe workplace for their workers and protecting the environment.
The best way to accomplish this, he said, is to increase investment in reliability improvements and the operating efficiency of their equipment. With improved technology, better materials and coatings, and better ways to reduce emissions, it is often possible to uprate equipment for far less than a new machine’s cost.
Elliott Group offers a single source, turnkey approach for routine maintenance, installation and startup assistance, planned outages, complex repairs, and emergency services for Elliott and non-Elliott rotating equipment. Field services include: Routine maintenance, installation, and startup; problem analysis, diagnosis and corrective action; technical direction & repair recommendations; and project management of outages, including emergency service, scheduled outages and turnarounds, major overhauls, equipment rerates & modifications, inspections, maintenance support, and relocation.
“We focus on the importance of project management early in the planning cycle,” said Tillman. “Meticulous planning to assess, quantify, and prioritize the scope of work is key to executing a successful turnaround.”
When equipment is installed, it typically stays in operation for up to 50 years, according to Tillman. Over its lifetime, users spend $5 to $15 on services for every dollar spent on initial purchase. This represents an opportunity for OEM services.
“Responsiveness and a local presence are important elements of a service operation,” he said. “Elliott manages and supports approximately 130 outages a year, and has a global network of service centers.”
EthosEnergy field services include STs, GTs, hydro turbines, pumps, centrifugal & reciprocating compressors, industrial engines, field machining and materials handling systems. The company has a team of experienced millwrights. It also offers fabrication, reverse engineering, optical & laser alignment, 24/7 response and specialized tooling.
The company believes the industry is suffering from an increasing inability to find and supply a sufficient number of qualified and ready to work union millwrights to fulfill growing needs. In addition, it notes that turnarounds and outages are no longer driven by hours or cycles on the equipment as in prior years. Market demand and customer financial bottom lines now determine the degree and volume of turnarounds and outages.