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Next Generation Microturbine Technology

Next-Generation Offshore Power Solutions Microturbines for Oil and Gas: Market Overview Proving a Point: How Microturbines are Demonstrating Their Value in the Real World Why Microturbine Power Generation Outshines the Rest Bigger is Better – The Future of Microturbine Electric Generators

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Published by Global Business Media



Next Generation Microturbine Technology

Contents Foreword


Tom Cropper, Editor Next-Generation Offshore Power Solutions Microturbines for Oil and Gas: Market Overview Proving a Point: How Microturbines are Demonstrating Their Value in the Real World Why Microturbine Power Generation Outshines the Rest Bigger is Better – The Future of Microturbine Electric Generators

Sponsored by

Published by Global Business Media

Next-Generation Offshore Power Solutions Miguel Flores, Capstone Turbine Corporation

Introduction The Technical Effectiveness of Next Generation Microturbine Technology Success Stories Future Outlook

Published by Global Business Media

Microturbines for Oil and Gas: Market Overview

Global Business Media Limited 62 The Street Ashtead Surrey KT21 1AT United Kingdom

James Gooding, Staff Writer

Switchboard: +44 (0)1737 850 939 Fax: +44 (0)1737 851 952 Email: Website: Publisher Kevin Bell Business Development Director Marie-Anne Brooks Editor Tom Cropper Senior Project Manager Steve Banks Advertising Executives Michael McCarthy Abigail Coombes Production Manager Paul Davies For further information visit: The opinions and views expressed in the editorial content in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation with which they may be associated. Material in advertisements and promotional features may be considered to represent the views of the advertisers and promoters. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily express the views of the Publishers or the Editor. While every care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, neither the Publishers nor the Editor are responsible for such opinions and views or for any inaccuracies in the articles.

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What are Microturbines? Size of the Market in 2014 Why Oil and Gas? Developments of Technology

Proving a Point: How Microturbines are Demonstrating Their Value in the Real World


James Gooding, Staff Writer

Natural Inertia Power Requirements Durability Costs Energy Efficiency and the Emissions Conclusion

Why Microturbine Power Generation Outshines the Rest


Jo Roth, Staff Writer

Independent Power Operation Fuel Efficiency Maintenance Downtime Combined Heat and Power Rig Compatibility Conclusion

Bigger is Better – The Future of Microturbine Electric Generators


Tom Cropper, Editor

The Search for More Oil Unique Challenges of Deep Water Conclusion

References 15



Foreword T

HE OPENING article in this Special Report

untapped areas of the ocean, increases the power

begins with coverage of the next generation

requirements of modern drilling.

microturbine technology for power generation, and

The search for ways to deliver this increased, cleaner

a comprehensive comparison between traditional

and safer power output is not easy, but increasingly the

power generation solutions on platforms with the

options presented by microturbine power generation

Capstone Technology. The Report goes on to

appear to offer a ‘best of all worlds’ solution. While

provide details of the commercial as well as the

early incarnations of this technology suffered from

technical advantages.

efficiency and durability issues in harsher climates,

Included in the article are just a few of the many cases where Capstone Microturbines have

the latest models are proving themselves in some of the most challenging areas of the world.

significantly increased power availability while reducing

As they exhibit the ability to operate reliably over a

footprint, weight as well as operating costs. The article

prolonged period of time, with reduced maintenance

concludes with Capstone’s vision for the future of

issues, higher energy output and lower running costs,

offshore power generation.

they are proving to be a viable technology for the

Multiple factors are causing oil rig operators

next phase of oil exploration. That, and their ability to

to reconsider the way in which they use power.

operate off excess gasses and thereby reduce flaring,

Pressure on profit margins drive the search for new

means that they may well represent that ‘all in one’

technologies, methods and business practices which

solution that the industry has been searching for.

can reduce costs while injecting greater efficiency.

With major microturbine generators such as

More stringent regulatory oversight, meanwhile, is

Capstone, Ingersoll Rand and others viewing the

coming into force regarding rig safety, crew welfare,

oil and gas market as a major area of growth

and the environmental impact of oil rig operation.

potential, new microturbine solutions are continuously

Strict penalties are being imposed on high emission

being added, designed specifically for the oil and

practices such as flaring while the expansion into deep

gas market.

water areas brings drilling operations into contact with fragile marine ecosystems. All this has to be achieved while simultaneously satisfying our insatiable desire for more oil. Extracting more oil from existing sources while exploring new

Tom Cropper Editor

Tom Cropper has produced articles and reports on various aspects of global business over the past 15 years. He has also worked as a copywriter for some of the largest corporations in the world, including ING, KPMG and the World Wildlife Fund.



