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Rapid turnaround for steam turbines

22nd April 2021

At the height of the COVID pandemic, Sulzer completes major turbine rotor overhaul in the Philippines.

A team of steam-turbine overhaul specialists from Sulzer Indonesia was given special dispensation to travel to the Philippines to overhaul a 53-tonne (128’000 lb) low pressure rotor for a 345 MW steam turbine. The work, which required a specialist high-capacity lathe and balancing machine to be imported and shipped to site, was completed ahead of schedule despite all the challenges of operating within national and local COVID-19 restrictions.

Sulzer’s work at the privately owned power station in the Philippines originally began a year ago, when the owner was planning a blade-replacement project on one of the two turbines at the site. That contract was awarded to Sulzer Indonesia after a comprehensive technical assessment by the customer, which sent a quality control inspector to spend a week evaluating processes, capabilities and standards at the Sulzer site.

With no local facilities able to handle such a large rotor in the Philippines, the owner asked Sulzer to do the work on-site, using transportable equipment that could be shipped from Indonesia. To meet the customer’s tight shutdown schedule, Sulzer air-freighted its transportable 100-tonne (220’000 lb) capacity lathe and balancing machine to the power station. It completed the work to replace a full row of blades, balance and re-install the rotor in 21 days.

Following the success of that initial project, and with specialized equipment still on site, the customer asked the Sulzer team to assess the condition of a spare rotor, which it kept on standby at the power station. The team was able to confirm the owner’s suspicions that the spare rotor required significant work, including machining of the bearing journals and the replacement of multiple rows of blades.

The lead time for the manufacture of new blades was expected to be several months, so the Sulzer team removed its equipment from the site, returning in the summer to conduct initial work on the rotor.

Access challenges

Once the replacement blades had been manufactured and shipped, the full rotor overhaul could be planned, scheduled to coincide with a two-month shutdown at the facility. The work included disassembly, inspection of blade root connections, replacement of several rows of blades, reassembly and balancing. Once again, the specialist equipment would be transported to the Philippine’s to allow the work to be completed-on site.

While both parties were confident in the approach, the feasibility of the project was thrown in doubt when the Philippines imposed a ban on cross-border travel as part of the country’s pandemic response. Gaining permission for Sulzer personnel to enter the Philippines required a special request to the authorities, which was granted subject to strict testing and quarantine protocols.

With the required paperwork in place, a team of eight Sulzer personnel travelled from Indonesia to the Philippines in late 2020. All team members were subject to Covid PCR testing prior to departure and on arrival, and were asked to spend a week in quarantine before accessing the customer’s site.

The whole team returned negative tests, and so were able to begin work as soon as the quarantine was over to assemble the lathe and balancing equipment, which had been sent back to the power station via sea freight. Sulzer overhauled the rotor, completing all the required inspection, blade replacement and testing work, six days ahead of schedule.

“Steam turbines are high-value capital assets, so shutdowns for maintenance and overhauls are critical events. If work overruns, the financial implications can be significant,” says Hepy Hanipa, Head of Turbo Services South East Asia at Sulzer. “At Sulzer, we are proud of our track record for meeting our customers’ schedule requirements while delivering services of the highest quality. As this project shows, we have been able to do that despite the additional complexities imposed by the pandemic.”

“For this project, we needed the correct equipment on site at just the right time,” says the Site Maintenance Manager. “Sulzer overcame significant challenges to deliver these projects ahead of schedule.”


Image 1: As part of the project, Sulzer’s engineers also assessed the spare rotor, which would require replacement blades

Image 2: Several sets of blades were removed as part of the repair project

Image 3: The completed rotor was balanced using Sulzer’s own equipment which had been shipped to site for the project

About Sulzer:

Sulzer is a global leader in fluid engineering. We specialize in pumping, agitation, mixing, separation and application technologies for fluids of all types. Our customers benefit from our commitment to innovation, performance and quality and from our responsive network of 180 world-class production facilities and service centers across the globe. Sulzer has been headquartered in Winterthur, Switzerland, since 1834. In 2021, our 13’800 employees delivered revenues of CHF 3.2 billion. Our shares are traded on the SIX Swiss Exchange (SIX: SUN).

The Flow Equipment division specializes in pumping solutions specifically engineered for the processes of our customers. We provide pumps, agitators, compressors, grinders, screens and filters developed through intensive research and development in fluid dynamics and advanced materials. We are a market leader in pumping solutions for water, oil and gas, power, chemicals and most industrial segments.

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