Conventional motor-compressors are large and complicated. In mid-2016, at the Incahuasi site in Bolivia, Total launched its integrated motor-compressor ICLTM (Integrated Compressor Line from General Electric Oil & Gas), a world first. It has a number of advantages: simplicity, eco-technology, extreme compactness, reduction in delays, and cost reduction.

Alain Gelin

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Sébastien Bouyssou

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Because they combine a host of technological challenges, motor-compressors, which are so important for hydrocarbon production, are notoriously difficult to simplify.

A regular 10 MW package measures 12 meters long by 5 meters wide, and weighs approximately 100 tons. It comprises an enormous low-speed electric motor, which for reasons of operational flexibility is powered by a frequency converter, a speed multiplier, a centrifugal compressor, and low and high speed couplings, all surrounded by dozens of items of inspection and monitoring equipment.

This package also requires a lubrication system for the entire shaft that can also dissipate the heat produced by the multiplier. It houses an extremely complicated sealing system equipped with numerous sub-assemblies: capacitors, filters, control valves, heater, circulating pump, and a range of other varied devices. Absolutely critical from an HSE perspective, the sealing equipment also requires a constant gas exhaust to the flare. A conventional motor-compressor also includes several auxiliary systems, all with different fluids: cooling water for the oil system and electric motor, instrument air for the motor and control valves, and nitrogen for the sealing itself.

A rapid, gas-cooled technology without oil

Unveiled nearly 20 years ago, the development of “high speed” motors and magnetic bearings for the shaft has led to the gradual removal of the speed multiplier and oil system in motor-compressors. The motor operates at atmospheric pressure and is cooled by the air. “Rapid and without oil” is the kind of technology we use at Martin Linge, our Norwegian offshore site. The four compact motor-compressors, made and tested especially for this project, have dramatically reduced the amount of space the equipment takes up.

In 2013, we were able to incorporate a new generation of motor-compressors in the construction of the Incahuasi field in Bolivia. The “high speed” motor is now cooled using process gas, and operates at the compressor’s suction pressure. This innovation provides one advantage in terms of size: there is no longer any need for a sealing system. The solution is actually hermetic, with zero atmospheric emissions. And, with no more sealing equipment, the compressor no longer needs instrument air, nitrogen or cooling water. The auxiliary systems can therefore be removed, and the number of instruments reduced to the bare minimum. This leaves the motor-compressor in a highly compact and streamlined package, occupying ever less space. The size of a 10 MW package is now around 6 meters long by 4 meters wide, and its weight has been halved.

The integrated compressor: compact, robust, zero emissions and lower cost

In 2007, Total was the first major oil company to certify ICLTM technology, developed by General Electric Oil & Gas, for “commercial gas” applications. The qualification of this topside technology derived from subsea applications was extended to include upstream gas in 2016. All new developments and their associated documentation are covered by confidentiality agreements signed between General Electric Oil & Gas and Total.

Successfully tested at maximum capacity in 2015, the two integrated ICLTM compressors designed for Incahuasi are also equipped with a single wheel cantilevered on a rigid rotor, resulting in an even simpler and stronger design. The rapid motor (12,000 rpm - 4.6 MW) is cooled using a small fan that is also cantilever mounted on the other end of the rotor. In 2016, Total started them up at its Bolivian site, which was a world first. Today they are fully operational.

A major innovation, the integrated ICLTM compressor halves integration costs as well as dramatically reducing operational costs, with commissioning lead times three times shorter than they were previously. In the future, 80% of new Total projects will be able to make use of this technology.

  • Incahuasi ICLTM Celebration - TOTAL and GE Teams.
  • ICLTM versus Conventional Package.
  • Incahausi ICLTM during Full Load String Test.
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