Next-Generation Offshore Power Solutions Miguel Flores, Capstone Turbine Corporation

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The following article provides an outlook of the offshore experience

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using microturbine-based power generators and its advantages over

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more traditional technologies



Introduction Power generation is a critical and costly part of offshore operations. Traditionally, the industry has relied on equipment which requires frequent maintenance and demands large footprint and weight on a platform.

Capstone Turbine Corporation® is the world’s leading producer of low-emission microturbine systems, and was first to market with commercially viable air bearing turbine technology. The company has shipped over 8,000 of Capstone MicroTurbines® to customers worldwide. These award-winning systems have logged millions of documented runtime operating hours. With nearly two decades of offshore experience and more than three decades of onshore applications, Capstone continues to provide the best power solution for platform power from a few kilowatts to several megawatts with support channels all over the globe. Derived through advanced engineering based on proven turbine design, microturbines represent a watershed energy management solution. Transforming the way businesses think about energy production, Capstone

solutions significantly reduce operating costs, ensure power availability, and help preserve the environment with its near-zero emissions profile.

The Technical Effectiveness of Next Generation Microturbine Technology Perfect for both manned and unmanned platforms, Capstone microturbines can be fueled with unprocessed wellhead gas to provide continuous load following power down to an idle and up to a few megawatts in easily manageable, redundant modules from 30kW to 1 MW. Capstone offers models that are UL Certified to meet Class I, Division 2 NFPA 496. For nonhazardous-area placement, a more affordable package is available for each model. Nonhazardous units are UL-certified to meet the new UL220 and UL1741 category for engine generators fueled with “raw natural gas.” Capstone microturbines use no oil, lubricants, coolants, other hazardous materials, or even water. This eliminates transporting, storage, and costly hazmat spill/leakage issues associated with engine gensets and large turbines. The Capstone platform power solution dramatically reduces scheduled maintenance to mere filter changes twice a year. The first minor scheduled maintenance is at 20,000 hours, an overhaul is suggested at 40,000 hours.



With nearly two decades of offshore experience and more than three decades of onshore applications, Capstone continues to provide the best power solution for platform power





- Simple installation

- Complex installation

-D  oes not require mounting base - May require mounting base with vibration nor vibration damping damping

-R  educed footprint, approximately - Typically 2x footprint for same power one-half of area of a comparable size recip as a MT

- Single package. No ancillary equipment - Ancillary equipment may include oil sumps, required radiator and other equipment

Turndown - Can run down to 5% continuously of - Recommended turndown rates can vary rated capacity. between 20% and 50%. Scheduled Maintenance

- 8,000 hour maintenance intervals

- 1,500 to 2,000 hour maintenance intervals

Consumables - No hazardous materials, no oil, no coolant - Engine oil and coolant require additional cost for transportation and handling Overhaul

- Every 40,000 hours

- As frequent as every 10,000 hours

Availability - Downtime for maintenance only 8 hours per year

- Over 200 hours of downtime per year

Modularity - Modular design allows for easy N+1 - Typically only 2xN configurations provide configurations for added reliability higher availability at a higher cost and availability

from a few kilowatts to several megawatts with support channels all over the globe

Above is a simplified comparison table between a Capstone microturbine and a comparable reciprocating engine. Reduced frequency of maintenance intervals not only means lower operating costs, it also means a significant reduction in transportation costs for material and, most importantly, of personnel. In addition, partial load operation on reciprocating engines can increase maintenance. Capstone microturbines have the same maintenance intervals over the entire power range. Without any exhaust treatment, typical emissions of a Capstone microturbine averages five times lower mass of pollutants when compared to reciprocating engines of similar capacity. The modularity offered by the Capstone microturbines offers a simpler solution for redundancy options. For example for a 150kW load, four 65kW modules can supply the required load as well as provide N+1 redundancy. Traditionally, two 200kW reciprocating engines would be used for this application. The recip. installation requires a larger footprint on the platform. Capstone Turbine Corporation was the first to produce microturbine systems certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for Class I, Division 2 hazardous locations. Capstone’s microturbine system offers a good value proposition for offshore platforms with its small footprint and low maintenance features.

platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Today 27 of these platforms count on Capstone microturbines to generate prime power. Since 2002, PEMEX has expanded its fleet of Capstone microturbines specially designed for Class I, Division 2 hazardous locations. The environmentally-focused company continues to rely on Capstone microturbines because they meet strict emissions requirements, uphold high reliability in dangerous environments, and support high-production levels, which peaked at an average of 2.5 million barrels per day in 2010. The Campeche Bay microturbines, which operate on sour gas and wellhead gas that flows through the 27 offshore platforms, replaced high-maintenance diesel generators incapable of surviving the harsh oceanic, corrosive environment. The Capstone microturbines, which range from 30kW to 65kW of power, run safely in hazardous locations, take up minimal

Success Stories Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) Campeche, Mexico Pemex, the fourth largest crude oil producer, currently operates close to 5,000 production 4 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM



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space, and require very limited maintenance. The microturbines installed on such PEMEX platforms as Production Assets Cantarell, KuMaloob-Zaap, and Poza Rica-Altamira in the Gulf of Mexico, provide continuous, reliable, clean power for each platform’s SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), fire and gas, emergency shutdown, communication, lighting, and auxiliary systems. In 2011, Industrias Energeticas SA de CV, Capstone’s distributor in Ciudad Del Carmen, Campeche, Mexico, secured an $8.6 million order with PEMEX that ensures blanket service support coverage for the 46-unit PEMEX Microturbine fleet in Campeche Bay. This year, PEMEX will be starting up their largest offshore microturbine installation. Six 200 kW microturbines will provide clean and reliable power to one of their most important communications platforms in this region. Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) Tampico, Mexico After successful operation of microturbines, PEMEX has continued to expand the use of this technology in other operating regions. This offshore platform is in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampico. This site has two Capstone 30kW, Class I, Division 2 Microturbine systems.


Capstone has been successfully received in Mexico, not just offshore, but also onshore. Close to 200 units have been deployed in landbased installations including Oil and Gas as well as commercial and industrial facilities. Capstone’s presence in Mexico continues to gain strength as it participates in important events such as the “Environmental Expo” in Monterrey, Mexico, which was a part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Mexico Trade Mission on November 8 –10, 2006. High level representatives of the Monterrey government, private companies, and Governor Schwarzenegger attended the expo.



Since the microturbines do not use any oil, lubricants, or cooling, there is no extra cost to haul away used materials

Wintershall, North Sea, The Netherlands The high reliability of Capstone microurbines inspired a leading oil and gas producer in 2002 to build the world’s first North Sea platform designed specifically for microturbines. The four Capstone C65 microturbines onboard the Wintershall Q4C platform provide all the prime power to the manned platform. They are upgrades from the original C60 microturbines installed in 2002. The C65 microturbines are installed in a specially designed nonhazardous area engine room. The units run on wellhead gas conditioned onboard, saving Wintershall the cost of transporting fuel to the platform. Even greater cost savings come from the microturbines’ low maintenance requirements. Unlike reciprocating engines, which traditionally require at least four oil changes a year, the microturbines onboard the Q4C platform need just one annual filter change and operate for 5 years before each overhaul.


In addition, reciprocating engines on platforms require operators to pay a maintenance crew, fly them to the platform on a helicopter, and send a ship to haul the used oil to shore. Since the microturbines do not use any oil, lubricants, or cooling, there is no extra cost to haul away used materials.

Two of the four C65 Microturbines run continuously and supply 100–120kW of power to the platform when operating unmanned. The third microturbine provides additional power when the platform is manned, and the fourth provides N+1 redundancy which allows continuous power supply even during MT maintenance. The four microturbines are cycled automatically to equalize run hours. The success of the Q4C microturbines caught the attention of other platform operators. Today, microturbine-powered platforms are operating throughout the North Sea, providing non-stop, reliable power.

