Sulzer is supplying the first ever industrial scale cMIST™ system for natural gas dehydration with start-up scheduled for the second half of 2020. The unit will be installed at an onshore ExxonMobil facility in the U.S.
The cMIST™ unit is to be delivered to ExxonMobil’s facility by Sulzer Chemtech, the leader in separation and mixing technology, and will be the world’s first commercial application of the cMIST™ technology in place of conventional glycol contactors. The project will be executed by Sulzer’s specialized engineering centers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S., Arnhem, the Netherlands, and Pune, India.
The equipment will showcase how this innovative gas processing solution can support companies in the oil and gas sector in meeting stringent requirements for water content in natural gas with a compact and lightweight solution.
ExxonMobil’s patented technology relies on a proprietary cMIST™ droplet generator and Sulzer’s patented HiPer™ Inline separator to deliver the same performance and efficiency as conventional gas dehydration systems based on glycol contactors, while greatly reducing their weight and footprint. As a result, cMIST™ is particularly beneficial for onshore and offshore facilities, where space is limited. The technology is equally applicable for greenfield or brownfield and can address dehydration capacity and/or efficiency bottlenecks in existing production facilities.
This new project builds on a longstanding partnership between Sulzer and ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil developed cMIST™ technology for gas dehydration, with the assistance of Sulzer, and subsequently offered Sulzer an exclusive license for the design and supply of cMIST™ units for onshore and offshore gas dehydration applications.
Ken Dowd, Technology Development Manager at ExxonMobil, comments: “This project will leverage the combined expertise of Sulzer and ExxonMobil in delivering cutting-edge process technologies for gas treating. We have collaborated with Sulzer’s specialized teams on this technology from the development phase and now look forward to deploying the first industrial-scale cMIST™ field-based unit.”
Danny Thierens, Head of Sales & Market Development – Upstream Systems at Sulzer, concludes: “We look forward to completing the installation of the first industrial scale cMIST™ gas dehydration system in close cooperation with our partner ExxonMobil. This innovative plant will demonstrate the benefits of the system to the upstream oil and gas market and will strengthen the confidence of customers that are considering the deployment of this technology, on the basis of the numerous design concepts that Sulzer has helped to develop since the licensing agreement came into effect.”
12 million benefit from ambitious water pumping project
In Brazil, the government has been looking to bring relief to a semi-arid area in the northeast of the country that is home to 12 million people. Sulzer designed and manufactured six of the largest pumps in the project, to transfer water from the São Francisco River to the drought-affected area.
For decades, work has been going on to improve the water supply to the northeast region of Brazil that is equivalent in size to France. Over the past 10 years, the government has brought together designers, engineers and manufacturers to create 600 km of canals, 9 pumping stations, 27 reservoirs and all of the associated infrastructure.
The extraction point for the Northern section would require two of the largest pumps ever manufactured by Sulzer, and some of the pumps would require electric motors rated over 5 MW.
This massive project involved extracting water from two points on the São Francisco River; the first pumping it to the North and the second pumping water to the Northeast. In both cases, the designers had to overcome a number of challenges, especially the variable height of the São Francisco River and the huge distances that the water had to travel.
As one of the world’s leading pump manufacturers, Sulzer was involved in this project from the early stages, offering technical advice on what could be achieved with modern pump designs. This led to Sulzer being awarded the contract in 2007 to design and manufacture six enormous pumps that would help make this concept a reality.
In the North, BKn 1800 vertical pumps were proposed, with a flowrate of 45’000 m3/hour (26’500 cfm), they would weigh almost 100 tonnes (110 tons) each and require an electric motor rated at 5’500 kW (7’300 HP). Each pump would discharge the water using two-meter pipework with a head of 36 meters (118 feet). For two of the pumping stations on the Eastern section, they would be equipped with BK 1870 pumps and BKn 1470 pumps with flowrates of 25’000 m3/hour (14’700 cfm).
All three of the pump models selected for this project had known hydraulic profiles, but they had never been manufactured for such large flows with the associated power requirements. Bruno Antoniassi, Head of Sales, Brazil Energy Business for Sulzer, explains: “It was essential that we create scaled-down models to validate the suction well geometry, the hydraulic performance and the mechanical structure of the pumps.
“Due to the dimensions and the weight of the proposed pump designs, it would not be possible to test them on a commercially available test stand. Fortunately, our designers were able to overcome this and several other challenges that arose during this project. Using computer modelling as well as scaled-down pumps, we resolved all of the issues.”
One of the main complications concerned the river levels, which can vary considerably, depending on the rainfall in the area. The design of the suction layout and the pump itself had to accommodate this variation and still deliver the required flowrate, especially when water levels were low and demand in the arid areas was at a peak. The solution was to create pump designs that could operate at different suction levels, with the flowrates and power demands matching the changing situation.
Of course, with such large power requirements to drive these pumps, efficiency was one of the major challenges for Sulzer. Since the running costs make up 90% of the overall expenditure of each pump, creating a design that delivers optimum efficiency was a major priority for the project. Overall pumping efficiency is calculated from mechanical, hydraulic and volumetric efficiencies, all of which are determined by the engineering design of the pump components. Sulzer refined the design of each pump to ensure it precisely matched its role and provided the customer with a guaranteed efficiency at the rated point.
