Saudi Aramco News

A game-changing technology that turns energy waste into electrical power is now being deployed at Hawiyah Gas Plant (HGP). The hydraulic turbine electric generator, or turbocharger, extracts hydraulic energy that is traditionally wasted at the plant and turns it into electrical power. This reduces the plant’s carbon footprint and has enormous cost savings. The turbocharger is now being piloted under the watchful eye of plant employees, and if it continues to operate smoothly, it could soon find itself deployed across various company facilities. Recognizing Opportunity The idea for the turbocharger was developed by plant employees, along with the Process and Control System Department (P&CSD), in 2012. They recognized that the process of removing acidic gases from raw natural gas was energy inefficient, and decided to improve it. Hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide – acidic gases – are removed from raw natural gas using amine solutions that are pumped into a high-pressure contactor. The solution absorbs acidic gases when it comes in contact with them in the stream. The amine solution with the dissolved gases then exits the contactor and is depressurized through a control valve before being sent to a low-pressure regenerator, where the acid gases are removed. The regenerated amine solution is then injected back into the contactor and the process starts over. The process of depressurizing the solution with gases at the end of the process, only to pressurize the gas-free amine when restarting the process wastes energy. There was the opportunity. “We knew we had energy loss,” said Hussein A. Alnaser, senior operations engineer at the plant. “The question was how to utilize it.” After a rigorous collaborative process of identifying needs, searching for vendors and refining the design, a device was created to capture the wasted energy and turn it into electrical power. The turbocharger was born. Will it work? Creating the device was only half the battle. “We had to take a good look at how it could work, and how we could put in this new system without interruption to plant operations,” said Faisal Al-Odah of HGP’s Engineering Division. The piping and electrical wiring for the turbo charger, all in-house, had to be installed. The power also had to be integrated into an existing substation where it could be used. “It was all done without shutting down any of our operations — quite an achievement,” said Al-Odah. “This is a credit to all the engineers and the operation and maintenance staff.” Pilots and Paradigms The turbocharger was commissioned in early 2015, and so far it has performed to expectations with an average output of 300 kilowatts. “The project was executed safely and without disruptions, and we are now in the two-month testing phase gathering data,” said Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, HGP manager. “We have seen no deficiencies or concerns so far. “This is a proud moment for Hawiyah Gas Plant,” he said. “It’s an outstanding opportunity for us to have this technology,” said Faisal Yaeesh, superintendent of the Operations Division in HGP. “We are leading the industry. This could be a paradigm shift, albeit a small one.”