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Lochinvar SYNC Offers Unique Solution for Natural Gas Pipeline System
2/13/2012
by Lochinvar Marketing Department

Tapping supply regions in the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, Appalachia and Canada, a single interstate natural gas pipeline system is capable of delivering natural gas to markets across the Midwest, mid-South and mid-Atlantic regions. In order to keep the gas moving up the 14,000-mile pipeline system at 900 psi, the gas pressure has to be boosted at regular intervals. Therefore, compressor plants are located approximately every 100 miles to boost the gas pressure, giving it the necessary momentum to travel to the next station.

These compression stations were built to run 24/7, so all of the support systems were designed to accommodate continuous operations of the facility. For example, the jacket water cooling, lube oil cooling and aftercooler cooling were all designed to constantly lower the temperature of the running units, keeping it in set optimal ranges. Today, however, these facilities designed to run continuously are now occasionally being shut down.

According to Steve Hockett, Principle Field Project Manager for the pipeline company, “There are two major problems with having large compressor units shut down. The first issue is cold starts, especially in the winter. It takes a lot of power to roll that much cold steel over, so things get scored and things break. Also, it can take days to cold start a unit, despite the fact that demand calls for the gas to start running immediately. The second problem is water condensation on the exterior and interior of the units. Not only does external condensation cause paint to peel off and surfaces to rust, it also makes work areas and walkways wet and slippery - very unsafe conditions. Internal condensation also causes rust on internal components and it mixes with lube oil, causing loss of lubrication to critical moving parts. In order to solve these cold start and offline maintenance issues, the compressor units need to be kept above the dew point temperature, which requires heat.”

One Facility’s Fast Fix
One facility that was recently in need of a heating system is a compressor station located in northern Kentucky. On September 17th, 2010, Hockett was asked to install a jacket water heating system at the station and have it running by no later than January 15th, 2011.

“To meet this deadline, everything about a standard design-build project had to be expedited,” Hockett reported. As he began to research options for meeting this tight deadline, Hockett reached out to Bill Hunt, sales representative for James M. Pleasants Company. Hunt informed him that the company’s packaged equipment branch, HYFAB, had the resources and expertise to complete the heating component of the project in the allotted time.

“When I first spoke with Bill and became aware of HYFAB’s capabilities, I knew there was a chance we might be able to meet the project delivery date,” Hockett continued.

An Efficient Alternative
As Hockett and Hunt started working with the HYFAB team to design the skid-mounted heat system for the northern Kentucky station, Hunt recommended the SYNC Condensing Boiler from Lochinvar rather than the Power-Fin for this application.

“I have been working with Lochinvar products such as Power-Fin for decades, but this was the first time I have specified the SYNC Boiler,” stated Hunt. “With its stainless steel heat exchanger and ability to handle low temperature applications, I knew it was the ideal choice for this project.” Upon learning about the design and performance of the SYNC, Hockett was on board. “Rather than install one six million Btu/hr, 65 percent efficiency fire-tube boiler, which is traditionally used for this type of application, or build the system around the 87 percent efficiency Power-Fin, Bill helped us design this system around three 1.5 million Btu/hr, 98 percent thermal efficiency Lochinvar SYNC Condensing Boilers,” said Hockett. “With condensing boilers of this caliber, we could maintain the optimal start temperature of between 80 to 100 degrees for the compressor horsepower and save about a third of the amount of the fuel used with the industry standard fire-tube boiler. Also, with SYNC’s on-board touchscreen and operating control, we could remove the exterior control and sequencing equipment used in the past to create a cleaner package with greater range of control.”

From Design to Delivery
The system included three SBN1500 SYNC Boilers, a system pump with Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), boiler pumps, an expansion tank, a glycol feed tank, hydronic heating system accessories and all of the piping for the boiler room. This complete mechanical system was built on a skid and contained in a structure that was 15-feet long x 25-feet wide x 11.5-feet high. Although the size of the package made it a challenge to ship as a complete unit, the HYFAB team - with the help of a police escort from HYFAB headquarters in Greensboro, NC to northern Kentucky - successfully transported the system to the pre-poured pad at the compressor plant.
Upon delivery, the prefabricated package system was set in place by a crane to allow for a quick installation. This marked the first time that the compressor plant had been taken completely offline since its construction in 1951, so minimizing downtime for the compressor plant was a top priority.

Once it was installed, the contractor simply connected the natural gas fuel supply and brought the heating water supply and return piping to the system. After wiring the electricity, the system was up and running. “The installation was a very simple process,” stated Paul Worley, project manager for John Bouchard & Sons Co., the installing contractor. “The on-site team knew what they were doing, and the equipment couldn’t have been easier to work with - all it took was a couple of quick connections to get the system started.”

A Quick Start and Continued Success
The data for this remote-monitored system showed that the boiler system rapidly increased the compressor jacket water temperature upon implementation on a cold January day.

“Everyone on-site guessed it would take 24 hours to bring this system up to temperature, so it was a huge surprise when the boilers began to back down and modulate after just two hours,” described Hunt. “The installation and performance of the three SYNC units was everything I expected it to be and more. The outstanding control system is very impressive to the end user – I can’t tell you how many times I saw someone staring at the control just to see how much firing rate was required to heat the system.”

The data continues to report consistent temperature management due to SYNC’s internal cascading sequencer and each boiler’s ability to modulate at 10:1 turndown to precisely match system demand.

In fact, the three 1.5 million Btu/hr SYNC Condensing Boilers, which were installed in place of one six million Btu/hr fire-tube boiler, are operating daily with no more than two of the boilers - or three million Btu/hr – running at any given time.

“The system is operating exactly as it was designed, and we couldn’t be happier with the way it’s working,” said Mark Quillen, Cross-functional Technician and a 35-year veteran of the pipeline company.

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