The iX challenge competition, delivered by KTN, is supporting a multinational organisation to identify innovative solutions to a significant and immediate challenge. Those businesses which are selected by the challenge owner as offering the most promising solutions will be given a commercial opportunity to deliver their solution and receive support from KTN and the wider Innovate UK network.

Background 

The Innovation Exchange programme is working alongside a multinational organisation in the gas turbine industry. The organisation has a global presence and customer base and facilities that are headquartered in the UK.

The business is looking to engage innovators and innovative organisations that can help them solve a significant challenge they are trying to overcome in relation to removing fuel auto-oxidation deposits from internal fuel passages within Inconel injectors without dismantling the unit/components where those passages are located.

The client is looking to identify transferable solutions to solve its present set of business problems. They will engage with the suppliers of innovation to support the development of winning solution. This may be in two stages with a proof of concept approach for removing the carbon deposits, then further developed for in field use, preferably as a portable unit.

The system to be cleaned is designed to inject the fuel into the combustion chamber in the turbine, this flow of fuel is important for the smooth running of the turbine and gaining the right level of power for the fuel injected. It is generally accepted that dissolved oxygen initiates the autoxidation process that ultimately results in a chemical alteration or degradation of the fuel which then result in deposits that can cause blockages in small passageways or malfunctions in some of system components and/or units. It is intended that a methodology be developed to remove these unwanted fuel auto-oxidation deposits on labyrinthine fuel passages without dismantling the turbine.

Below you can see a collection of images of controlled deposit growth on a range of sized filter paper:

Figure 1a – exemplar carbon deposit on 250µm screen filter

Figure 1b – exemplar carbon deposit on 105µm screen filter

Figure 1c – exemplar carbon deposit on 74µm screen filter

The fuel travels through the pipework into the injectors and leaves deposits which can then affect the flow, leading to the risk of injectors being starved of fuel and the turbine then runs poorly with a loss of power. The challenge requires the clean-up process to be carried out on an installed turbine, therefore the injectors and associated pipework cannot be removed.  It is envisaged that an approach that removes build-up will be bench tested prior to trial on an installed test rig system. The general pipework and injectors are manufactured using Inconel, and many contain elastomeric seals (specification of seals given below) which may restrict the sort of cleaning systems that can be used.

A secondary stage to develop a delivery system may be required to ensure a process is created that is light, easy to use and is easily transported. We would welcome approaches that combine both a cleaning and delivery mechanism.

The challenge may require a collaboration between two sectors. KTN are able to help develop relationships to complete the process required to both clean and then deliver the solution to the turbine.

The challenge owner will not consider solutions that involve:

  • Anything that requires the dismantling of the turbine to access the target components
  • Anything that cannot be operated in extreme temperatures and harsh locations
  • Anything resulting in ‘collateral damage’ to other sub systems (detrimental damage downstream)
  • Large energy consumption units or anything that cannot be transported easily by 2 people and basic courier
  • Significant transport (e.g. flatbed truck) for instance.

Rewards and benefits

Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to the Challenger. The package may also include:

  • Support and facilities from the challenge holder to test and develop the systems within their own laboratory space with the product needing cleaning.
  • Support from the Catapult networks and the KTN
  • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot
  • Technical support
  • Invitation to attend or present at KTN or Catapult events
  • A potential business collaboration
  • Investor introductions (if investment is required)
  • Support if any innovate or similar competitions are relevant.

Solution Requirements

Functional Requirements 

  • System able to be temporarily installed during gas turbine downtime to remove fuel auto-oxidation products in labyrinthine metallic components
  • Robust / simple enough to be used without significant operator skill – Automation or smart machinery is an additional option
  • Provide a solution in a small and lightweight package, modular carry packs for 2 people would be considered – consider carry weights of up to approx. 20Kg
  • Access to the system can be through pipework of up to 10mm diameter

Technical Characteristics  

  • Must initially be suitable for temporary installation to the turbine in a wide variety of locations globally
  • Must perform the cleaning operation within an 8-hour continuous window
  • Must not induce any downstream collateral damage on the surrounding turbine components and systems.
  • Temperature of any heated substances may not exceed the temperature, as the seals may be damaged, estimated at 200 degrees maximum.
  • Any deposits into the atmosphere must not be more detrimental than the fuel and be easily managed for disposal.

Operating Conditions 

  • Turbines may be located in harsh environments (-25 to + 50 Degrees)
  • Would also be installed on infrastructure powered by turbine
  • Operationally on turbine, main units must be portable, and managed easily by 2 trained operators or less.
  • Process may be used both inside and outside of buildings.
  • Power sources may be available at point of operation. Suggest power needs for system to work.

Solutions should be:

  • Deployable on a pilot/test basis within 6 months
  • Then deployable as part of a structured roll out plan over the next 1-2 years (including collaborative validation or integration)

Cost requirement and market opportunity    

  • Costs will be proportional to ease of deployment and use with regard to ability to be portable by technicians.
  • For the right product, the solution could be used across the client’s portfolio and wider
  • This challenge offers a multi-year development opportunity for the right solution
  • The correct system may have a potential for use on other portfolio’s in multinational companies.

Eligibility and assessment criteria

Entrants to this competition must be:

  1. Established businesses, start-ups, SMEs, individual entrepreneurs and Academia.
  2. UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base