Lorie Russo explains how one company takes all the heat for being ahead of the game in giving utilities a better chance to respond to increasing demands.
Yuba Heat Transfer does not take lightly its position as one of the top suppliers to the power generation industry. As one of the few engineering and manufacturing firms to have at least one piece of equipment installed in every power plant and utility in the country, Yuba concentrates on what matters: the ever-present challenge of how to efficiently heat or cool fluids within a power-generation facility.
Located in Tulsa, Okla., which is considered the heat-transfer capital of the world, Yuba prides itself on being a fully integrated company. It is committed to providing advanced engineering design, the highest-quality fabrication and turnkey field-service solutions for virtually any heat-transfer need, according to Sam Naifeh, vice president of sales. Its extensive line of highly innovative products includes steam surface condensers, feed-water heaters, power and shell-and-tube exchangers, and preheater and kettle exchangers. They are used in the power- generation, chemical and petrochemical processing industries, plus other major process enterprises.
From engineering to fabrication, Yuba engineers are involved throughout the project – during the bidding stage, the design review/approval and following the fabrication process. Frequently, they become involved in manufacturing decisions and after the unit is placed in service. Every quality check is performed by either in-house technicians or independent third-party contractors. Yuba’s products are produced in accordance with a variety of codes and standards: ISO 9000, ASME, HEI, TEMA, HTRI, Chinese pressure-vessel certification and many other country-specific requirements. Yuba’s quality process uses a variety of non-destructive testing, such as radiographic examination, die-penetrant, ultrasonic verification, magnetic particle, hydrostatic and chemical and metallographic sampling.
A division of Connell LLP, Yuba was founded in 1928 and got its name because the company was originally involved in mining gold on the Yuba River in California. The company maintains headquarters and its main manufacturing location in Tulsa, which totals 200,000 square feet; a second plant outside Baton Rouge, La., was dedicated in 1999 and measures 40,000 square feet; and a third operation resides in the United Kingdom to provide sales/engineering/project management for European clients. All operations, says Naifeh, were built and established specifically to provide heat-transfer and service solutions for Yuba’s clients. Annually, Yuba’s sales are in the $45 million-to-$55 million range. Its products are shipped far and wide — from North America to places such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea, China, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Venezuela, Argentina, Ireland, England and Russia, to name a few.
On the power-generation end, Yuba has concentrated on supplying equipment to help utilities in every state respond to deregulation. With deregulation comes an increased demand by producers for a new generation of combined-cycle gas turbine plants (CCGTs) as a way to generate electricity. These plants, says Naifeh, produce electricity with an efficiency approaching 60 percent vs. the 35-to-45 percent efficiency of the traditional thermal power plant (TPP). “The country is in the midst of an explosion of building CCGTs in each state,” Naifeh says. “Plus, the need to compete for the supply of electricity places a demand on the various components located in the TPP, such as the steam surface condenser, upgrading the turbine and changing equipment such as the feed-water heater, to match these circumstances.”
Yuba, he explains, designs and manufactures both low- and high-pressure feed-water heaters that can be installed either vertically or horizontally, depending on plant design requirements. Low-pressure ratings range from between 400 and 800 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) and high-pressure ratings are from 1,600 to 5,000 psig. Each feed-water heater contains from one to three separate heat-transfer areas or zones including the condensing, de-superheating and subcooling zones. The economics of design and the particular performance needs of a plant determine the design parameters.
To further aid the power industry, Yuba developed the Hemilok® channel design in the late 1980s. During this time, the power industry was beginning to cycle their TPPs; i.e. bringing units down from full load to 20 or 25 percent load and then up again. “When they bring it back up, they have to ramp up so many degrees per hour,” explains Naifeh. Realizing the power plant needed something that could withstand this heat transient, Yuba developed the first real breakthrough in shell-and-tube heat exchanger design. “We developed and patented a head that has a thin rib in the channel edge; all of the heat transferred in cooling or heating is absorbed and dissipated in the thicker portion of the unit,” Naifeh explains.
Other benefits of the Hemilok® design include:
• The hemispherical-shaped pressure chamber, which provides a configuration well suited to cyclical service
• Full access to internal components for maintenance
• Lower costs resulting from the use of lighter-weight tube bundle materials
• The ability to withstand high pressures, high temperatures and high partial pressures of hydrogen
• Fatigue-free operation in difficult service
• Availability in all sizes and all high-pressure applications, including supercritical applications with design pressures more than 5,000 pounds per square inch
Yuba also produces a series of highly efficient steam condensers, which provide significant performance advantages including longer service lives. Yuba’s design methods, verified by fluid tests, facilitate the production of leak-tight welded or roller expanded joints with thin-walled tubing, whether 25 BWG titanium or 22 BWG stainless steel.
Says Naifeh, Yuba also is involved in the repowering of TPPs, i.e., coal, oil and natural gas, as well as nuclear fuel. “Say you have a plant from 1950 that produces 500 megawatts, and you’re now upgrading or replacing the steam turbine to produce 520 megawatts,” he says. “That increase requires that you look at other equipment in the cycle, such as the condenser, cooling tower, feed-water heaters and boiler. When you upgrade to 520 megawatts you need to test the existing feed-water heaters to see if they will perform efficiently under the increased design condition. We will assist our client in this evaluation through our StringAnalysis™ and in the replacement of feed-water heaters when necessary.”
Yuba’s heat-transfer experience and solutions are directly applicable to the process markets, a major segment of its business. These industries, however, have experienced much slower growth over the past few years despite the low price of feedstocks. The basic issue has been lagging end-product demand in the developing countries due to their depressed economies, although many have begun releasing capital for new plants and upgrades to existing facilities. “We’re seeing some movement, but we’re still in a very tight market,” he says. “For instance, most petrochemical companies have been busy in the last 24 months finalizing mergers in addition to battling the above market conditions.”
Always mindful of its place within the industry and its commitment to engineer and manufacture the finest array of heat-transfer solutions, Yuba embarked on an ambitious re-engineering plan three years ago. This effort brought extensive changes on the shop floor and in the support functions of the organization.
“We live by the just-in-time ‘pull’ philosophy,” says Naifeh. “We’ve changed our methods of doing business by incorporating this methodology.” This system, he explains, makes sure all steps in the process are on line, synchronized and ready to go to avoid delays in the flow of materials for manufacturing.
“We want to be sure that there is readiness at every step, so pieces can be brought together more quickly for final assembly. We make sure that the manufacturing end is coordinated with the proper enterprise tools for on-time delivery. It is a total process that we have paid much attention to and spent a lot of time and money on.”
The end result has been a much more efficient process, from top to bottom, he says. This differentiates Yuba by allowing the company to produce a quality product and deliver it to its clients in the least amount of time. As the company’s slogan goes, “You can trust Yuba’s commitment to serve the heat-transfer needs of the industry anywhere in the world.”