TPS 2023 Keynote: Turbines Will Continue to Play a Role in Power Generation, New Energy Landscape

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The 2023 Turbomachinery & Pump Symposia in Houston, TX, kicked off with the keynote address by Dr. Michael Webber.

The 2023 Turbomachinery & Pump Symposia (TPS) in Houston, TX, kicked off with a welcome address delivered by Dr. Michael Webber, professor at the University of Texas at Austin and John J. McKetta Centennial Energy Chair in Engineering. The address set the stage for this year’s display of turbomachinery and pump technology and highlighted the latest trends in the energy landscape and turbomachinery.

Dr. Eric Petersen, Director of the Turbomachinery Laboratory at Texas A&M University, opened the keynote address with some helpful notes for the audience: keeping up with TPS 2023 through the designated app, attending the end-of-conference banquet, and submitting abstracts for next year’s symposia. Dr. Petersen closed his brief introduction with an outline of the Asia Turbomachinery & Pump Symposia at the Kuala Lumpur Conference Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 13-16, 2024. This extension of TPS is expected to garner over 2,000 attendees and exhibitors, displaying an international focus on the development of turbomachinery for the future.

Dr. Petersen handed the role of lead keynote speaker to Dr. Webber, who discussed the importance of turbomachinery in the modern world, particularly in the energy generation sector. The history of rotating technology and the predecessors to modern gas/steam turbines were laid out by Dr. Webber, citing the efficiency of continuous rotating motion in power generation as superior to back-and-forth batch power generation. He said that the world of turbomachinery, including gas turbines, will remain relevant given the stability it offers to the grid.

Dr. Webber highlighted a few trends he sees shaping the future:

  • New designs that include smaller (and simultaneously, larger) turbines
  • Lighter-weight turbines
  • Turbines that support higher temperatures
  • Turbines that support a wider range of fuels
  • Fuel flexibility that can support newer fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen as well as blends: bio-methane + hydrogen, for example
  • Lightweight materials
  • Cooling channels inside the blades (difficult, but possible)

Although the industry is buzzing with talks of hydrogen because it burns clean, challenges with handling and leakage, to name a few, complicate matters. Dr. Webber said using a 20% hydrogen blend is fine, but higher percentages create problems. He also mentioned ammonia, which reduces emissions but increases energy usage.

Dr. Webber detailed a future in which turbomachinery integrates clean-burning fuels at ever-increasing efficiencies, separating itself from antiquated technologies incapable of fuel flexibility and carbon minimization. Gases like hydrogen, ammonia, nitrogen, and methane will go hand-in-hand with carbon sequestration to develop a power generation sector that is cleaner and more efficient than technologies of decades past.

He closed the keynote address with words of encouragement for those in the field of turbomachinery, deconstructing notions of doubt from those who believe that turbines have no place in the future of energy. Dr. Webber advised those in the crowd to keep developing turbomachinery to counter issues in modern energy generation.