As we head towards the end of the year and prepare for 2023, demand for energy recovery solutions is high. The topic was top-of-mind for attendees of this year’s GPA Midstream Convention, whose members joined Sapphire Technologies’ paper presentation to learn how wasted pressure energy may be converted to clean electric power in a turboexpander-generator. With so much natural gas moving through US pipelines, the amount of power available for recovery is large and many operators were interested to learn that their assets are well-suited for turboexpander installations.
It is important to take a step back to consider the importance of energy recovery. As the world works to reduce its carbon footprint, energy recovery increases efficiency and reduces fossil fuel demand. Advancements in technology like magnetic bearings and permanent magnet generators, which Sapphire has integrated into its FreeSpinR system, can make energy recovery projects more attractive to end-users because they reduce system operating costs and maintenance requirements.
While energy recovery may sound like a simple process, there are challenges to be considered. For starters, many existing pressure letdown stations, which utilize mechanical Joule-Thomson valves to reduce gas pressure, do not have large on-site power requirements. Some stations may be in remote areas and lack access to the electricity grid, eliminating the operator’s ability to sell the produced power to their utility. Sapphire’s presentation offered a solution to these challenges: data centers. Data centers offer a portable, modular load that can be easily transported and installed throughout the pipeline network to consume the power recovered through pressure letdown.
To execute these data center projects, Sapphire has partnered with Evolve Energy to develop a process control system capable of responding to the variable temperatures, pressures, and flow rates of the natural gas pipeline network. Evolve, which has installed over two million square feet of critical infrastructure since 2004, will also provide integration services. The partnership between Sapphire and Evolve creates a solution that can recover power throughout a midstream sector, which research shows is currently wasting up to 2,900 megawatts of pressure energy.
By recovering this power, the FreeSpin In-Line Turboexpander is a great breakthrough in helping reduce global carbon footprint.
Watch the full presentation here.