Turbomachinery is a core subject in many engineering curriculums. However, many graduates joining the oil and gas industry are designated as rotating equipment engineers. Though turbomachinery and rotating equipment are used synonymously, all turbomachinery are rotating equipment but not vice versa. Turbinis in Latin implies spin or whirl, and a natural question that arises is – what are the factors that differentiate turbomachinery? In a general sense the term, “rotating” covers the majority equipment used in the industry be it in the upstream, mid-stream or the downstream segment. Yet top rotating equipment specialist in the industry are seen spending their prime time or often being associated with certain unique and specific types of critical rotating machines – the turbomachines.
In a classical sense, turbomachines are devices in which energy is added into or taken out from a continuously ﬂowing ﬂuid by the dynamic action of one or more moving blade rows. By this definition propellers, wind turbines and unshrouded fans are also turbomachines but they require a separate treatment. The subject of ﬂuid mechanics, aerodynamics, thermodynamics and material mechanics of turbomachinery when limited to machines enclosed by a closely ﬁtting casing or shroud through which a measurable quantity of ﬂuid passing in unit time makes the practical linkage to rotating equipment – those which absorb power to increase the ﬂuid pressure or head (fans, compressors and pumps) and those that produce power by expanding ﬂuid to a lower pressure or head (hydraulic, steam and gas turbines). Further classification into axial, radial and mixed type (based on flow contour), and impulse & reaction (based on principle of energy transfer) is common. It is the large range of service requirement that leads to different type of pump (or compressor) and turbine in service.
From the oil and gas industry perspective, standards namely API governs the specifications of design, material and systems requirements of rotating equipment. In line with such standards, equipment under the purview of APIs SOME (Sub Committee on Mechanical Equipment) are considered to quantify rotating machine. Falling under the turbomachinery group are centrifugal pumps (API 610), general and special purpose steam turbines (API 611 & 612), gas turbines (API 616) , axial and centrifugal compressors and expander- compressors (API 617), special purpose fans (API 673) and integrally geared compressors (API 672).
It is understandable that universities and academic institutions will continue their focus on turbomachinery as a fundamental subject of the curriculum, with increased emphasis on training and use of CAE tools. Basics remaining the same, the special nature of application of turbomachinery in the industry makes job of a rotating equipment engineer a challenge. At a conceptual level four important facets of rotating equipment (turbomachines) that an engineer in the oil and gas industry need to comprehend are as follows: Kinematic, energetics and thermodynamics of performance– fluid-aero thermal design and analysis; integrity of rotor, bearings, seals, casing and structure – mechanical design and analysis; the complete hardware – metallurgy, material mechanics and manufacturing and finally the associated systems. As the oil and gas industry entrusts its specialist rotating equipment engineers with a demanding level of reliability and availability of turbomachines, new ways are required to enhance competence. The practical experience of rotating equipment engineers coupled with exposure to design principles and use of CAE and simulation tools is one such way to help them add more value to their business. AxSTREAM® is an advanced software suite that covers many aspects of various critical rotating equipment for the oil and gas industry on a single platform.