Wednesday, September 28, 2005

@ Work: Turbine? What the hell is a turbine?

People ask me what in the world I do for a living... Its obvious that I have a jet-set lifestyle, and it seems that my life for the past four years have been a great big holiday around the world.

Albeit the speculation, I do have a day-job... I'm a mechanical field engineer, i.e: I get sent on projects ANYWHERE (including the possibility of Iraq and the deepest darkest pockets of the Amazonian jungle) to work on power plants.

We fix (maintain) and install turbines. In this line of work, sitting and doing only paperwork in the office is for wussies. We get dirty climbing around and using tools, so we put on coveralls. For safety, we wear steel-toe boots on site, a hard hat, and safety glasses.

Yes, this is me...

and this is a power plant.

There are different kinds of power plants in the world. The principle of operation is the same. All machines are driven by some form of force, which in turn drives a generator to produce electricity. Some plants run on water from dams, some burn coal, or use nuclear fuel.

The ones I work on are gas combustion turbines, which burn natural gas for fuel. We're talking in the USD$20million range for this gas turbine in the picture... and thats ONLY for the turbine, minus all the other stuff.

This is what we do on some jobs... we take them apart (Gently!) to fix whats inside, or replace worn out parts with new ones. Think about it: The turbine runs as hot as 1000+ Celcius in certain areas. Hence, some parts need to be replaced as often as every year. But major work to take apart the entire turbine, happens only every 3 ~ 4 years (thereabouts), or if the turbine shits the bed (a.k.a. ~ Breaks).

On some jobs, we get to cut the old ones apart.

Throw the old one out as expensive scrap, and install a new one in its place. Well, obviously by this stage, the managers, bean-counters (accountants) and engineers would have already gone through the whole bitch fight over why this is necessary...

Essentially, there are only a few companies in this WORLD who produce, sell, install, and maintain power plant equipment. A few of the major names are General Electric (GE), Alstom/ABB, Siemens, and Mitsubishi. I work for GE. Hence, we get sent all over the world to work on our respective machines.

Work duration varies from job to job. On a small job, I could stay on a jobsite for 2 weeks. On a bigger job, like the one I am at now in Korea, will require me to stay for a year or two. We are installing 4 new machines from ground up.

The ONE of the four gas turbine units that we are installing in Korea now, produces around 172 Mega Watts, which translates to roughly power enough for 4,000 standard homes. The entire plant will eventually put out around 1000 Mega Watts, considering the other machinery on-site.

YES... I have a job.

NO... I am not 007, and I cannot promise to fly you to London for tea, and Paris for shopping.


At September 28, 2005 12:00 PM, Blogger .k. said...



At September 28, 2005 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very interesting!!

always wondered what you did, so this really explains it. thanks for satisfying our kurios-ity. :P

you may not be 007, but you can give Bond a run for his money!!


At September 29, 2005 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Within the next 3 years, at least 8 gas turbines will be installed in the Niger Delta Area of Nigeria, mostly purchased from GE, you might want to look into it maybe your might offer some charitable expertise or consule. You never know you might be granted the job of running a power plant!

At September 29, 2005 8:55 AM, Blogger Kurios1978 said...


I have commissioned/run a power plant before, when I was with Alstom Power, but now its all mechanical work with GE. As far as that project in Nigeria, that does sound interesting. It is one of the prime areas where oil and gas/power industries are moving into. Thanks for the info.


Post a Comment

<< Home