Pump Technology Beyond Oil & Gas

Jan. 22, 2007

By Matt Migliore Centrifugal Pump Sales for Power ($ Millions) World Region 2007 2008 2009 2010 Africa 35 34 34 35 CIS 72 72 72 78 East Asia 573

By Matt Migliore

Centrifugal Pump Sales for Power
($ Millions)

World Region 2007 2008 2009 2010
Africa 35 34 34 35
CIS 72 72 72 78
East Asia 573 577 615 591
Eastern Europe 55 56 56 61
Middle East 21 16 17 17
NAFTA 261 280 287 303
So. & Cen. America 26 23 27 24
West Asia 90 118 107 90
Western Europe 137 149 152 182

Source: McIlvaine Company, Pumps World Market

Sales of industrial pumps are expected to reach an all-time-high of $38 billion in 2011, according to a report by industrial market research firm McIlvaine Company (www.mcilvaine
company.com). Among the primary drivers of this unprecedented demand are booming industrial development in Asia, global investment in large-scale, coal-fired power plants, and the construction of facilities in the United States for alternative fuel production and processing. With all of the pumps that are being specified in these areas, manufacturers are refining their technology in an effort to position their product lines for big gains in the years to come.

Bob McIlvaine, president of McIlvaine Company, says one of the more interesting long-term trends in the pump market is the decline in sales for oil and gas applications. In place of oil and gas, McIlvaine says pump manufacturers are focusing on some nontraditional applications, including coal-fired boilers, ethanol, and liquid natural gas.

Coal-Fired Power
Despite environmental concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, the United States and China are currently embarked on huge coal-fired plant building programs, and McIlvaine predicts coal-fired power will dominate the energy market in the foreseeable future, due to its low cost relative to other sources of energy.

For pump manufacturers, growth in the coal-fired power figures to generate huge demand for pump technology that can assist in the flue gas desulfurization (FGD) and scrubbing process. However, while demand for pump technology in this area is growing fast, the window of opportunity for FGD processes is currently limited to a handful of manufacturers.

According to McIlvaine, new coal-fired power plants are generally operating in excess of 100,000 GPM per scrubber, which means the pumps supporting these applications must be capable of operating at 40,000-50,000 GPM to be cost-effective. At this time, McIlvaine says there are only few manufacturers that can provide pumps of this size. As such, he says he expects manufacturers to focus heavily going forward on developing larger pumps that can support higher GPM levels.

Ethanol & Biodiesel
Ethanol is another hot market for pump technology going forward, as the energy bill recently signed by President Bush established a renewable fuels standard to require the use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel by 2012. According to McIlvaine, achieving this goal will require 1,500 new ethanol plants and the pumping capacity to go along with them.

William Bohr, director of product management for pump manufacturer Blackmer (www.blackmer.com), says ethanol and biodiesel applications are a key focus for his company going forward. "Unless there’s an unforeseen downward trend in the price of oil, we expect [ethanol and biodiesel] to continue to grow quite significantly." As a result, Bohr says sealing technology, elastomers, and materials of construction in general will be a big focus in the pump market, as manufacturers look to provide low-cost pumping solutions that can stand up to the harsh conditions of ethanol production, transport, and distribution. Ultimately, Bohr says he sees pump manufacturers moving away from mechanically sealed systems toward sealless designs to reduce the lifecycle cost and increase the reliability of pumping systems in harsh environments like ethanol. "We don’t really know what the answer is yet," says Bohr. "But we are certainly focused on identifying the next-generation of sealless technology."

One developing story in the Ethanol segment that Bohr says Blackmer is keeping a close eye on is the recent suspension issued by Underwriters Laboratories on use of "UL" markings on components for fuel-dispensing devices that specifically reference compatibility with alcohol-blended fuels that contain greater that 15% alcohol (i.e. ethanol, methanol, or other alcohols). Currently, he says certification of equipment for new ethanol plants is typically being handled at the local level by fire marshals. Bohr says once the UL issues its specification for compatibility, pump manufacturers will be better able to market their pumping technology to ethanol plant developers. The UL’s specification is expected by March.

Liquid Natural Gas
Although optimism in the liquid natural gas (LNG) market has tempered somewhat of late, McIlvaine believes this area will also yield solid growth for pumps over the next several years. After substantial increases early this decade (including more than doubling between 2002 and 2003), the volume of LNG imports has decreased over the past two years. However, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (www.eia.doe.gov) is predicting a revitalization of LNG in 2007 and 2008, as increasing global LNG supplies are expected to ease price pressure in the world market, allowing the United States to attract more LNG cargoes.

In LNG applications, pumps play a role at three different process levels — liquefaction, tanker loading, and regasification. Thus, the expected upswing in LNG imports should have a marked impact on overall pump demand.

Regarding technology specifically, McIlvaine says "LNG is a demanding market, because you’re talking about a cryogenic applications." As such, pumps operating in LNG environments must be able to perform reliably at cryogenic temperatures (below -150 C, -238 F, or 123 K). As such, pump manufacturers targeting the LNG segment figure to continue to refine their technology for improved reliability and performance at extremely low temperatures.

Matt Migliore is the editor of Flow Control magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].

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