Future Outlook Capstone’s offshore experience began nearly 15 years ago in the smaller shallow-water production rigs. As smaller platforms are decommissioned and larger platforms in deeper waters offer better economies for operators, Capstone responds with product offerings that adapt to the changing market. Four years ago, Capstone introduced the 200kW microturbine for hazardous locations. This product quickly became adopted by operators as far as South East Asia. Recently, a US-based operator in the Cook Inlet, Alaska, started the first 1MW microturbine system offshore. Capstone’s plan for the future is to continue product offerings, including larger capacity microturbines, fitted for Oil and Gas operations worldwide, with its simple, yet reliable and clean technology.

Contact Capstone Turbine Corporation 21211 Nordhoff Street Chatsworth, CA 91311 T: 866.422.7786 F: 818.734.5385




Microturbines for Oil and Gas: Market Overview James Gooding, Staff Writer

Engine Powered Services Engine Powered Solutions Explosion Protection Systems

The market for microturbines is expanding rapidly thanks largely to their growth

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within the oil and gas market




HETHER THE Y are manned or unmanned, the one thing every offshore oil rig definitely requires is power, and generating that power has, until now, been a dirty business. Traditional diesel powered generators are large, heavy, inefficient and dirty. Now though, an alternative approach is available, through the increased use of microturbine generators. These units are more compact, cleaner and efficient than existing technologies. They offer the opportunity to utilise excess gasses, reduce emissions and extend the life cycle of equipment. As the next generation of products become significantly more sophisticated, they represent an integral part of the future for oil and gas exploration.

What are Microturbines? A microturbine is a small gas powered turbine that can be used to provide power directly to a facility’s electrical distribution system. A typical unit might feature a radial compressor with turbine rotors, using just one stage of

each. Its construction is therefore very simple, which produces additional reliability and facilitates maintenance. They can run off waste gasses found at the wellhead meaning they require no additional fuel and can typically recover exhaust energy to help produce combined heating and electrical power capabilities. They are used in homes and in many businesses, and have the potential to pay a significant return on investment in just a short period of time. Not only do they reduce energy consumption, bringing down carbon footprints, as they do, but they also, reduce energy costs. Small wonder then that businesses such as Microsoft1 who recently invested in microturbines to transform the way they manage power at their data centre, are turning to the technology. However, it is in the oil and gas market that it is experiencing the most dramatic increase. According to Capstone, one of the leading global manufacturers of microturbines, the biggest area of growth it is experiencing is in the oil and gas market - a fact that contributed to a sharp increase in its stock price of more than 40% during 20132.



Microturbines represent ideal power generation units for remote, off-grid locations, such as those likely to be found on an oil rig

Size of the Market in 2014 Until this point, much of the microturbine market has been focused on industrial end use as a back up to existing power supplies, but a number of factors exist which create growth opportunities in the microturbine market3. The first is the growing demand for power. Existing grids are coming under strain, which means the need for backup generators, which can address peak usage, is becoming more urgent. Additionally, more stringent environmental regulations are coming into force encouraging companies to reduce energy consumption and efficiency, for which microturbines are a perfect fit. Moreover, generating your own supply of electricity presents an opportunity to sell excess power back to the grid which, in itself, represents an additional revenue stream. Smaller producers may not generate power on a substantial scale to sell back to the grid, but for larger users, this represents a significant additional use. Finally, the growth of power demands in remote areas of the world where traditional supply cannot reach means microturbines represent the best – and, in some cases, only – option for delivering reliable power supply.

Why Oil and Gas? Microturbines represent ideal power generation units for remote, off-grid locations, such as those likely to be found on an oil rig. Their compact size means they can be easily stored with fewer of the weight issues that traditional units bring. They present a much reduced footprint, which, in turn, leaves much more space on board the rig for other operations – as well as improving the quality of life on board the rig for drill crews. They can also be powered using excess oil or gas reserves which would previously have been burned off through flaring. The process of flaring burns off fuel in order to prevent an explosion, but it is costly, wastes a valuable resource, and increases the release of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.


More stringent global and regional environmental regulations place prohibitive penalties on the use of flaring, which means oil companies are looking for viable alternatives. The ability of microturbine generators to convert these gases into useable fuel means companies not only reduce waste and pollution, but also find a form of electrical generation which can be powered by the waste materials produced during the drilling process. It represents an outstanding solution which effectively solves many issues all at once.

