There are several especially good reasons to register today for the 23rd Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Western Turbine Users Inc (WTUI) at the San Diego Convention Center, March 10-13. Most importantly, perhaps, is that with North American gas turbines running longer because of favorable gas prices, intervals between inspections and overhauls are being compressed and the time is now to come up to speed on current issues, the latest repair techniques, shop availability, etc, to assure the engines in your care will continue to meet expectations.
WTUI’s annual conferences offer more technical instruction and discussion on LM2500, LM5000, LM6000, and LMS100 gas turbines than any user group in the world. Coverage of best practices and lessons learned is part of this. That’s why hundreds of aero owner/operators from two dozen or more countries attend regularly. Plus, this year the technical program for each machine has been expanded to nearly 10 hours to meet the burgeoning information needs of users. Access the full technical program.
Detailed instruction is provided, as always, by engine experts from the OEM and its licensed repair depots: Air New Zealand, Avio, IHI, MTU Maintenance, and TransCanada Turbines. Leaders of the ensuing discussion sessions are your user colleagues serving as the Breakout Session Chairs: John Baker, plant manager, Riverside Public Utilities, LM2500; Andrew Gundershaug, operations manager, Calpine Corp, LM5000; David Merritt, deputy GM for power operations, Kings River Conservation District, LM6000; and Don Haines, plant manager, Wood Group Power Plant Solutions, LMS100. You can’t do better than that all-star lineup.
WTUI’s officers—President Jon Kimble of Wellhead Services Inc, VPs Bill Lewis of PPL Generation LLC and Jim Bloomquist of Chevron, Secretary Chuck Casey of Riverside Public Utilities, and Treasurer Wayne Kawamoto of Corona Energy Partners Ltd—expect near-record attendance, at least.
Go West. This may be the year more owner/operators from the Northeast and Midwest participate, with good reason. Low gas prices combined with the need to “fill in” for intermittent renewables (wind, in particular) more than doubled the aggregate capacity factor for aeros in the middle of the country, and bumped it by one-third in the Northeast—according to statistics provided by Strategic Power Systems Inc (SPS), Charlotte.
In the late 1980s, when the seeds were sown for the 1991 incorporation of WTUI by Kawamoto, Jim Hinrichs, John Tunks, Ernie Soczka, Bob Fields, and Steve Johnson, among others, most of the land-based LM engines were in cogeneration plants. This was in response to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (Purpa, 1978), which allowed efficient independent generators to enter the electricity supply business.
Industry evolution. As the structure of the electric power industry evolved and the nameplate ratings and efficiencies of aeros increased with the introduction of the LM6000 in 1992 and the LMS100 in 2006, simple-cycle peakers came to dominate new orders. But as frames have increased in size and combined cycles now replacing coal and nuclear units are rated above 1000 MW, an opportunity has emerged for small flexible combined cycles powered by aeros.
Examples: Reporting from Western Turbine last year, CCJ ONsite profiled the 2012 startup of two 2 x 1 LM6000PF-powered combined cycles at Black Hills Corp’s Pueblo Airport Generation Station. Expected to attend the meeting in San Diego are representatives of Chugach Electric Association Inc, which recently placed in service a 183-MW, 3 x 1 LM6000-powered combined cycle with partner Anchorage Municipal Light & Power. In California, Calpine Corp expects to complete the repowering of its Los Esteros Energy Center—a 10-year-old four-unit (LM6000) simple-cycle peaking facility—to a 4 x 1 combined cycle before summer.
The importance of the Rankine cycle to an increasing number of WTUI attendees has not gone unnoticed. The Tuesday afternoon program features presentations on heat-recovery steam generators (HRSGs) and NOx control via SCRs. That four WTUI officers and board members are responsible for aero-powered combined cycles—Casey, Baker, Don Stahl, and Brad Hans—and a couple of others manage cogeneration plants, may mean increased coverage at future meetings. Small HRSGs and steam turbines are not addressed by any other user group.
The HRSG session, which will cover drum-type and once-through boilers, starts with a presentation by Ned Congdon, PE, of HRST Inc, Eden Prairie, Minn. Congdon, well known to HRSG users in the West, will focus his prepared remarks on inlet-duct inspection and repair and economizer problems/solutions. The latter includes coverage of thermal shock, dew-point corrosion, and gas-side fouling/cleaning. An open discussion period will follow with Congdon available to answer user questions.
New NERC requirements. With increasing regulation of the electric power industry a fact of life, the WTUI leadership invited Tom Christiansen of SPS to bring attendees up to date on the new NERC GADS reporting requirements that impact all thermal units 20 MW and larger. Christiansen will be presenting on Tuesday afternoon (refer to technical program referenced earlier).
But because of the importance of the new NERC rules, owner/operators not able to attend the Tuesday session can participate in the special post-conference session hosted by SPS on Wednesday afternoon. Those users not able to get all of their questions answered on Tuesday also would benefit from the more robust Wednesday session, which will include participation by a NERC GADS expert.
The Axford Report. The “Worldwide Gas Turbine Business Report,” which traditionally leads off the Tuesday program, is of particular value to the many vendors in attendance. Houston-based consultant Mark Axford will review and interpret 2012 market statistics and give his predictions for 2013. Axford understands the business of land-based aeros as well as anyone and much better than most.
The value of the exhibition that opens Sunday afternoon at 5:30 in the San Diego Convention Center’s Sails Pavilion should not be under estimated. Compliance with NERC’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Standards are on the minds of many owner/operators based on observations of the editors both at user-group meetings and during plant visits. While determination of which generating plants not already deemed “critical” will be so categorized in the future is pending, many plants installed during the “bubble” and earlier are at the age when controls upgrades should be considered, if not implemented.
Compared to many of the upgrades and enhancements promoted by gas-turbine OEMs, controls retrofits are relatively inexpensive and they generally produce an immediate payback in terms of improved operational flexibility. Leading providers of third-party control systems, as well as integrators, will be in the exhibit hall. They include:
• WoodGroup GTS (Booth 428), which has provided LM6000 PLC-based control systems for several users in the last couple of years.
• Wunderlich-Malec (Booth 426), which has completed balance-of-plant (BOP) controls upgrades for several users attending the meeting.
• Emerson Process Management (Booth 427), well known to many attendees for its Ovation® DCS and for the PLC work done by its relatively recent acquisition, Innovative Control Systems Inc.
• CSE Engineering Inc (Booth 407) has many projects to its credit at plants powered by gas turbines.
• Petrotech Inc (Booth 729), which recently replaced several control systems on legacy GE engines.
• HPI LLC (Booth 707) recently replaced OEM controls on two FT8s with a PLC-based solution.
When making travel arrangements, keep in mind that the technical program begins Sunday afternoon (March 10) with user orientation for first-time attendees at 4 pm. This 90-minute session offers a valuable introduction to LM engines, terminology, nomenclature, and other hands-on knowledge and experience to prepare for group discussions the following day. A good idea for everyone: Come a day early and participate in the golf or tennis tournament on Sunday morning.