WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DECADE MAKES

Welcome to the annual Turbomachinery International Handbook for 2017. This is a special issue that gives you a directory of all suppliers and a listing of every turbomachinery specification — gas turbines, steam turbines, centrifugal compressors and turboexpanders. These are provided for power generation and mechanical drive, and for combined cycle as well as simple cycle units.

Those eagerly anticipated elements are always accompanied by a select group of articles and analyses. For example, you can read an article comparing the many gearbox specifications and standards that exist. The author makes the point that the standard chosen has a major bearing on project costs and could lead to over-specification. A brand new feature has been added to our normal line up. A review of the pump and compressor marketplace is provided by IHS Markit. We hope to expand its scope in future Handbooks and make this into one of its highlights going forward. But the anchors of the Handbook have been our U.S Power Industry Outlook by Industrial Info Resources (IIR) and the GT World Market Outlook by Forecast International (FI). Both research firms have been providing the magazine with this content for more than a decade. So this year, we decided to take a peek down memory lane to compare the predictions from the 2007 Handbook with those of today. It turned out to be a real eye opener.

Ten years ago, FI’s prediction showed over 12,000 GTs to be sold in the coming decade. Nowadays, the projection for the next decade has dwindled down to less than 5,500. At the same time, the dollar value has dropped from $143 billion in projected orders to $105 billion. Yet the vendor leaders in each category remain unchanged. GE led the pack with 40% of market value in 2007 and today boasts 45%. Meanwhile Solar Turbines scored 36% in total unit sales back then and now has 38%. That said, Siemens has made some major gains in dollar sales volume during that time. It moved from 13% to almost 30% while MHI jumped from less than 10% to almost 13%.

On the IIR side, the 2007 Handbook story was full of gas pessimism and coal optimism. Coal accounted for 41% of power generation in those days. That number has been whittled down gradually via regulatory attrition to 30.2% and gas has now overtaken it with 34.2% expected for 2016.

But the most shocking difference is the IIR chart showcasing the new-build mix for the next several years. The 2007 version featured large dark (coal) sections of the pie charts for almost every U.S. region. Today, coal is almost entirely absent. The Rocky Mountain region had 60% coal, the Southwest 65% and the Midwest had 56%. Not only is coal missing in action from all of their 2017 pie charts, renewables amount to 70% to 91% in each of these areas. Few could have foretold the shocking collapse of coal and nuclear, the revival of natural gas due to the shale gas boom or the unprecedented ascendancy of renewables.

The 2007 Handbook also extolled the promise of Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology. Some 65 units equipped with IGCC were on the books back then and they have dwindled to virtually nothing. Similarly, wave and tidal power were expected to account for as much as 5% of total U.S. power generation between 2015- 2020. This just shows you what a tough job our analysts have and how many random and unforeseen events can completely alter our future trajectory. And it should act as a cautionary tale to regulators and politicians who name new technologies as part of ambitious emissions reduction targets. The real world demonstrates that it can sometimes take decades for new power generation technologies to mature.

In memoriam

Septimus Van Der Linden, 83, a regular contributor to the magazine, passed away on 29 August of 2016. Sep authored and presented more than 100 technical papers at conferences around the world and was a mainstay of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI) in a variety of roles over many decades. He received the ASME Dedicated Service Award and the ASME IGTI Outstanding Service Award. His organizational career included Worthington International, Curtiss-Wright Power Systems, Brown Boveri/ABB/ Alstom and his own engineering consulting company Brulin Associates.