Having finalized the design and tested the models, manufacturing could begin. With such large castings and a considerable amount of machining to be done, the build time for the six pumps was estimated at 12 to 15 months. All of the work was completed in Sulzer’s Brazilian facilities, which enabled the customer to monitor progress easily.
Completing the grand plan
Bruno Antoniassi continues: “Sulzer was chosen to deliver this contract for a number of reasons, not least our expertise in pump design, but also because of our extensive facilities and labor resources in Brazil and within our global network. These have allowed us to complete the installation and commissioning of six pumps for this project.”
The installation process was a challenge in itself; the size and weight of the components, combined with the remote locations of the pumping stations and the lack of any infrastructure meant the field teams had to be properly equipped to complete the task. The Sulzer engineers completed the commissioning on time and, more than 10 years on, the pumps continue to supply water to the North Eastern region.
Global push for net-zero recovery from COVID-19
In the largest ever UN-backed, CEO-led climate advocacy effort, we join other multinationals in reaffirming science-based commitments to achieving a zero carbon economy and calling on governments to match the ambition.
More than 155 companies — spanning 34 sectors, headquarters in 33 countries and representing a combined total over 5 million employees — have signed a statement urging governments around the world to align their COVID-19 economic aid and recovery efforts with the latest climate science. Grundfos is one of them.
“In spite of its severity, the current health and economic crisis should not lead decision makers across the world to lower their climate ambitions and slow down the green transition. For all of us to truly recover better, we need the very opposite. This means massive investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy production and green electrification,” says Mads Nipper, Group President & CEO, Grundfos.
As debates on recovery packages around the world gather pace, the companies, which are all part of the Science Based Targets initiative, are calling for policies that will build resilience against future shocks by supporting efforts to hold global temperature rise to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with reaching net-zero emissions well before 2050.
“Green investment is not only necessary for reaching the 1.5 degree climate target. It is also a far better way to kickstart the economy during a crisis, as investments in green technologies create more than three times as many new jobs as fossil fuel equivalent investments per million USD invested. Green business is good business. Not just in times of high growth, but especially in tough times like now,” adds Mads Nipper.
By signing the statement, the companies are reaffirming that their own decisions and actions remain grounded in science, while calling on governments to “prioritize a faster and fairer transition from a grey to a green economy.”
New pumps paid off in two years
Power generation plants rely on boiler feed pumps to deliver a reliable and consistent flow of water to the boilers, which create the steam that powers the turbine, which creates electricity. After 45 years in service the boiler feed pumps needed to be replaced and Sulzer managed to achieve an impressive return on investment of just over two years.
Reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfill is an important environmental consideration and one that is being supported by waste-to-energy plants, which use the material to create electricity. These plants help to increase sustainable energy production and they are supported by Sulzer, which offers many products and services that can improve efficiency and reliability.
Rising maintenance costs
A major UK waste-to-energy plant was experiencing considerable reliability issues with its six boiler feed pumps. Routine maintenance involved a complete refurbishment every two years and the costs for this work were increasing. Sulzer only became involved after one of its turbine specialists was discussing current issues with the maintenance manager.
Dale Jarvis, Business Development Engineer with Sulzer, explains: “I had been working with this plant for some time, providing support for the steam turbine, and during one visit the discussion turned to the boiler feed pumps. Knowing that Sulzer has considerable expertise in boiler feed pumps, I invited one of my colleagues to visit the plant and see what we could offer.”
The plant has six boiler feed pumps that have been operating since the site was commissioned over 45 years ago. Over the years, the pumps have been regularly maintained, but more recently, they have required major refurbishments to keep them operational.
As a pump manufacturer and independent service provider, Sulzer was well-placed to deliver a turnkey solution that would include the removal of the legacy equipment and the installation and commissioning of new pumps. Having established the specifications of the old pumps, it was possible to source new pumps that would exactly match the original performance characteristics of the old pumps but with improved efficiency.
Sulzer’s proposal was to replace two pumps each year, allowing the plant to spread the cost of the project and also appreciate the benefits of the new pumps before committing to the next stage of the installation. The financial benefits were obvious from the outset. The cost of each new pump was only marginally more than the refurbishment costs of the equipment it replaced, giving a return on investment of just over two years.
Dale continues: “Our site services team only needed ten days on site to remove the old pump, modify the pipework slightly and install the new equipment. This ensured that the plant always had sufficient capacity and no downtime was associated with the project. After the first two pumps were installed, the plant manager decided to continue with the project and four pumps have now been replaced. The installation of the remaining two will take place next year.”
Sulzer has so far installed four of its MBN50 high pressure 9-stage pumps, which are primarily designed for power generation applications and provide efficient and reliable service in this demanding environment. The performance of each pump has been tailored to the application to ensure optimum efficiency and reliability.
Dales concludes: “The plant manager has immediately seen the benefits of the new pumps. The annual running costs have dropped dramatically, and the maintenance team is now able to spend more time looking after other important equipment. The whole project has been completed on time without any disruption to the operation of the plant and is on target for completion next year.”
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