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Viability of Combined Cycle Drivers for LNG Plants

Ram Tekumalla, Maheep Jain and Vibhor Mehrotra

Bechtel Corporation
Houston, TX, USA
Karl Masani
ConocoPhillips Company
Houston, TX, USA
AIChE Spring Meeting, April 2007
7thTopical Conference on Natural Gas Utilization
Houston, Texas, 22-26, 2007
Liquefied natural gas plants have increased in size to take advantage of
economies of scale and rapidly growing markets. Designers of LNG facilities
must consider the impact of numerous variables such as capital and operating
costs, thermal efficiency, availability, reliability, environmental regulations, and
project schedule. For many LNG projects, driver configuration remains one of
the largest areas of study. This is because driver and compressor configuration
sets the plant capacity, represents a large share of capital costs for the
liquefaction facility, and determines the fuel gas consumption and emissions.
This paper presents the viability of combined cycle drivers for LNG compressors,
based on the ConocoPhillips Optimized Cascade process. The basis for the
paper is a dynamic simulation study sponsored by the ConocoPhillips-Bechtel
Global LNG Collaboration Product Development Center (PDC). The paper also
presents preliminary economic analysis supporting the combined cycle driver
Throughout this paper, combined cycle refers to a combination of gas turbines,
waste heat recovery, and steam turbines.
Combined cycle drivers provide an attractive design alternative for LNG plants.
Qualls and Hunter, 2003, described how a combined cycle plant successfully
reduces capital costs and increases thermal efficiency for Optimized Cascade
plants. The main advantage of the combined cycle drivers is the reduction in fuel

Optimized Cascade services are provided by ConocoPhillips Company, Phillips LNG Technology
Services Company and Bechtel Corporation via a collaborative relationship with ConocoPhillips
Company. Optimized Cascade, the Optimized Cascade logo, ConocoPhillips and its logo are
trademarks of ConocoPhillips Company. Bechtel and its logos are trademarks of Bechtel Group

consumption by increasing cycle efficiency. Figure 1 demonstrates the value of

converting fuel gas savings into LNG for a 5.0 MTPA LNG plant.
Value of Converting Fuel Savings into LNG for a 5.0 MMTPA LNG Plant
(GT Cycle Efficiency Increase vs. GT Cycle Efficiency of 30%)

Case 1 (Advanced Frame GT, eff=35%)


(USD million)

Present Value of Gross Margin


Case 2 (Aeroderivative GT, eff=40%)

Case 3 (Combined Cycle, eff=50%)










Capital Cost and RAM Differences are excluded

Fixed feed gas flow: Gas Cost = 0.75 USD / MMBTU
PV calculated at Discount Rate = 10% and 20 yr life

Figure 1: Value of converting fuel gas savings into LNG

In combination with key aspects of ConocoPhillips LNG process, described in a

later section, combined cycle driver configuration could have a significant impact
over the life-cycle of the facility.
ConocoPhillips Optimized Cascade Process
The ConocoPhillips Optimized Cascade process has been used in nine plants
with capacities of 1.5 to 5.2 MTPA. Figure 2 provides a simplified over-view of
the process. Plant availability, reliability, and overall production efficiency are the
hallmarks of the technology. The standard design for Optimized Cascade
process incorporates a two trains in one concept.
Historically, each
compressor is driven by a gas turbine of appropriate size. Each refrigerant cycle
(propane, ethylene, and methane) includes a minimum of two compressors
operating in parallel. This parallel configuration allows the plant to operate at
production rates in excess of 50% when any single gas turbine compressor is offline. Furthermore, Avidan et al (2003) and Redding et al (2005) have
demonstrated that this operating flexibility, equipment reliability, and overall
design lead to production efficiencies greater than 95%.


