News Article

Tallgrass Turbocharging Lower 48 Natural Gas System for Cleaner Energy Future

October 31, 2022

Sapphire Technologies partners with Tallgrass Energy and Evolve Energy to pursue world's largest turboexpander installation.

Tallgrass Energy is set to install dozens of turboexpander systems capable of responding to variable temperatures, pressures and flow rates across its natural gas network in partnership with Sapphire Technologies and Evolve Energy.

The trio is expected to install more than 72 of Sapphire’s FreeSpin In-line Turboexpanders (FIT) across the Tallgrass natural gas pipeline system over the next three years, according to Cerritos, CA-based Sapphire. "The partnership provides us an opportunity to tap into the U.S. market using our turboexpander technology with Tallgrass Energy,” said Sapphire CEO Freddie Sarhan.

The FIT is able to extract energy from the pressure reduction required at various stages of gas distribution, allowing for electricity generation with fewer emissions. As pre-heated high-pressure gas flows through the FIT, the expanding gas moves through the system’s radial turbine wheel, allowing low-pressure gas to exit for delivery to end users. Energy wasted during the pressure reduction process is recovered by FIT using a system of active magnetic bearings, a high-speed permanent magnet generator and a high-frequency, variable-speed drive. The drive can be programmed to specific power requirements. The power generated would be consumed in Evolve’s data centers, which would provide integration services for Tallgrass, Sapphire said. Houston-based Evolve provides planning, design, deployment and management services throughout the lifecycle of critical infrastructure.

Tallgrass’ Justin Campbell, vice president of power and transmission, said “…this partnership will help ensure we achieve our mission of providing leading energy solutions that create a cleaner energy future.” The installation marks Sapphire’s largest U.S. deployment of turboexpander systems, the company said.

Tallgrass has increasingly stepped up its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not only in its operations, but also for the Midwest. In January, the Wyoming Energy Authority awarded the midstreamer more than $4.1 million to fund development of a commercial-scale carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration hub.

In July, Leawood, KS-based Tallgrass also said it was exploring CO2 transportation options by abandoning and repurposing the Trailblazer Pipeline Co. LLC. Trailblazer and Rockies Express Pipeline LLC (REX), both owned by Tallgrass, filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this year to shift natural gas flows from Trailblazer onto REX.

In addition, Tallgrass in September and Norway’s Equinor ASA said they would be researching large-scale hydrogen production to capture at least 95% of the CO2 for permanent sequestration, as well as to transport and store ammonia.

Tallgrass operates about 6,500 miles of natural gas transportation and storage systems capable of moving more than 8.8 bcf/d and storing 16 bcf, including Cheyenne Connector, Tallgrass Interstate Gas Transmission, Trailblazer and REX.