Turbine manufacturers’ response to surge in gas production

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In the first part of this series, the author discussed how natural gas is affecting the North American industrial gas turbine market, the skepticism about prolonged production, and whether the industry is here to stay. In this article, he talks about the gas turbine manufacturers and their new approaches to GTs and CCs.

The GT manufacturers know all about the new North American NG supply and are all gearing up to supply the electric utility market with advanced GTs and CCs. As an example, GE recently announced that it has sold all of its appliance manufacturing business to Electrolux, a Swedish company, for about 4½ billion dollars. GE said that the profit level for appliances was too low for them and that they wanted to invest this money in promising and more profitable areas such as jet engines, industrial GTs and electric locomotives where the future looks bright and where the profit levels are higher.

Gone are the old days of the GE/Edison Company where the slogan was “Live Better Electrically” whereby GE made many new electrical appliances to build up the electric load and then sold large steam turbine generator sets to satisfy this demand. This approach worked quite well for GE at the time, but I wonder what Thomas Edison would say if he were still around.

Efficient maintenance

GE has come up with a new way to improve and make maintenance more efficient for gas turbines and other GE heavy equipment. The New York Times recently carried a story about GE's CEO, Jeff Immelt, who three years ago started a new software program he calls Internet of Things (IoT) whereby monitors are placed on GTs and other GE made heavy equipment and then data from these devices is sent to a central repository where the data is carefully analyzed and managed to provide more effective and efficient maintenance and trending. This business is projected to take in 1.1 billion dollars this year. 


GE now plans to extend this software and analytic service for other manufacturer's equipment next year to be called Predix. Condition monitoring done locally at the equipment location has been done for a number of years, but not centrally and to this extent. Better monitoring devices and transmission are now available to make GE's Predix system practical.

Other manufacturers have their own stories to tell about how they are responding to the new NG in North America. They all have new approaches to GTs and CCs to offer the electric utility industry.

Oil from Canada to the north of US

The Republican takeover of the US Senate and the additional Republican members to the House will force the issue of the Canadian Keystone XL pipeline to our north. The environmentalists have been successful so far in getting our President blocking the this pipeline crossing the border, but sections of  the pipeline in the US have already been built. This has been a hot potato energy issue for several years and will be at the top of the list of the Republicans to act upon after the first of the year.

The low grade Canadian sand crude is now flowing to the US Gulf coast refineries in large quantities where refineries can handle the nasty stuff via Canadian pipe lines and tankers. This is an expensive way to transport this crude, but as of now there is no other way.

New Mexican laws for oil and gas production

South of us Mexico has been in trouble for several years regarding NG and crude oil production. Its crude oil output had dropped off from 3.5 million barrels per day to about two, and their income from its oil had fallen off drastically. Pemex, the Mexican government-run oil entity, did not have the capital or the knowhow to take advantage of the huge shale oil bearing deposit that runs from the Texas Eagle Ford play deep into Mexico.

About a year ago, Mexico took strong action by passing new and far reaching laws to correct their problem. The government decided to open up drilling, pipelines, electric power generation and other state-owned energy activities to foreign countries, especially the US. Pemex would be a partner to the various successful foreign bidders and now the details have been worked out. Bids are presently being prepared. Awards will be coming soon. Illegal immigration should also be reduced as its economy and employment picks up.

We can expect new CC power plants to spring up inside Mexico, particularly along the Rio Grande valley. Auto plants will be reestablished along with other manufacturing under the US existing fair trade law. The drug situation and crime should become less when the Mexican workers make more money and there is less incentive to go outside the law. Ties between our two countries will become much stronger as a result of the new Mexican energy law.

In his next article, the author talks about a few mechanical engineering articles and the upcoming ASME conference scheduled for early 2015.

(Ivan G. Rice was past chairman of the South Texas Section of ASME (1974 - 75), past chairman of the ASME Gas Turbine Division (now IGTI) (1975 - 76). A Life Fellow Member of ASME and Life Member of NSPE/TSPE, he has authored many articles and ASME papers on gas turbines, inter-cooling, reheat, HRSGs, steam cooling and steam injection.)


Introduction to long-term use of natural gas in US