Turbo Speak: Field Trips

Driving uphill on a side road through a small Western Pennsylvania town, you suddenly arrive at Elliott Group’s campus in the town of Jeannette. Our recent visit there was pleasantly surprising in terms of the extent of the facility as well as the many facets of the Elliott business. Trips like this make it abundantly clear that there is no substitute for boots on the ground.

Sprawling across 110 acres and encompassing 880,000 square feet of manufacturing, service and administrative space, our tour took us through vast machining areas where all manner of centrifugal compressors, expanders and steam turbines stood at various stages of the manufacturing and assembly process. After that tour and a briefing from the execs, the major takeaways were that more than half the Elliott business comes from services, and the high degree of customization required in the production of oil & gas turbomachinery. Sites like this dispel the myth that manufacturing is dead in the U.S. You can read all about it in our News and Q & A sections.

An earlier trip took us to Italy for the GE Oil & Gas Annual Meeting (AM). This spawned a series of articles. The Show Report covers the impact of the industry downturn and what the various players are doing to survive. Rooting out rampant inefficiency and pouring the coals on innovation appear to be the two main strategies. Another story from that conference outlines the fallout from the recent Paris climate talks. An analyst from the International Energy Agency predicts renewable domination, natural gas growth and stubborn resistance from coal and nuclear. You can find it under Market Trends.

Our Cover Story gained some input from the AM. But factually, it is a piece we have been working on for some months. It investigates the growing trend toward digitization and how that is impacting our field. The trick in a story like that is to not get too carried away in all the hype about Big Data and the cloud. So we took our time, found some tangible examples, and unearthed several vendors adapting their tools in light of this trend. That enabled us to view the subject beyond only the turbomachinery OEM perspective.

One intriguing aspect is the concept of the industrial App Store. Apple has an App Store for the millions of applications (apps) you can download onto your phone. There are games, calendars, messaging services, flashlights, transportation, accomodations and a whole lot more. Once you download them, they integrate with other apps to do whatever is required.

Now imagine that on an industrial scale. What if every valve, seal, coupling, and auxiliary system that required software or contained sensors had its own app that connected instantly and seamlessly into one overall control system? Everything talking to each other, available at your fingertips on any device. That’s the vision, provided the security side can be appropriatey addressed, and a multitude of vendors can be persuaded to agree on the platform and the modes of interaction — big asks, to be sure.

Further stories concern gas fuel flow measurement, microturbines in CHP, differential pressure regulators, commissioning of turbomachinery packages and highpressure pipelines.

Looking ahead, our next issue will bring news from a couple of users groups: the Western Turbine Users in Palm Springs, California and the Combustion Turbine Operators Technical Forum in St. Augustine Florida.

One final point: Check out our brand new website. We have revamped the look and feel of the site, added more online content and are posting more technical material there. While much of the print magazine remains subscriber only, we are now providing some print content online which is available to anyone. Visit www.turbomachinerymag.com and take a look for yourself.