Turbines, Power Plants & Rotating Machinery

Exponent’s multidisciplinary engineering team has in-depth experience with the equipment, processes, and controls associated with a vast array of equipment, including but not limited to gas turbines for aero-propulsion, as well as stationary services (both aero-derivative and frame types), steam turbines, turbo pumps, compressors, and engines for power generation and propulsion from numerous equipment manufacturers.  We have investigated a wide range of important performance issues, including material suitability, control system failures, component failure analysis and root cause investigations, fracture mechanics, aerodynamics, acoustics, fire origin and cause investigations, and forced outages support.

Exponent’s engineers have direct expertise in both combined-cycle and simple-cycle power utilities services. Industrial users of such equipment generally include electric power utilities, aerospace power and propulsion, marine power and propulsion, chemical plants, and petroleum refineries, as well as pharmaceutical, food, textile, paper, and wood manufacturing facilities. We consult on a wide range of fundamental engineering issues related to radiant and convective heat transfer, multiphase fluid flow; solid, liquid, and gaseous fuel combustion; fuel chemistry; and pollutant formation and abatement.

Gas Turbines

Gas turbines are a type of internal combustion engine and are used in a wide range of services, powering aircraft of all types, as well as driving mechanical equipment such as pumps, compressors, and generators in the electric utilities and petrochemical industries. Similar to the reciprocating internal combustion engine in an automobile, energy (mechanical or electrical) is generated by the burning of a hydrocarbon fuel (e.g., jet fuel, diesel, or natural gas). Gas turbines can generally be classified into five broad categories: frame-type heavy-duty gas turbines, aircraft (aero ) derivative gas turbines, industrial gas turbines, small gas turbines, and micro gas turbines.

Exponent’s consultants assist gas turbine owners and operators in identifying and mitigating operational risks as well as performing failure analyses and root cause investigations. Exponent uses its experience gained from analyzing numerous failures to provide unique and advanced services relating to gas turbine equipment and their systems. This experience includes analyses of equipment failures, human/machine process interactions, control system design, control system failures, and root cause determinations. We use a multidisciplinary team to address the various aspects and issues related to system design, installation, commissioning, operation, maintenance, and outages (scheduled and forced).

Our project experience includes a variety of consulting services, such as:

  • Plant Feasibility Studies
  • Plant and Equipment Acquisitions
  • Safety-Critical System Design Reviews
  • Evaluation and Support for Functional Testing
  • Litigation and Warranty Support
  • Optimization and Equipment Upgrades
  • Process Hazard Analysis
  • Turbine Systems Safety
  • Turbine Controls
  • Third-Party Review
  • Incident Investigation
  • Exotic Material Failure Analysis
  • Technology Evaluation and Analysis
  • Intellectual Property Support

Steam Turbines

Steam turbines, similar to gas turbines, extract energy from a pressurized fluid flow at elevated temperatures. A steam turbine employs the energy extracted from a pressurized steam flow to perform mechanical work such as driving an electrical generator or a compressor.  Steam turbines have energy outputs ranging from the low kilowatts (kW) range that can be used as mechanical drives for pumps, compressors, and other shaft-driven equipment, to turbine outputs that could exceed 1,500,000 kW (1,500 MW) and are used to generate electricity.  Exponent has investigated numerous steam turbine issues for both power utilities and manufacturing facilities.  Projects have included consulting services related to failure analyses of steam turbines in combined-cycle power plants, geothermal power plants, solar power plants, boiler-water carryover, turbine-blade failures, and control systems. 

Fluid Handling Subsystems: Pumps, Compressors, and Appurtenances 

Industrial fluid handling systems are generally composed of numerous subsystem components such as compressors, dryers, filters and/or separators, accumulators or receiver tanks, and distribution piping. It is important that fluid handling subsystems, subsystem components, and their associated control systems not be overlooked when assessing risks or performing a post-incident failure analysis.

Exponent has consulted on numerous aspects of fluid handling system operations, maintenance, control and automation; and failure analyses. These investigations and analyses include applications in compressed air or gas systems, boilers, furnaces and other heat transfer systems; chemical and agrochemical industries; and industrial fluid and compressed natural gas pipelines, among others. Often we are called upon to investigate breaches in pressurized vessels and piping, fuel/oil fires and explosions, mechanical failures, corrosion, and system safeguards. We have also performed analyses related to control system failures and electrical system failures, including fuses and motor overloads.

Industry Affiliations & Standards Expertise

Exponent’s engineers are members of and serve on many committees for recognized standards organizations that evaluate turbine, power plant and rotating machinery, including:

  • AIChE — American Institute of Chemical Engineers
  • API — American Petroleum Institute 
  • ANSI — American National Standards Institute
  • ASHRAE — American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • ASME — American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • ASTM — American Society for Testing and Materials
  • CCPS — Center for Chemical Process Safety
  • EPA/CHP — EPA Combined Heat and Power Partnership
  • HI — Hydraulics Institute
  • IEEE — Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • ISA — International Society Of Automation
  • NFPA — National Fire Protection Association
  • WTUI — Western Turbine Users Inc.



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