TTS Modernises Vintage Gas Turbines

When Turbines Technology Services (TTS) is working on a modernisation project, it involves more than migrating from an old vintage system to its modern equivalent.

It requires rethinking applications and upgrading multiple technologies. TTS can transform a compression station’s processes and help reposition its operations for the next 20 to 30 years.

In 2012, TTS was involved in the conversion project of a legacy GE Frame 5001 gas turbine.  The PLC-based turbine control system had become obsolete due to mechanical wear and outdated manual calibrations in the field.

TTS simplified the gas turbine fuel control system by eliminating the unnecessary pre-control valve pressure regulation.  The upgrade created a more efficient, innovative fuel control system by reducing preventative maintenance costs from $5,000 to $10,000 a year to under $1,000 a year.

Updating critical gas turbine instrumentation enables production machines to adapt to modern demands and ensures a reliable, productive service life.

The full benefit of a system upgrade is achieved if it is conducted in conjunction with a rewire and some device upgrades to support the new control systems and optimise its available features.

The primary advantage of a system upgrade is the availability of information that can be gathered, logged and stored.  The information is crucial for operations and maintenance performance trending, predictive maintenance programs and troubleshooting.

There are two types of system upgrades – drop-in and retrofit.

In a drop-in upgrade, there is no need for wiring changes, drawing changes or engineering beyond specifying the equipment.  Examples of a drop-in upgrade include battery systems (charger and battery) and motor control centres where the control circuits are maintained.

Complete retrofits require detailed design engineering and the provision of new design documentation such as specifications, drawings and software. Examples of a retrofit upgrade include turbine control systems, station control panels, emergency shutdown systems, compressor controls, motor control centres, which are intelligent centres with control over ethernet or DeviceNet, and electronic valves applied to fuel systems or replacing hydraulic actuators such as IGV.

By restoring old or obsolete automation systems that constitute only a fraction of plant capital costs, pipeline operators can manage their assets more efficiently to improve their bottom line.  They can also leverage advanced analytics to monitor and optimise multiple stations across their pipeline fleet.

Gas turbines have recently become the technology of choice for new US compressor stations. However, a lot of Frame 3 and Frame 5 gas turbine units have been in service for decades and are still in operation. Modernisation presents an opportunity to reduce the risks posed by vintage systems and improve long-term business performance.

The need for station and unit control reliability is crucial in these decades-old facilities. However, ageing or obsolete systems, as well as the lack of operational and diagnostic information available for the vintage systems presents a challenge in achieving a high level of reliability.

As a result, the compression stations experience a greater risk of production downtime. They are more likely to face support challenges and difficulty with maintaining regulatory compliance. Likewise, they spend valuable time and resources performing manual data collection and reporting.

Modernising plant control systems can alleviate these challenges and facilitate a higher level of integration between unit control and associated subsystems.

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