TURBO EXPO 2017: Show report

The 2017 Turbomachinery Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina drew more than three thousand people to hear hundreds of presentations. The show has an overall focus on academic papers. But there were still plenty of practical sessions relating to a wide range of subjects.

Companies such as Solar Turbines, GE, Siemens, Man Diesel & Turbo, Luminant, Southern Power, Exelon, Duke Energy, Liburdi Turbine Services, Gas Turbine Materials Associates, Ron Munson Associates and Natole Enterprises led the way with detailed coverage of operations & maintenance, and developmental issues. Superalloys, high-temperature coatings, gas turbine (GT) failure analysis, repair techniques, compression vane liberation, inlet air filtration, Heat Recovery Steam Generator (HRSG) fouling, blade cracking and new GT developments were among the many topics of interest.

Dag Calafell, formerly the Chief Machinery Engineer at ExxonMobil (retired) and now a private consultant, kicked off the keynote session. He zeroed in on the economic strain facing oil & gas producers due to lower oil prices. He said capital expenditure (CAPEX) was down 40% in the sector for both 2015 and 2016.  Some providers were attempting strategies based on stringent control of Capex.

Others approach the matter differently. They concentrated their cost cutting efforts on operating expenditure (OPEX). “You can’t optimize CAPEX or OPEX alone; it is necessary to work on both simultaneously,” said Calafell.

He then examined technologies that would assist in lower both factors. These typically involved either unmanned, emissions-free, zero-maintenance solutions, or a combination of these elements.

Additive Manufacturing (AM, also known as 3D printing), he said, has the potential to minimize GT emissions and eliminate selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems. Case in point: a new Turboprop jet engine required 385 parts. 3D printing brought that down to only 12 parts. In total, 40% of the engine is now 3D printed.

Materials and active surfaces represents another area of innovation. Work here is being done in areas such as self-healing thermal barrier coatings (TBCs) and next-generation damage tolerant ceramic metal composites (CMCs).  This could greatly reduce hot gas path maintenance, and incorporate analytics to achieve real-time optimization.

In addition, Calafell thought maintenance tools could bring about greater efficiency. Simulation and modelling, robotics, computer-mediated reality virtual reality, 3D visualization and operator wear technology could make life easier for those on the plant floor. Such tools could help them detect problems earlier, take remedial action and improve inspection accuracy.

Next up, Kevin Murray, PMC Engineering and Construction, Duke Energy, outlined his company’s plans for the future. Headquartered in Charlotte, Duke has 7.5 million electric and 1.6 million gas customers in six states. It owns almost 50 GW of generation capacity.

But trends such as low emissions and renewables have impacted its generation mix. An organizational goal is to reduce CO2 emissions from their 2005 levels by 40% by 2030. Coal has declined from two thirds to one third of its portfolio. The slack is being taken up by natural gas and renewables.

Duke owns more than 160 GTs. Murray likes their relatively low emissions and their ability to respond to load changes. North Carolina is now the number two state in the U.S. on solar installations. This is challenging the grid. “We see energy storage and GTs as the solution to renewable intermittency,” said Murray. “We need GTs with fast start, high ramp rates and a low turndown.”

You can read the complete report from the Turbo Expo in the Sept/Oct edition of Turbomachinery International.