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Utilities work together to assist gas firms

Issue 10 and Volume 100.

Utilities work together to assist gas firms

A group of electric utilities is helping natural gas storage, process and transportation companies use electric compressors to move fuel along their pipelines. The group, led by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), is working to take advantage of continuing deregulation which is allowing it to expand its business into new territories.

One conversion project was carried out with Tenneco Energy of Houston, Texas. Modification of Tenneco`s old engines to meet new requirements would have been very expensive. Bill Wickman, Tenneco manager of business development, said potential problems in the disposal of lubrication oil and cooling fluids are greatly reduced with the electric motors. W. Richard Schmeal, EPRI director of the Chemicals and Petroleum Center in Houston, Texas, said electric driven compressors have several economic and environmental advantages.

“They are more energy efficient because variable frequency drives control the motor speed so motors can maintain high efficiency in a variety of conditions. They can be operated offsite, at a remote control station where a press of a button starts the motor that drives the compressor. Electric driven compressors are clean,” Schmeal said.

“Electric motor drives are inherently designed to operate quietly, unlike their gas-fueled counterparts which are noticeably noisy in crowded urban areas. Finally, most electric driven compressor models require less capital investment.” EPRI studies indicate that between 1,000 and 3,000 MW of new demand may be created nationally by electric compression over the next five years.