Developments of Technology Early microturbine generators produced systems with a typical power output of around 30KW and were suitable for little more than use as a backup system. There was also doubt about the electrical efficiency and their performance in changeable weather. It was not long, though, before the leading manufacturers of microturbine technology identified the oil and gas sector as an area of considerable promise and began developing products to suit. Today microturbine generators typically have individual power ratings of between 200 and 300KW, and packages of up to 1MW have recently become available. These can be assembled in multiple generator packs as high as 5MW and even 10MW in power. There exists further potential for combining multiple energy packages into a single microgrid. One control system could synchronise voltage and power outputs, enabling them to function as a single independent microgrid. For all this potential, however, uptake remains far from uniform. While new generation microturbine generators represent an ideal option for newly built oil platforms, especially those exploring more remote areas, existing platforms still take convincing. While undoubted potential exists in terms of power output, cost and efficiency, they still need to demonstrate these benefits in the real world and, in particular, show that they are more reliable and cost efficient than existing diesel fuelled generators.


Proving a Point: How Microturbines are Demonstrating Their Value in the Real World

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Tom Cropper, Editor


On paper the benefits of microturbines appear clear, but to executives contemplating a switch to this technology they need to see in practical terms how these solutions can help them realise their goals


OMPARED WITH diesel powered generators, the statistical argument in favour of microturbines appears overwhelming. They offer superior energy efficiency, a smaller physical footprint, lower running costs and easier maintenance. However, in order to persuade a notoriously change-resistant industry to abandon tried and tested systems which have served them well for decades, microturbines have to prove their worth in the real world. This article will examine examples around the world where they are demonstrating practical applicability.

Natural Inertia Any new technology encounters resistance to adoption either through natural inertia or through a fear of change. Oil and gas exploration contains plenty of both. In those operations where traditional diesel power has provided power for decades, change comes slowly. The experienced workforce will have become used to existing technology and suspicious of anything new. If the existing mode of power generation has functioned well throughout its lifetime, shifting to new methods represents an operational risk as well as cost. Microturbines have traditionally been viewed with caution because of their susceptibility to changes in ambient conditions and low electrical efficiency. In order to make the change, operators will have to be confident that these issues have been addressed, that the benefits will outweigh the initial upfront cost of installation and that the new system will be at least as reliable as the old. As oil and gas executives assess the value proposition microturbines present they will want to see how they can deliver on specific requirements. These can be grouped simply

in the following ways: power output, durability, cost, energy efficiency and emissions. Only by assessing these key criteria will they be able to definitively say whether or not they present a compelling business case.

Power Requirements Microturbines can be operated either in parallel to existing solutions or as a sole power source on its own. For example, if a rig derives its power from the grid, a microturbine generator can be used to supplement that power and take over as emergency backup in the event of power outages. The size of the units can also vary depending on the energy consumption of the drilling operation. Typically, MT generators designed for use in oil and gas can produce anywhere between 250 KW and 1MW. Modern drilling techniques increasingly require higher power output from generators. By utilising multiple generators in parallel rigs can produce power at rates of up to 5MW or even 10MW providing more than enough power to meet requirements. Configuring multiple generator sets in this fashion also increases the reliability by introducing a redundancy contingency. Failure in one generator set does not necessarily spell complete plant shut down.

Durability Generators will have to be housed within durable casings to withstand all the rigours of life on a drilling platform. Most manufacturers of microturbine generators offer a choice between cheaper models, designed to operate in moderate conditions found in many existing oil fields, and those which have been specifically tailored to cope with hazardous environments. Capstone, one of the leading, names in this sector, began by



Microturbines can

process, they can effectively be self-sustaining, powering themselves off waste excess gas produced by the drilling. Their lack of hazardous fluids, such as diesel fuel, coolants or lubricants also reduce the possible impact on Alaska’s delicate environment.

be operated either in parallel to existing

Energy Efficiency and the Emissions

solutions or as a sole power source on its own


offering solutions for easy to reach locations, but as they realised the business potential in offshore, they progressively developed products with an ability to function in harsher environments, which complied with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) guidelines for hazardous locations4.