Figure 2: ConocoPhillips LNG Process - Schematic

Simulation Studies
An alternative to the configuration with all gas fired turbines is a design that uses
steam turbines to drive the methane compressors. The steam is generated from
waste heat off the propane and ethylene turbine exhaust.
A dynamic simulation study was undertaken to determine the operational viability
of the combined cycle driver design. The dynamic model for an existing LNG
plant was modified to incorporate the waste-heat system and turbines for the
methane compressor. For simplicity, it was assumed that each steam turbine
had an independent steam header. The heat recovery steam generator (HRSG)
was a single pressure HRSG. The HRSG was equipped with duct-firing to
provide 25% more heat. The dynamic model was built in Aspen Hysys 2002,
utilizing a proven high-fidelity approach (Valappil et al, 2004). The combined
cycle driver configuration was designed utilizing GT Pro and modeled on
Invensys Dynsim platform.
The combined cycle plant operation was compared with that or the base LNG
plant under normal and abnormal conditions. In order to establish equivalency of
the two configurations, feed gas volume to the combined cycle plant was reduced
by the difference in fuel gas consumption. This resulted in same amount of LNG
as the base plant.


During normal operation, the combined cycle plant produces an equivalent

amount of LNG as the base plant without requiring supplemental firing.
Efficiency of the turbine heat cycle increased from 28% (lower heating value) for
the base plant to 43% for the combined cycle driver configuration. The two most
critical abnormal scenarios in an LNG plant are compressor trips and turn down
to half-rate. The study shows that the combined cycle driver configuration had a
minimal impact on the operational flexibility.
Operational Analysis
Half-rate Turn-down Production
A dynamic analysis was performed for each configuration by changing the setpoint of the main feed gas rate controller to 50% of the design value. As shown
in Figure 3, the LNG production rate is very similar to the base configuration.
A decrease in feed rate reduces the compressor power demand and gas turbine
fuel consumption. This leads to a decrease in steam flow and hence a reduction
in the power delivered by steam turbines. However, supplemental firing is not
required because the reduced steam production is sufficient to satisfy the
methane compressor power demand.
Figure 4 shows a comparison between the propane suction pressure for the base
and the combined cycle plant configurations. Although, the dynamic response of
the suction pressure differs slightly, both trends are very similar. This transient
effect is mainly attributed to the additional time lags in the steam system for the
combined cycle drivers. Similar behavior is demonstrated by the ethylene
suction pressure (Figure 5) and methane suction pressure (Figure 6).

Figure 3: Comparison of Feed Gas Rate and LNG

Production rate during half-rate turn-down production


Figure 4: Propane Suction pressure

during half-rate turn-down production

Figure 5: Ethylene Suction pressure

during half-rate turn-down production

Figure 6: Methane Suction Pressure

during half-rate turn-down production

Propane Compressor Trip

A propane compressor trip was initiated in the process model and subsequent
behavior was studied for each configuration. In the event of a compressor trip, a
safety shut-down signal is sent to the propane gas turbine driver and the inlet
feed control reduces the plant feed to half-rate. Following the compressor trip,
LNG production rate (Figure 7) reduces to half for both configurations.
The propane gas turbine driver trip drastically decreases the amount of waste
heat available for steam generation, thereby reducing the power delivered by the
steam turbine.
Consequently, the additional demand from the methane
compressor is satisfied by duct firing. As shown in Figure 8, the supplemental
boiler output peaks shortly after the compressor trip.
A comparison of the propane suction pressures for each configuration (Figure 9)
shows a brief increase in load on the operating propane compressor. Both plant
configurations return to the normal operating value once the feed flow is reduced
to half-rate. In contrast, the ethylene (Figure. 10) and methane (Fig. 11) suction
pressure trends display a substantial difference in the dynamic behavior. This is


due to the inherent inertia and time lag associated with the steam system and
supplemental boiler, respectively. However, the suction pressures settle out to
the same steady-state value for each configuration.

