Saturday, June 22, 2024

Embracing Change: UK Pump Systems Manufacturer Champions Energy Transition Support

Over 40 years ago, Calder was founded to address the need for safe and reliable pumping equipment for industrial applications. Seeking to find a place in a less crowded market, Calder specialised in high pressure applications. In the 1990s, the company immersed itself in the stringent standards and regulations of the offshore energy sector and went on to become a much-trusted bespoke supplier to offshore operators.

As the company grew, they focused on new opportunities, particularly in areas that involved difficult and innovative processes. For example, they were instrumental in the development of Cuttings Re-injection (CRI) technology. This is the injection of ground-up stone and rock, from the drilling process into the geology below the oil reservoir. Significantly, cuttings re-injection is an environmentally sound method for disposing of oil & gas drilling by-products. It replaced the traditional method where drill cuttings were left to litter the seabed where they destroyed subsea flora and fauna for miles around.

Today, the pump systems Calder designs and manufactures for energy transition applications are becoming a large part of their portfolio and they are heavily involved in the development of new technology to aid the race to net zero.

The Challenges

Calder’s hard-earned pumping expertise has lent itself well to the energy transition. Indeed, the move felt like a very natural progression for their company. That said, nothing is plain sailing! They set themselves a challenge to explore alternative energy delivery systems. Although they understand high pressures and hazardous areas, many of the applications were new to them. Calder’s engineering team researched and digested everything they could about the new applications. Conferences and seminars were attended, hosted by both renewables companies and suppliers. Case studies and white papers read and absorbed.

Their research identified three broad categories requiring further investigation:

Applications

Firstly, finding applications where Calder’s skills are ideally suited. As they thoroughly understand their skill sets, this is possibly the easiest of the tasks.

There was a significant focus on the hydrogen market due to its promising nature. However, during their initial research they found that while there was a lot of talk, actual progress seemed limited. Of late, there seems more movement in this area and with the technology they have they can comfortably address the specific challenges posed by hydrogen. Indeed, Calder has worked with a number of companies on innovative hydrogen systems using membrane-free electrolysers and high pressure electrolysers.

Their research moved to alternative energy markets such as ammonia, methane, and methanol. Methanol injection, in particular, emerged as a more readily accessible market to break into. Indeed, collaboration with a major engine manufacturer on methanol injection for ships’ engines (as a green alternative to diesel) resulted in a purchase order for a green fuel injection system for an offshore vessel.

Calder’s current pumping technology requires little adaptation for many carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) applications. They are actively engaged with operators in the development of pump systems for carbon capture and advanced cooling systems.

They discovered that their high pressure, downhole water injection units enable a gentle transition to geothermal energy recovery applications. Moreover, there is significant opportunity, both onshore and offshore, for the re-purposing of redundant oil & gas wells for geothermal energy recovery.

Calder continues to support their traditional markets and applications, but even here the products are changing. Many new platforms are being built, and existing ones converted, with power-from-shore capability. As an alternative to generating their own power from fossil fuels, platforms receive electric power via cables run from onshore. This move towards electrification has resulted in Calder supplying ever more offshore pump skid packages powered by electric motor.   

A recent development has been the MultEjet – a high pressure water jetting pump unit for offshore fabric maintenance applications. This unit features new electric motor drivetrain technology, allowing the incorporation of variable speed, explosion-proof control without need for a separate VSD. This innovation brings to the market portable, self-contained, VSD electric-drive pump units in a compact format not previously available.

Process Fluids and the Supply Chain

Another significant challenge lay in understanding the complexities of unfamiliar process fluids and materials. Calder’s engineers looked in depth into areas such as metallurgy and advanced sealing capabilities – both areas of familiarity through their existing products.

The issue of new process fluids and materials extended beyond their engineering team. Understanding the capabilities of the supply chain to handle alternative energy materials and technologies was a significant challenge. Discussions with suppliers included considerations for cryogenics, sealing technology, and welding methods. On occasions, they sourced new, technology-ready suppliers.

Cryogenics was of particular relevance to energy storage applications and has significant effects on the materials of construction. Material selection had always been an important factor in Calder’s design of pump systems to cope with aggressive liquids and extremes of temperature. However, cryogenics has certainly extended their team’s knowledge in this area.

Sealing technology is an area in which Calder is hugely experienced. However, the unique properties of hydrogen, in particular, demand even greater levels of protection against leakage than many traditional applications. Fortunately, pump units with enhanced leakage detection technology are already successfully deployed in use in some offshore methanol applications and this technology is readily transferable.

One area where Calder identified a need for further knowledge was fusion welding. Traditionally, pipework joints on offshore pump skids have been bolted. A project under discussion with a new customer in the renewable energy sector stipulates that all the pipework joints are fusion welded. So Calder has developed their understanding and will make adjustments to their manufacturing methodology, where necessary, due to the additional welding requirements.

Standards and Regulations

Differences in customer requirements in the energy transition sector compared to traditional oil & gas applications, particularly in terms of standards and materials, were noted. Calder’s engineering and documentation teams sought to understand the new standards and grappled with the challenges of cross-referencing with existing oil & gas standards. They found that in some areas standards aren’t actually written or they are developing. So Calder can apply their existing knowledge of standards and materials to those applications. They foresee that the standards will be a big issue. Despite the challenges, their vast experience of ATEX, NORSOK, and IECEx will be invaluable in the evolving landscape of standards in emerging markets. They recognise that the utilization of their existing electrical knowledge in zoned applications will be a strength for various energy transition projects.

Calder’s Experience

Their first foray into the energy transition was the development of a geothermal energy recovery pump unit for a closed loop, downhole heat exchanger system. Pump selection was critical for this application. They selected the perfect pump for the project – a high flow unit with low running costs and long service intervals. The unit is running onsite and has met all expectations.

Green marine fuel injection is much talked about, whether it be ammonia or methanol. Calder is delighted to have been selected to supply a methanol fuel injection package for a marine vessel. This will operate in an ATEX Zone 2 hazardous environment and is really just the latest incarnation of the hazardous area injection pump units they have been manufacturing for over two decades.

Other recent interesting projects include a twin-pump, duty standby pump skid. This high flow, critical-application unit is for offshore cooling medium duties. Currently in design are pump skids for solar panel production. These chemical injection pump systems will inject polymers during the production process. Collaborations with customers on four other projects are exciting, but are commercially sensitive.

What of the future?

Calder has always striven to develop new markets and to excel in each one. Without doubt, they see their recent projects in the emerging energy transition industries as the start of something big! Given Calder’s experience, it is in the more challenging applications where they can really add value. And that is what they intend to do. Working closely with their customers, design, manufacture and test the pump systems they need, and focus on safety, quality, and reliability. After all, that focus has worked for the last 40 years!

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