Costs As illustrated elsewhere in this Report, microturbines exhibit many cost savings over and above diesel operated power solutions. They require less maintenance, have fewer moving parts, require no diesel fuel, are less likely to break down and, in theory, will result in less operational down time. These factors, in combination, quickly repay the initial expense of replacing existing machinery. For Hilcorp Alaska LLC5, microturbines represented a key part of a $500million investment to reduce their running costs in their Alaska Cook inlet operation. They purchased these ten oil rigs in 2012 from Chevron and Marathon Oil, but despite achieving a 36% production increase, have struggled to keep costs under control. The microturbines utilised by Hilcorp represented a perfect fit for Alaska for a number of reasons: Rising energy costs, remote locations and a lack of state-wide grid reliability. Because these microturbines run off sour gas with no need to undergo a refinery


While the bottom line will inevitably represent the first and last thing energy companies are concerned about, operators have discovered that microturbines represent an easy and cost effective way to meet emissions targets. In 2008 PetroChina6 brought in two of Ingersoll Rand’s, MT250 microturbine energy systems to provide power at its wellhead sites in the Changqing oil field. The value of these systems lay in their ability to function off associated gasses which were produced in addition to the oil. Previously, this would have been burned off by flare or direct discharge into the atmosphere – a process that releases gasses with 21 times the green house potential of CO2. Because these turbines were able to use these gasses as fuel, they not only managed to instantly eliminate these emissions, but provided themselves with a cheap and renewable source of energy, negating the necessity for diesel to fuel existing generators. This, in turn, helped the Chinese government go a long way to realising its conservation targets to cut energy consumption by 20% between 2005 and 2010.

Conclusion Like any new technology, microturbines have to do much more than just demonstrate their value on paper. They have to show it in the real world. In the oil and gas industry new developments bring with it risk and uncertainty. In order to overcome it, microturbines need to generate positive data from real world implementation. As they do so, more finance is being invested into the development of updated, more efficient and more robust models, ensuring that the effectiveness of tomorrow’s generation of microturbines will far outstrip the benefits on offer today.


Why Microturbine Power Generation Outshines the Rest

Engine Powered Services Engine Powered Solutions

Jo Roth, Staff Writer

Explosion Protection Systems

Engine Control Solutions

In a bid to become cleaner and more efficient, drilling companies are looking


to alternative power options to traditional diesel. In this article we explore what advantages microturbines have over traditional methods


ENERATING POWER offshore is a difficult, costly and dirty business. Located far out in remote locations, rigs have generally needed to generate their own power, normally through the use of diesel-powered generator units, which cater for the complete energy requirements of the facility. The problem with these is that they are inefficient, heavy and require constant maintenance. In addition, they also depend on using lubricants and coolants which require the use of toxic chemicals. In the event of spillage these can increase the danger to the environment. To address this there are several options. One comes in delivering power from the shore. Some innovative solutions use HVDC light7 to bring power from the shore to the rig. For a group of platforms, a converter station is located on one from which power can then be distributed to the others via AC. This option eliminates platform-based CO2 emissions, and reduces the need for bulky, heavy and cumbersome diesel generators, freeing up space and improving the working environment on board the rigs. But, as attractive as this option appears, it makes the rig reliant on power delivered through a cabling system from the shore.

Independent Power Like their diesel powered predecessors, microturbine generators, can be configured either to supplement existing power supplies or to operate as a sole source of power. Because of the need to program in redundancy features, multiple generator sets can be included into a single package in order to ensure power supply remains in the event of failure within one or more parts of the system. As the default option for oil and gas platforms, diesel power represents a known entity. However, newly built facilities are turning to microturbine

generators as a safer, more reliable and cost effective alternative to diesel. Here’s a closer examination of how these two systems compare side by side.

Operation The internal mechanics of diesel powered generators are complicated. They require fluids for lubricants as well as water, or coolant liquid, for the cooling systems. Microturbines, on the other hand, possess just one moving part and are aircooled requiring no lubricants or fluids – not even water. With fewer mechanical parts, the potential for faults is reduced as well as the complexity of maintenance or replacement.

Fuel Efficiency Diesel generators require diesel to be shipped out to the rig which naturally incurs a running cost and contributes to on-site carbon emissions. Fuel consumption is typically 50% with waste emissions. Microturbines are far more fuelefficient and can operate off untreated waste gas emitted as part of the production process, enabling manufacturers to market it as a major area of growth potential. When crude oil is extracted, raw natural gas tends to also be produced, especially in remote areas which lack the pipelines for the safe transportation of this gas. Typically, in order to prevent explosions, this gas is flared – a practice which produces vast quantities of harmful emissions every year. According to figures from the World Bank8, approximately 150 billion cubic meters (or 5.3 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas is flared annually. This equates to a quarter of the annual gas consumption in the USA. Increasingly, global regulations are cracking down on the use of flaring which means drilling companies have to search for alternatives. Microturbines offer an attractive solution. Not



Typically, a microturbine generator possesses a footprint of around half that of a diesel generator while producing the


same power output only are they a safe and cost effective way to reduce flaring, but they can also put that excess gas to good use as a source of electrical power for the facility.

