Westinghouse Combustion Turbine Systems Division

Westinghouse Combustion Turbine Systems Division

Part of the Westinghouse Power Generation group, the Combustion Turbine Systems Division (CTSD) was originally located, along with the Steam Turbine Systems Division (STSD), in a major industrial facility in Tinicum Township (Delaware County, Pennsylvania), near the Philadelphia International Airport.

According to 1983 CTSD marketing brochures, Westinghouse innovations included "the first combustion turbine used commercially in the United States, first use of cooled blades and vanes in an industrial unit, and the world's largest and most efficient combined cycle plant." Fueled by natural gas, that first commercial unit [1800-hp W21] was installed in 1949 at the Mississippi River Fuel Corporation and became "the first in the world to operate for more than 100,000 hours." By 1984, more than 1200 Westinghouse-designed gas turbines had been put into operation in 57 countries.

Often referred to as a gas turbine, a modern combustion turbine operates on a variety of gaseous and liquid fuels ranging from light distillates to residual oil. In fact, most are installed with multi-fuel capability to take advantage of changes in cost and availability of various fuels.

Early History

Dating from the turn of the 20th century, this group of buildings at the Tinicum site (often referred to as Lester Works) housed engineering, marketing, and manufacturing facilities where utility-scale gas and steam turbines were designed, developed, and fabricated for sale to utility companies and major industrial complexes. Combustion turbines ranged in capacity to 100-MW for the top-of-the-line [http://www.itmpwr.com/equipment_sw501f.htm W501D] series. While Westinghouse didn't sell its first utility-scale gas turbine until 1949, as noted above, the company manufactured and shipped its [http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/industries/Machinery-Computer-Equipment/Steam-Gas-Hydraulic-Turbines-Turbine.html first steam turbine] in 1897.

"Historical Note: The term “Lester Works” derives from the Lester Piano Works. Along with Westinghouse, that company was one of two pioneering industries in the [http://www.tinicumtownshipdelco.com/index.php?page=history Tinicum] area."

Changing Market, New Facility

In the mid 1970s, CTSD moved its headquarters and operations to a new site in a commercial park in Concordville, Pa., 20 miles to the west (junction of U.S. 1 and 322), in the heart of historic Concord Township. Manufacturing, however, remained in Tinicum. The new CTSD complex consisted of two buildings: a modern, two-story office building for engineering, marketing, human resources, and support functions, and the Combustion Turbine Development Center.

Completed in 1976, the Development Center [commonly referred to as "the lab"] was capable of full-scale testing of compressor, combustor, turbine, and auxiliary system components over the entire range of operating conditions (exhaust system designs were developed at reduced scale). The lab included a high-bay area that could accommodate a full-size [http://www.rigginginternational.com/projects/ProjectDetails.aspx?ProjectID=17 gas turbine] , the size of a large truck, for testing and development purposes, as well as a large conference room and offices for the managers, engineers and technicians who operated the facility. This facility was critical for development of the W251 (40-MW) and the W501 (100-MW) series.

New Technologies

In addition to conventional gas turbine testing, the lab was used for a range of innovative pursuits such as development of new, higher-temperature materials for combustor baskets to improve efficiency, and modification of fuel systems to use pulverized coal, coal gas, or other “synthetic” liquid fuels as substitutes for natural gas and fuel oil.

While manufacture and sales of conventional combustion turbines to utility companies was CTSD’s primary business, the Division also conducted a series of research projects sponsored by organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). In addition to exploration of alternative, coal-based fuels for gas turbines, projects included ancillary technologies such as [http://www05.jtan.com/~joe/asme_pfb.htm pressurized fluidized bed (PFB)] combustors and [http://www.pbworld.com/pbenergy/caes.htm compressed air energy storage (CAES)] systems.

PFB has shown promise over the years as an efficient, economical, and environmentally acceptable means of utilizing coal reserves to displace oil and gas usage. CAES, which has been considered by power companies around the world, involves storing compressed air in geologic cavities such as aquifers, mines, and caverns during periods of low electrical demand, for later use in generating power during periods of higher demand.

Combined Cycle Cogeneration

Another marketing approach pursued by CTSD was cogeneration, which involved selling large gas turbines to major industrial facilities. The facility could use the gas turbine to generate its own electricity, and transfer heat from the exhaust gases to a boiler to produce steam to run a near-by steam turbine for additional power. Or, the steam could be used directly within the facility for various production processes. This concept, also known as [http://www.cogeneration.net/Combined_Cycle_Power_Plants.htm combined cycle cogeneration] , became attractive once private industries were freed from having to buy all their power from the local utility, and the utility was required, by law, to buy excess power from private generation facilities.

End of an Era

By the mid 1980s, due to high labor and manufacturing costs and low demand for new utility-scale turbines, both CTSD and STSD laid-off a large percentage of their personnel in the Philadelphia area and moved their engineering and marketing functions to a new facility in Orlando, Florida.

Turbine manufacturing was outsourced under a licensing agreement to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), and the historic Westinghouse Lester site closed for good. However, the property was later developed into a multi-use industrial park [“Westinghouse Park”] , which is home to a variety of tenants that contribute significantly to [http://www.tinicumtownshipdelco.com/index.php?page=history Tinicum’s] economy and help offset the loss of Westinghouse.

Shortly thereafter, when efforts to operate the gas turbine development lab on a contract basis for the military proved fruitless, the CTSD Concordville site also closed and both buildings were subsequently razed.

Westinghouse Divestiture

A decade later, as part of its merger with CBS, Westinghouse sold off its non-broadcasting operations, with much of the power generation business going to Siemens. The former CTSD continues to do business from its Alafaya Trail facility in Orlando, as part of the [http://www.raremedium.net/case_studies/cs_siemens.html Siemens] Westinghouse Power Corporation (SWPC). Manufacturing operations are carried out at [http://www.powergeneration.siemens.com/en/index.cfm Siemens] facilities in Canada and Germany.

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