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hose of us who work on GE heavy
duty gas turbines know that they are
inherently good. Unfortunately, it is
often the operators, maintenance peo-
ple, and even the OEM that contribute in one
way or another to bad things happening to
these good turbines.
Take an example, such as foreign object
damage (FOD). One might ask why damage
occurs so rapidly. The shape of the inlet bell-
mouth makes it act like a nozzle, which
drops the inlet pressure and accelerates the
air to a velocity of Mach 0.50; one-half the
speed of sound. The intrinsic nature of this
flow characteristic is what carries foreign
objects through the flow paths of the com-
pressor and turbine sections.
What follow are examples of costly
problems that could have been avoided if
proper care had been taken:
1. Foreign body entering the combustion
section of an MS-7001EA
2. Impact of severe boiler chemistry upon
an MS6001B combined cycle operation
3. Penalty for not paying close attention
to final closing clearances upon reassembly
after an outage
Example 1. This deals with the after-
math of a major overhaul of an MS-7001EA.
Upon restart, this unit displayed a compres-
sor discharge pressure (CPD) higher than
before the outage; yet, the mW output was
9% lower than before the outage. A
borescope inspection revealed anomalies at
the first-stage nozzle partitions.
As the forensic disassembly progressed,
it became obvious that a foreign body had
come through the combustion section and
lodged between the nozzle partition trailing
edge and the first-stage bucket leading edge.
The object appeared to have bounced
around between the nozzle and buckets and
then broke off a large section of a partition,
which in turn acted to push several of the
trailing edges of the partition upstream. This
choking of the nozzle caused the CPD to
increase beyond design parameters resulting
in diminishing of the hot gas flow through
the turbine section (Figure 1).
The onsite visual forensic analysis
revealed what appeared to be the initial
impact zone, a shiny spot. Additionally, sev-
eral first-stage buckets exhibited unusual
deposits. Spectral analysis from the GE
Metallurgy Laboratory revealed significant
traces of AISI 4140 tool steel in these
deposits; this material is not used on a GE
MS-7001EA unit.
When advising the disassembly contrac-
tor of this finding, they noted the use of tool
steel feather wedges to help alignment of the
combustion liners during installation.
Example 2. This deals with the impact
of a severe boiler chemistry event upon an
MS6001B in combined cycle application.
The unit uses attemperated steam injection
to achieve compliance with regulated NOX
level exhaust emissions.
Essentially, the boiler chemistry event
involved carryover of hydrazine into the flow
stream of condensate used for steam injec-
tion attemperation. The deep blue coloring
of the first stage turbine nozzle is an oxide of
cobalt. This transmogrification changed the
characteristics of the alloys used for the first-
stage nozzle and the first-stage buckets such
that they were no longer suitable for use in a
GE turbine. The end result being that both
the first stage nozzle and the first stage
buckets could not be refurbished and were
only suitable for scrapping (Figure 2).
Example 3. This involves the penalty for
not paying close attention to final closing
clearances upon reassembly after an outage.
Power plant users often believe that since
they are going to change out turbine nozzles
and buckets during an outage, it is not impor-
tant to take all of the internal clearances
when opening the unit, and again when clos-
ing the unit. They believe that they can save
outage time by not expending the effort to
take accurate readings and comparing them
to what they were at the last outage; such a
belief can quickly become a false economy.
Turbine, compressor and bearing clear-
ances are where the rubber meets the road.
The OEMs design engineers view the clear-
ance diagrams with their specific tolerances
as the bible for setting the performance
and reliability parameters for any heavy duty
gas turbine.
Rubs and consequential damage are
most often a low-speed event initiated with
the first fired start. Whether it is a standard,
simple, high-low tooth seal on the shroud
blocks or the newer honeycombed seal sur-
faces, the shroud material is tougher and
harder than the bucket material. The wearing
away of the shroud rails on the Z-form
shrouded tip buckets not only creates a per-
formance loss, but also affects bucket
mechanical integrity as well as damping.
It is crucial that the person taking the
clearances not only have a good understand-
ing of how and where to take the clearances
accurately, but also understands that this task
is one of the most important of the outage.
Adherence to the designed tolerance range
affects optimum performance. It is equally
important to ensure that one fully understands
the true cost of trade offs during reassembly,
and reviews all of the before and after clear-
ances. The turbine is speaking to you.
If one understands the inseparable
dimensional relationship between the rotor
and the stator during various phases of oper-
ation, he or she can determine where to make
judgments as to where to go outside of the
optimum clearance envelope.
Most of the time, we do good things to
good turbines. We operate them within
design limits and maintain them as if they
were our own. On occasion, though, we do
some not so good things to our turbines
that result in bad consequences.
We are human, so sometimes we forget
things (like the famous roll of paper towels or
the aluminum ladder in the compressor inlet)
and suffer the catastrophic results of such neg-
ligence. If we are careful, count our tools and
check once, twice, thrice for foreign objects
being left inside the turbine, the success of the
outage will be positive. Nobody wants bad
things to happen to good turbines.
Alfred P. Shuman is Senior
Staff Technical Advisor at
PAL Turbine Services, LLC.
For more information visit:
28 Turbomachinery International July/August 2012
Figure 1: Missing section of trailing edge
(TE) with other TEs pushed upstream
Figure 2: Damaged Stage 1 Nozzle Parrtitions