Maintenance Maintenance intervals can be four times as long with microturbines as diesel generators. According to Capstone’s own figures, maintenance is required at 8,000 hours compared with 2,000 hours for diesel. A complete overhaul is recommended every 40,000 hours while diesel generators may need to be replaced as often as every 10,000 hours. The absence of multiple moving parts means replacing or repairing components is relatively easy compared with diesel generators which possess multiple parts and need replacement of internal fluids, resulting in higher maintenance costs in addition to frequency.

Downtime Every hour lost costs thousands of dollars in revenue for an operator. Diesel generators require an average downtime of 200 hours per year, while Capstone claims its generators require only eight hours in total. In one of the company’s longest running projects, a pair of the company’s C30 MT generators have been running virtually continuously for nearly a decade. This is despite operating in temperatures varying from 34 degrees Celsius in the summer to minus 54 in the winter9. The operator decided not to replace the turbine assemblies at the recommended 40,000 hours, and it has so far paid off with uninterrupted running.

Combined Heat and Power Microturbines not only produce electrical power, but they also produce a usable heat resource which can produce hot water, drive absorption chillers for refrigeration and other uses. The unique features of a microturbine mean that it is able to provide this dual 12 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM

output with significantly less input than conventional methods. For example, with a traditional energy source, power would be needed both to generate electricity and to fire the boiler. The energy efficiency of the average boiler is 80% according to the national average while, for the grid, it’s down at 30%. This compares with an 80% efficiency within the microturbine unit enabling it to produce the same amount of output while requiring substantially less input.

Rig Compatibility A less mentioned, but equally important aspect is the effect microturbine generators have in their application on the rigs. Typically, a microturbine generator possesses a footprint of around half that of a diesel generator while producing the same power output. This means that multiple generator sets can be added, creating more power within the same space, or the amount of deck space utilised by the generator can be reduced contributing to an improved working environment on board the rig. In addition to this, microturbines can run at a reduced vibration compared with diesel generators reducing the levels of noise pollution released into the surrounding areas. Again this further enhances life on board the rig.

Conclusion Microturbines represent more than a simple evolutionary step for power generation on board offshore oil facilities. They have up to half the footprint space, require no oil or lubricants to function and can be put in place simply and efficiently. Where a diesel unit will require some form of maintenance every 2000 hours, microturbines can go 8,000 hours and when that happens the overall level of down time is restricted to 8 hours per year as opposed to 200 hours. If the art of success is the ability to develop small gains, these represent a true revolution in the way oil rigs consume energy.


Bigger is Better – The Future of Microturbine Electric Generators

Engine Powered Services Engine Powered Solutions

Tom Cropper, Editor

Explosion Protection Systems

Engine Control Solutions

As oil firms move further afield to explore deeper sources further from the shore, microturbines are playing an increasingly important role in guaranteeing safe,


clean and reliable energy


HE MODERN world presents oil and gas companies with what seems like an impossible challenge. On the one hand market forces demand higher production and reduced costs, while, on the other, governments and the public require better safety and a lower impact on the environment. It’s a bit like asking a racing driver to go faster while making sure they don’t crash – the first action makes the second much less likely. Recent history has shown what can go wrong. BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill arose because basic safety protocols had been missed in an attempt to maximise production and minimise costs. The resultant inquiry heard evidence10 that in the run up to the accident, the rig was hit by multiple power outages and blackouts. More recently, in March 2013, a power failure on board Statoil’s Oseberg oil platform in the North Sea, forced the evacuation of the 700 crew and shut down the rig while the company searched for alternative arrangements to maintain power. The outage in turn led to a gas leak and, although it was stopped, the incident highlighted the business and safety considerations caused by power failure on board a rig. Aside from the very real danger of another serious leak with all the environmental and reputation damage entailed, the operators had to cope with the economic loss caused by the shutdown. When a rig is located close to the shore, the implications are serious enough, but for remote deep water platforms, safely evacuating the crew represents a major challenge, and down time will, by necessity, be that much longer. In an environment in which the demands being placed on power supply systems on board rigs are multiplying, the step into the next generation of small and efficient microturbine based power generators represents a critical step forward for the industry. They offer that magic bullet of

providing higher power, while reducing emissions and improving safety on board the rig.

The Search for More Oil Much has been written about the limits of our current oil supply with many existing sources running dry. Even so, demand looks set to continue rising well into the third decade of the 21st century. In order to meet this challenge, oil companies are first finding ways to maximise existing reservoirs and are secondly looking for new sources further away from shore in deeper water. Both goals will require substantially increased levels of power. In their search to maximise production from a single source, companies have transitioned from simple vertical drilling techniques to horizontal drilling. Once the petroleum reservoir has been located, operators use new steerable motors to turn horizontally so that more of the well bore is exposed. This increases production from a single drill and reduces the need for additional drilling. However, this, has higher drill power needs putting a strain on drill power requirements. These modern techniques need power output of between two and five megawatts requiring multiple generators positioned in parallel. This requirement for more power means that those generators which can produce the same level of power, encased within a smaller space will have a significant advantage over larger, less efficient models. This configuration also has an advantage in that failure in one generator set does not necessarily spell complete plant shut down. The move into deep water also creates new requirements. Located far from the shore, facilities will have to become self-sufficient for power and develop a generator system that can run reliably, continuously at maximum power. Diesel generators have been used to meet these challenges, but they require regular maintenance,



By utilising these gasses, microturbines simultaneously reduce the running costs while addressing one of the major environmental concerns of oil drilling


coolants and lubricants to keep them running, and of course fuel. Microturbines have the advantage at every turn. They have just the one moving part, and require no hazardous fluids. Maintenance is reduced by more than 50% and even then the requirements are simple, and in addition they can run off gasses produced as part of the production process. These were previously either released directly into the atmosphere or flared off in processes which greatly increased a rig’s carbon footprint. By utilising these gasses, microturbines simultaneously reduce the running costs while addressing one of the major environmental concerns of oil drilling. Even so, the expansion into new areas imposes new challenges on microturbines. Newer models will need to be more robust, bigger, more efficient, more reliable and able to withstand the harshest of all conditions. Several manufacturers upgraded their offerings to produce microturbines suitable for hazardous conditions and operating at higher power. Capstone’s hazardous environment microturbines have proved popular especially with operators in the Far East, while for one operator in Alaska’s Cook inlet they delivered one of the first systems to provide 1MW of power.

water filters and air conditioners all need to be functioning effectively for 100% of the time. Systems must demonstrate immense durability, swift and easy maintenance together with backup units to provide a reliable redundancy contingency to cover down time. To supply these needs, PEMEX decided to use microturbines. These promised to provide the required combination of lower overall cost, smaller footprint and better reliability, than their current land-based distributed energy systems could manage. Each systems is made out of an outer system shelter housing either backup batteries, controls, redundant HVAC A environmental control systems and power conditioning. All these were packaged, alongside gas conditioning equipment onto a steel skid which meant the entire power system could be installed as a single unit. This minimised the footprint space of the unit and interference with other activities on board the platform. As well as fossil fuel based microturbines designed to run continuously, the unit incorporates multiple back up microturbines as a redundancy capacity. The system was designed with the specific needs of an offshore platform in mind, maximising reliability and minimising installation costs.

Unique Challenges of Deep Water

If the future of oil exploration is deep water, then the demands being placed on all equipment will continue to rise. The major manufacturers such as Capstone, Ingersoll Rand and others are continuing to invest in updated and more sophisticated next generation microturbines which will continue to achieve that once thought impossible aim of producing more power, at a lower cost.

A vivid example of the unique requirements of deep water platforms can be found with the PEMEX rigs in the Gulf of Mexico11. Here, in some of the most hazardous conditions to be found anywhere in the world, critical capabilities such as communications, video, process controls, fire and gas, emergency shutdown controls, pumps, 14 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM



References: Microsoft invests in next generation technology:

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Capstone stocks soar:


Microturbine Market Review:


Capstone case study:












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