Industry consolidation was one topic of discussion as my colleague-in-turbomachinery Bill Holmes and I and recently returned from the Turbomachinery & Pump Symposia. The event is organized by the Texas A&M University Turbomachinery Laboratory and held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston Texas. Only a few years back the pump and turbomachinery shows were separate. With the amalgamation one is now able to view a large array of impressive hardware and attend informative technical sessions applicable to the full range of equipment: pumps, compressors, turbines, fan, blowers and all related components and services. The emphasis is on Oil & Gas machinery, although not exclusively as there are synergies with power generation, chemical process, air separation etc.
The “buzz” at the show this year was the proposed acquisition of premier compressor manufacturer Dresser-Rand by the industrial giant Siemens. I spoke with industry veteran Pete Baldwin of consulting company base-e. His comment was that the show was very much about turbomachinery industry consolidation. It seems that only a few weeks ago we learned of the GE acquisition of Alstom — although the focus of that transaction is largely power generation related. This recent Siemens purchase provides Siemens with a new jewel: a leading compressor manufacturer with a huge international install base. Siemens is of course driver-rich, with a vast array of gas and steam turbines. Now they can provide a very attractive and broad driver-compressor package, improving their ability to compete with the offerings of rivals GE Oil & Gas and MHI.
This recent Siemens acquisition is hot-on-the-heels of another related acquisition, that of the industrial turbine and compressor business of Rolls-Royce. Siemens seems well-equipped now: the previously purchased Demag compressor line, the Cooper compressor line from Rolls-Royce and now the larger Dresser-Rand line.
In the past few months we learned that Cameron sold off their reciprocating compressor line to GE. This seems to make sense with the growth in shale gas activity, as these machines are particularly well suited to the associated requirements. More recently Cameron sold the geared centrifugal machines to Ingersoll Rand. Integrally geared machines are not so common in O&G, but presumably fit well with plant air and separation which is an interest of Ingersoll Rand.
While corporate consolidation is the focus of the conglomerates, speaking with the smaller companies such as engineering service providers revealed some other trends: workforce transition, lean operation and increased simulation. While energy and oil & gas are doing well now, recent years have seen some cycles. That coupled with an aging engineering population results in some shortage of skilled turbomachinery designers. A number of small consulting firms are growing and providing design, simulation and testing expertise to the equipment manufacturers.
Another aspect of transition is the growth in the role of simulation. Review of the tutorials indicates current industry challenges. For example, “What did we learn about pumps in the last 20 years” (Eskom) looks at the effect of cavitation as engineers work to improve the life and reliability of pumps. “Pumping & Compression of CO2” (Sulzer, Dresser-Rand) highlights the complexity and extreme conditions encountered capturing, transporting and storing CO2 as part of CO2 emissions reduction efforts. While testing remains expensive and time consuming, advanced high performance computing becomes more affordable due to hardware advances and software improvements. A quick review of the proceedings shows wide ranging use of simulation: CFD, structural, thermal, rotordynamics and bearing analysis for instance. Here are just a few examples of the work reported:
• Coupling guard heating (Elliott)
• Floating platform compressor packages (Dresser-Rand)
• High pressure compressor development (MHI)
• Rotor thrust in centrifugal compressors (MAN)
• Impeller aero and stress design (Southwest Research)
• Rotordynamcs and CFD for centrifugal compressors (Southwest Research)
Each year the reported analyses grow in terms of diversity, model size and physics complexity. It is clear that, more and more, simulation contributes to an industry that continues to evolve in order to respond to new challenges.