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General Electric Company, based in Fairfield Connecticut – usually referred to as GE - is one of the world’s largest conglomerates. The corporation resulting from the merger in 1892 of General Electric Company and the Thomson-Houston Electric Company is a global market leader when it comes to modern technological equipment and services for all areas of the oil and gas industry, ranging from exploration and production to downstream. For decades, HOERBIGER has supplied valves, rings and packings to the Turbomachinery Division of GE Oil & Gas. This is a partnership that has proven itself even in innovative projects like the new business model CNG in A Box™.
Since its founding, General Electric has also been engaged in the area of turbomachinery. With 35 production facilities and branches in 120 countries, GE Oil & Gas is a major player in the worldwide compressor market. The decisive direction for this global presence was set in the 1990s. In 1994, General Electric acquired the Italian compressor manufacturer Nuovo Pignone S.P.A. With this much-noticed acquisition, General Electric gained a sustainable foothold in the European process gas compressor market and started what would later be known as GE Oil & Gas. GE's High-Speed Reciprocating Compressor (HSR) product has been part of GE Oil & Gas's portfolio since the acquisition of the Gemini compressor product line in 1999. The "Gemini" name had been used since 1978 by Gas Compressors Inc. of Corpus Christi, Texas, particularly for the MOC design; this unit combines a single-acting gas compressor with an independent compressor frame. An additional root of General Electric’s current line of high-speed natural gas compressors is the high-speed reciprocating compressor developed in 1950 by Chicago Pneumatic. Along with know-how and the Gemini brand of Gas Compressors Inc., the expertise of Chicago Pneumatic was absorbed by General Electric as a result of several corporate transactions in 1999. In 2000, GE pooled all compressor activities under a single new worldwide brand, GE Oil & Gas.
The high-speed Gemini compressors have been marketed globally as GE high-speed reciprocating compressors since 2005. The product portfolio includes high-speed compressors with an output of up to 7200 horsepower. They are used not only in gas extraction, storage and transport on land and sea, but also in natural gas filling station equipment. Although the large-scale process gas reciprocating compressors continue to be built in Florence, in the USA the GE facility in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, became the primary plant for compressors. In 2003, the production operation of high-speed reciprocating compressors was relocated from the former Gas Compressors site in Corpus Christi to Oshkosh. In order to put production closer to the client, another relocation took place at the start of 2012. Since then, high-speed compressors are being manufactured at the GE Jacinto Port facility near Houston, Texas, USA.
Among the strengths of General Electric is its high flexibility, allowing rapid response to new market opportunities. Since 2011, Ujjwal Kumar, General Manager North America Operations, has been responsible for GE Oil & Gas Turbomachinery. His goal is to use new and unconventional business models to transform GE Oil & Gas Turbomachinery into a global leader in the manufacture of reciprocating compressors.
The world has changed. Now the oil and gas industry has the technology to economically utilize “unconventional” gas reserves in sedimentary rock. North America is not the only country to become a global energy-producing leader again as a result of shale gas trapped in shale formations. Shale gas deposits are significantly more prevalent around the world than previously utilized "conventional" gas deposits. Experts assume that world natural gas reserves in shale gas deposits will significantly exceed the quantities of gas produced to-date by conventional means. For global energy companies like General Electric, this means a completely new business outlook.
Converting filling stations from conventional fuels such as gasoline and diesel to natural gas is an example of this. General Electric anticipates that due to the global availability of shale gas, classic fuels such as gasoline and diesel will be increasingly displaced by compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG). In this context, Ujjwal Kumar and his team developed new business models within just a few months that General Electric intends to use to become the worldwide leading equipment supplier to natural gas filling stations: Micro LNG™, CNG in A Box™ and LNG in A Box™. The goal is to equip as many conventional filling stations as possible in the shortest amount of time with compact units for refueling natural gas.
CNG in A Box™ is currently the most intensively pursued product concept. The core element is a compact unit consisting of a high-speed GE compressor for delivering gas, pumps and shut-off valves as a plug & play application – installed in a 20-foot ISO container. Additional components required to retrofit a conventional filling station for the operation of CNG vehicles include natural gas storage tanks and dispensers. The latter are supplied by Wayne, a GE Energy business.
Ujjwal Kumar views the capability to develop reliable high-speed reciprocating compressors for CNG in A Box™ as one of the key competencies of GE Oil & Gas for the new business models. Based on existing reciprocating compressors, a modified high-speed compressor was developed for CNG in A Box™. Its essential components have been factory tested and proven by years of use. For the anticipated series production, they have been standardized more than previously. By February 2012, the new CNG in A Box™ was sufficiently mature to initiate the market launch.