GE has more than 7,000 gas turbines installed in countries around the world that generate much of their electricity. But this global footprint also requires a complex maintenance system to help customers keep these turbines online.
This is why, in 2019, GE plans announced invest $ 60 million in its Singapore Global Repair Solutions Center (GRSS). Now he has built a new repair, engineering and development facility at GRSS called the Advanced Manufacturing and Repair Technology (AMRT) center, which enables customers in the Asia-Pacific region to reduce repair times by sending their equipment to Singapore instead of shipping it halfway. around the world.
Last November, AMRT completed its first repairs – on a set of gaskets near the flow path, which help regulate the cooling process inside an HA gas turbine. While the repair itself was relatively straightforward, it was a big milestone: after two years of intensive preparation, the center is now online and helping customers keep the lights on in a way that takes less time. environmental impact.
“It’s not just about repair,” says Bret Barron, general manager of advanced manufacturing and repair technology at GE. “This is the culmination of two years of planning, releasing old equipment from Singapore, transforming the site, building this new R&D center, attracting and training new talents, and qualifying new ones. process and documentation of new methods. It all came together. ”
GE’s partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) was instrumental in the completion of the project. “We wouldn’t be this far without their support,” said Barron, citing two repair processes AMRT can perform that were not previously available in the area: laser ablation, which removes worn parts with a high intensity laser beam; and fluoride ion cleaning, which cleans corrosive oxides that naturally build up in turbine engines over time.
“There is a lot of new technology making its way to its first repair,” said Barron. “The partnership has given us a whole new workspace in which to develop repair solutions.”
Indeed, one of the first solutions sought by the AMRT team was to rationalize its system. With the help of one of GE’s lean experts, they broke down their repair process to determine how parts should flow more efficiently through the center.
An example: the vanes inside an HA gas turbine correspond to the four stages of the hot gas path of the turbine, and GRSS previously had four separate repair lines, one for each stage. Now, after mapping the value chain and using Lean principles to reduce process waste – that is, any activity that does not add value – all four steps will be fixed on the same line. “It will take us several more years to bring this to fruition,” says Barron. “But when we do, it will help reduce our carbon footprint, maximize asset use, and allow parts to flow through the plant as they should. ”
AMRT is an integral part of GE’s broader ambition to make electricity more accessible globally. In 2019, when GE announced the AMRT development project, more than 50 million people in Asia did not have access to electricity. Given the well established link between access to electricity and economic development, providing affordable energy solutions is crucial to help developing regions remain competitive in the modern economic climate. With the added pressures of climate change, these energy solutions must also be more sustainable. While the percentage of renewable energies in the global energy mix is constantly increasing, natural gas remains the key to the decarbonisation journey.
“There is no doubt that we need more renewable energy to heal our planet,” said Barron. “But the renewable energies that exist today cannot do it alone. Switching the world from coal to gas can lead to a reduction of more than 50 to 60% of CO emissions.2 emissions. Particularly in dense metropolitan areas, renewable technologies do not always match perfectly with the growth rates we are seeing. Gas technologies play an extremely important role. ”
HA gas turbines too. The “H” in HA stands for high efficiency, the “A” stands for air cooled. GE offers two versions of the wind turbine: the 7HA, which operates at 60 hertz in countries such as the United States, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan, and the 9HA, for 50 hertz networks in countries like Europe, China and India. Both 9HA and 7HA have set efficiency records (including a Guinness world record) to increase the proportion of each cubic foot of natural gas that is converted to energy. In 2014, HA turbines broke the 60% mark, which was once considered a feat comparable to breaking the sound barrier or going a four-minute mile.
As the site continues to grow, GE looks forward to setting new standards of efficiency and deepening its relationship with Singapore. The AMRT team has already added many roles to manage complex HA turbine repairs, and the entire site represents a workforce of 350 employees. Over the next two years, GE plans to add more jobs and increase the site’s workforce.
“We believe in Singapore’s talent, its ability to perform high quality repairs,” says Barron. “We are considering decarbonising the entire electricity sector. This site, with its development center and engineering know-how, offers us another avenue to develop repairs for new generation solutions. ”
Top: GE’s HA gas turbine. Image credit: GE Gas Power.