Commissioning and ongoing maintenance of gas turbines: Load banks play a critical role in commissioning gas turbines by providing a controlled environment to test and verify the performance of the turbine before it is put into use. The commissioning process involves a series of tests and checks to ensure that the gas turbine operates according to design specifications and meets safety and performance standards. 

Paul Brickman at Crestchic Loadbanks explains how load banks are typically used in the commissioning and ongoing maintenance of gas turbines . 

Why is testing gas turbines important? 

Gas turbines are often used on offshore platforms, pipelines, and other remote locations where they provide a cost-effective alternative to grid power. When commissioning turbines destined for offshore or remote use, using load banks is essential, as a failure can be difficult and expensive to rectify once the platform is at sea, or the project is underway. Downtime can cause a loss of production revenue that can quickly run into millions of dollars.

Turbines also provide power to the grid. They remain at the heart of industrial heat and power generation. Siemens Energy – a global leader in energy technology – predicts that gas turbines will have an increasingly important role in supporting renewable energy sources by providing backup power and grid balancing capability. But, as with any power source that is connected to the grid, turbines must be isolated and fully tested to verify their performance and safety. 

How to test a turbine using a loadbank

The test starts by connecting the loadbank to the turbine’s electrical system. A loadbank is essentially a set of resistors or other electrical components that can simulate the electrical load that a turbine would experience during normal operation. By testing the system and its components using a loadbank, engineers can ensure that it will operate efficiently and reduce the likelihood of issues occurring. 

Testing usually involves applying a load to the system and increasing it in incremental steps up to full load. This can be done gradually, or in steps, to simulate different operating conditions, from low to high loads. The turbine’s response to varying loads can be monitored and analysed. This allows engineers to check that the turbine is working at peak efficiency once the facility is on station and working to capacity. 

A loadbank will usually be used to simulate the effect of a large block load being introduced or withdrawn, e.g. a pump or compressor. Engineers will then measure the recovery interval (‘transient response’) until the engine speed returns to normal. By subjecting the turbine to these kinds of shock loads, or extreme load conditions, engineers can assess its resilience and ability to handle peak demands. 

What benefits does testing offer? 

Tests usually include checking whether the turbine is generating the expected amount of power, assessing the stability of the electrical output (voltage regulation) and evaluating the turbine’s ability to maintain a stable frequency (frequency control). Data collected during load bank testing is analysed to identify any abnormalities or potential issues. This information can be used to make adjustments, optimise turbine performance, and ensure compliance with operational standards. Failing to test a system could result in inefficiencies or complete failure. In addition to proving the electrical system, by loading the gas turbine all other ancillary systems are tested such as fuel pumping and conditioning and exhaust systems, which may not have been the same as provided at the manufacturer’s test facility. It is crucial that these systems operate correctly, or the main turbine itself will not be reliable. For those in a remote location such as an oil rig, failure is likely to be extremely costly and could even result in loss of life. 

As well as using loadbanks during the commissioning of new turbines to verify their performance before they are connected to the grid, load bank testing should also form part of regular maintenance procedures to ensure turbines remain in optimal condition.

Load bank testing provides a controlled and safe environment for evaluating turbine performance, ensuring that turbines can reliably meet the demands of the electrical grid, or offshore power needs, when connected. For more information about the commissioning and ongoing maintenance of gas turbines, speak to our sales and rental teams. 

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