Cooling Texas

TAS Energy

In addition to this, Houston is known around the world for another reason. Heat.

Houston is a hot part of the world. Its humid subtropical climate averages over one hundred days per year that reach temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius (nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit). In such challenging conditions, the ability to cool down is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. How lucky it is to also be home to the industry leader in turbine inlet chilling: TAS Energy.

Founded in 1999, TAS Energy has developed truly innovative products to increase the output of gas turbines for the power generation industry. More specifically, the technology uses turbine inlet chilling, or turbine inlet chilling combined with thermal energy storage, called Generation Storage® to lower the inlet temperature, ensuring that the equipment is running at its maximum output. Since gas turbine generator sets are susceptible to temperature changes, the performance and the amount of power the turbines can generate decreases as ambient temperatures increase.

TAS Energy, according to a company spokesperson, is “primarily a turbine inlet chilling company, with chilling of data centers a major contributor. What we do is: we package chilling systems; some of them provide inlet chilling for gas turbine generator sets, others cool major installations of data equipment, whether for telecommunications, government, finance, or large-scale storage.

“What the chilling system does on gas turbines is: it stabilizes the inlet temperature seen by the gas turbine – which allows the gas turbine to operate at a steady state. In other words, instead of fluctuating with the temperature, it would remain at its best performance all the time.”

Until now, in order to deal with this issue, more power plants had been built in order to accommodate the increased needs of the electrical grid on hot days. Costing millions of dollars, the plants would sit idle for the rest of the time, and these plants specifically are the least efficient of all plants, as they operate in ‘simple cycle’ wasting valuable power opportunity in the form of heat. Getting increased performance from existing, more efficient combined cycle plants through utilizing turbine inlet chilling is far more cost effective.

The level of in-house skill at TAS Energy has resulted in the capability to produce a range of products that is far beyond anything else on the market. The company has spent many years developing its range and has used expert advice to assist in developing the premium level product. At the core of the product, is a simple yet innovative idea of using cooled water to ensure equipment runs how it should, when it should.

The company produces a number of modular packages to provide easy solutions for clients. “We have subject matter experts who are mainly from a chiller manufacturing background. We saw the opportunity to use packaged chillers by the main chilling manufacturers. Those chillers are used by all sorts of buildings for air conditioning: hospitals, factories, offices. What our expertise has done is, to use those chillers for a more power generation type application which is packaged so we actually buy those packaged chillers and assemble them into a package which is easily installed to provide the chilled water to the gas turbine. We have several patents which include Generation Storage®.”

TAS’s Generation Storage® system combines turbine inlet chilling with thermal energy storage to allow power plant operators to use cheaper electricity during the off-peak hours to chill and store the water for use during the peak demands of the following day. The inclusion of the tank also provides power plant operators access to greater revenue streams from ancillary services. Without Generation Storage®, gas turbines traditionally ramp up and down their turbine to capture these ancillary services revenues. With Generation Storage®, however, the turbine can stay at a flat 100 percent output (its most efficient point), and the operator can use the already chilled water from the thermal energy storage tank to ramp the output of the gas turbine unit up and down by simply varying the flow of water from the tank through a pump. This allows for the optimum efficiency of the turbine, significantly reduces operations and maintenance costs for the operation of the turbine, and provides an enhanced revenue value for the unit.

TAS Energy proudly stands at the forefront of the industry in terms of gas turbine chilling and Generation Storage®. The reason attributed to the company reaching this enviable position is an innovative and entrepreneurial leadership with the foresight to forge a lone path in the quest to become an industry leader.

“The initial founder of the company actually saw the benefit of this many years ago, and it has taken that sort of time for people to get used to the idea. I think it is just an entrepreneurial mindset in terms of seeing an opportunity and knowing that, as gas power prices go up, the benefit of chilling would only increase over time.” In the current state of the market, it is becoming increasingly difficult to construct new power plants due to the required environmental requirements, permits and licenses.

“By retrofitting existing gas turbines and systems, they can reap a huge benefit of much lower cost and much quicker schedule than actually generating new power and building a new power plant.”

This retrofitting market is going to become a large portion of the work that TAS Energy does in the coming years. The company sees this as an inevitable repercussion of advances in the industry. “Coal power plants are slowly being decommissioned. That has to be replaced with something. People are looking, obviously, at solar and wind. The problem with wind though, is that it only works when there is wind.” As the price of gas remains cheap in the States, and it is far more environmentally friendly than coal, the company continues to see retrofitting to increase output as, “a growing business and a growing industry”.

However, while maintaining a healthy and growing business is a desirable position in which to be, it does not leave TAS Energy immune from external challenges. Arguably the biggest challenge the company faces, is the bureaucracy that accompanies the gas industry.

“The biggest challenge, I think, is some of the regulatory structure – certainly in the U.S. I think one of the biggest challenges is the slowness of governmental decisions in terms of how the markets are driven. Additionally, in the U.S., there are multiple unique and separate power markets: one in Texas, one in New England, New York, the East Coast and parts of the Midwest, the West, and even completely non-organized ‘markets’ in the South, etc. With so many different markets, each with their own regulatory protocols, market products and prices, and policy goals, working across markets can be difficult to maneuver. To allow changes to existing power plants, to change permits that are in place, that literally slows the market down in terms of flexibility of what they are able to do. I think there is also still a bit of education in the marketplace that is required. There are always more marketing efforts needed to help customers understand what the benefit would be, in terms of the increased output and capacity, and how this technology can work with other standard power augmentation options, like duct burning.”

While there are challenges to be met, it would be fair to say that the feeling of positivity coming from TAS Energy far outweighs the challenges. The future is bright for the company and the team cannot see anything but further growth over the next few years.

“In terms of the market, we see the market expanding on a three to five year long term plan. In fact, in the U.S. alone, according to EIA data, there are over 19,000 MWs of power that can be gained through retrofitting just the existing power plants in the United States. This does not account for including turbine inlet chilling or Generation Storage® on all of the new power plants being built. From an annual basis, we see the market increasing by around ten to fifteen percent per year looking not only at what is available to be achieved in the U.S. – but also internationally. We are putting more into that part of our business.”

June 4, 2020, 10:53 PM EDT