Figure 7: Comparison of Feed Gas Rate and LNG

Production rate for propane compressor trip

Figure 8: Supplemental firing during

propane compressor trip

Figure 9: Propane Suction pressure

during propane compressor trip

Figure 10: Ethylene Suction pressure

during propane compressor trip

Figure 11: Methane Suction pressure

during propane compressor trip


Economic Analysis
Reliability, availability, and maintainability (RAM) are three primary components
that influence LNG production at a liquefaction facility. As described earlier,
reliability is a key feature for the Optimized Cascade process using the two-inone train concept.
The largest single impact on production is the availability of the turbine drivers.
Reliability of most proven gas turbines is in excess of 99% and availability is over
of 96%. The availability is highly dependent on the owners scheduled
maintenance strategy and the turbine selected (i.e. frame or aeroderivative).
A detailed economic evaluation is needed to justify a combined cycle liquefaction
plant. The value provided by the increase in thermal efficiency of the combined
cycle plant will have to be evaluated against the increase in capital and
maintenance costs and the decrease in plant availability. The cost of operations
and maintenance does not have a major impact on the economic analysis and
can be ignored in a preliminary evaluation.
The major factors affecting the economics are the cost of gas supply and the
LNG sales price. Gas supply to a liquefaction facility is also an issue, as it is
usually constrained in some manner. A combined cycle design conserves some
feed gas that can be valued in at least two ways.
The first method assumes that the feed gas rate decreases while keeping the
LNG production constant. The savings would be the value of the feed gas saved
using the cost of the gas. The second technique assumes that the fuel gas
saved would be converted into LNG. The extra LNG could be produced by two
different schemes. In the first, the feed gas rate remains constant and the LNG
production rate increases. This increase will likely require some additional
investment to increase capacity. The second way would be to produce the LNG
when the gas supply is no longer at plateau, but has declined. The actual gas
production would keep the plant full longer. Both methods should be evaluated
in pre-FEED in order to maximize the value to the owners.
Conclusion and Discussion
This paper demonstrated the operational viability of a combined cycle driver for
ConocoPhillips Optimized Cascade process. For the chosen configuration, the
hallmark flexibility of the Optimized Cascade process was retained. A HRSG
with duct firing may be necessary to maintain performance over various
operating upsets.


The decision on driver selection should take into account a rigorous economic
analysis. Steam turbines lead to decreased availability and increased start-up
times. The impact of these variables should be balanced against potential gains
from efficiency improvements. Further, it should be recognized that a combined
cycle configuration need not be limited to the liquefaction. There is increasing
interest for LNG facilities driven by electric motors alone (Martinez et al, 2005).
In such cases, the combined cycle concept could be utilized for on-site power
generation to monetize efficiencies.

A Focus on Balance A Novel Approach Taking the Phillips Optimized

Cascade LNG Process Into The Future, Qualls, W. and Hunter, P., AIChE
Spring National Meeting, 2003.
All Electric Motor Drives for LNG Plants, Martinez, B., Meher-Homji, C.,
Paschal, J. and Eaton, A., Gastech 2005.
Natural Gas Liquefaction Process Designers Look for Larger More Efficient
Liquefaction Designs, Avidan, A., Varnell and Martinez, B., Oil & Gas
Journal, August 2003.
Egyptian LNG, the Value of Standardization, Redding, P., Hernandez, R.,
Qualls, W. and Avidan, A., Gastech 2005.
Virtual Simulation of LNG Plant, Valappil, J., Mehrotra, V., Messersmith, D.
and Bruner, P., LNG Journal, Jan/Feb 2004



3000 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX 77056

Phone: 713-235-4340
Ram Tekumalla is a Senior Simulation Specialist with the Advanced Simulation &
Analysis Group, Bechtel Corporation, Houston. He is involved in development of
dynamic models for a variety of projects. Over the past 4 years, he has used his
expertise to develop Operator Training Simulators for 3 LNG plants. Ram is
actively involved in various studies sponsored by the Bechtel ConocoPhillips
LNG Project Development Center.
Ram Tekumalla started his career in 1998. He worked at Cape Software and
Invensys prior to joining Bechtel. Ram earned his M.S in Chemical Engineering
from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and B.E. (Hons) in Chemical
Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani.