Modern industry would be impossible without gas turbines. Generating hundreds of megawatts of electricity, or else powering other mechanical processes, these versatile machines are a critical component in many industries.

Considering that the global market for gas turbines are already worth $22bn, a figure set to reach $29bn by 2032, optimising gas turbine performance should be a priority. However, often found in extreme environments, turbine engines are in constant danger of degradation. Although invisible to the eye, sub-micron particulates can be as detrimental to the performance of the gas turbine as nano particles can be to the human brain.

If enough attention is not given to protecting the turbine from these harmful particulates, the consequences are loss in efficiency, increased operational costs and a higher carbon footprint. By partnering with optimisation experts in the field, companies can protect their gas turbines with cutting-edge air intake systems, targeting solutions to problems and ultimately making their gas turbines far more reliable.

Range of factors

Gas turbines can be understood in a single word: air. After all, a full 98% of a gas turbine’s input is what we breathe every day, with actual fuel making up just 2%.

In practice, that means users must protect their engines from the elements, particularly when the risks are so varied.

As Tom Carter explains, meanwhile, these threats are compounded by where turbines are found. “First and foremost,” says the plant optimisation manager at Camfil, “what you always have to consider is your location, your environment.” A fair point: from the wind and surf of offshore sites, to sandy deserts and Arctic ice, every ecosystem brings conditions that could damage a turbine’s inner workings.

With that in mind, at any rate, it makes sense that filter choice can have an immense impact on turbine efficiency – something equally supported by the statistics. According to one study, there’s a strong link between filter quality/efficiency and power degradation, with the worst examples lowering engine output by more than 5%.

Besides filter efficiency of a system, which protects the engine from harmful particulates, the behaviour of a system in different weather conditions is equally important since it can impact the overall reliability/availability drastically. Therefore, it is crucial to understand your environment and select the right air inlet components required for stable operations. e.g. pulse vs static, one-stage system vs three-stage system, anti-icing system or air inlet cooling system, etc.

Turbine blade damage

Ageing systems is another factor: according to one survey, 28% of gas turbine users concede that their air intake systems are between 16 and 25 years old, with age potentially bringing rust, corrosion and peeling paint, among other problems.

Corrosion of the air intake system

Last but not least, Carter warns that companies should be careful. As turbines often receive upgrades to improve their efficiency, many times, these upgrades go hand in hand with an increased airflow. If the air inlet system doesn’t receive an upgrade at the same time, you may not get the full benefits of the upgrade.

Poor air intake systems mean turbine engines will degrade more rapidly, raising the cost of maintenance or replacement. Just as important, inefficient systems mean more carbon dioxide is released for every megawatt of energy turbines produce – harming the environment and an operator’s green credentials.

Regardless of specifics, at any rate, the consequences of inaction are stark.

Comprehensive support

With these challenges in mind, it makes sense that a growing number of turbine operators are turning to Camfil. Leveraging over 60 years of experience, this Swedish multinational provides outstanding turbine optimisation support.

How does this happen in practice? “The first step of this process,” says Alexandre Gilbert, “is information gathering.” As the Camfil project engineer explains, his employer leverages deep professional expertise to understand client needs – and which upgrades might be most beneficial.

From there, Gilbert continues, Camfil deploys a tool called Life Cycle Cost Analysis. Relying on a range of parameters, from the underlying environmental conditions to an engine’s current performance, it can pinpoint which air intake system best balances cost and quality. These financial considerations are unsurprisingly comprehensive: though capital investments and filter prices are obviously part of the story, the ultimate impact of fouling costs matters the most.

Such complex analysis can pay dividends. By upgrading from T9 to higher-quality T11 filters and adding a cooling system, to give one example, the total costs for one Camfil client fell from €1.5m to just €650,000.

Nor do the benefits of partnering with Camfil finish there. From simple sketches to detailed 3D models – spanning everything from filters to acoustics – Gilbert and his colleagues can hone a variety of solution concepts.

Design, manufacturing and installation

That spirit of flexibility is clear across the manufacturing process: with hubs across the world, Gilbert says that Camfil is comfortable working with both carbon steel and stainless steel, as well as more exotic materials if the project demands it.

Practical successes

Together with installation support, Camfil is clearly an industry leader in comprehensive filter solutions.

Not that total retrofits are always necessary. As Gilbert says, “minor upgrades” like new bird or insect screens can do much to keep engines safe. Replacing access doors, or else adding rust-resistant coatings, are valuable tactics too.

The point is that any retrofit, no matter the scale, must be laser-focused on the problem it’s trying to solve. As Gilbert emphasises, budget, schedule, technical complexity and engine life cycle must all factor in too.

And if that reflects the subtlety and sophistication of air intake systems generally, it’s equally true that getting things right can be a real challenge.

Like that €650,000 case study, there are plenty of practical examples here.

In the Gulf of Thailand, for instance, a pair of gas turbines had initially been installed with two-stage bag filters in a high-velocity system. But surrounded by water, the machines were being corroded by sea salt, while pressure spikes meant filters had to be replaced every six months.

But by swapping the filter house to a medium-velocity system consisting of two-stage high-end EPA filters, Camfil saw rapid improvement. Beyond eliminating corrosion, lower and more stable pressured drop meant that filters only needed to be replaced once a year. All that meant the engine gained about 6% power compared to before Camfil entered the project.

Gulf of Thailand retrofit before, during and after

Another Camfil project, this time at a cogeneration electric plant in the Italian Alps, saw similar results. A minor retrofit was performed within the existing house, where various multi-stage filters (G4 and F9) were replaced with CamFlo GT Hybrid T7 and EPA-class CamGT 3V-600 T10 filters. That quickly bolstered filter longevity three-fold, while the new standard model sizes also made it easier to switch filter class.

Shadowed by post-installation monitoring, and robust digital performance analysis, it seems clear that Camfil is well-positioned to protect turbines whatever the project. Given how valuable the machines can be, that’s surely just as well.

Need to protect your gas turbines with outstanding filters? Contact Camfil today.