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Thu June 30, 2011
From North Stonington To China
A lot of effort in recent years has been focused on reducing US dependence on foreign oil. Not so much thought is given to making that oil last longer. One small North Stonington company sends technology around the world that does just that. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.
Oil and petroleum based products are a pervasive part of everyday life. And they have uses that you may never have thought of. When you turn on the light, the power you use may well have come from a gas fired turbine. That turbine, while it runs on natural gas, has to be lubricated with oil. And that oil is significantly expensive. Chinese turbine manufacturer Harbin is thought to be constructing a 300 megawatt power plant every week.
“They’re facing the problem of not being able to get enough oil for their machines. They’re rapidly stressing out all of the refining capabilities in the world.”
Ray Gomes is CEO of ISOPur, a Connecticut company that’s business is purifying lubricating oil to make it last longer.
“As you can see we run with an absolute minimum staff….”
From this small plant in North Stonington, employing fewer than ten people, IsoPUR assembles and ships more than 100 purifying units a year.
“We have a pretty extensive electronics package with this….”
Many of these small units end up is attached to utility company turbines somewhere in the world, cleaning up the lubricating oil using an electrostatic process which charges the oil and then filters out impurities.
“It can take very dark oil and over a period of time change it to where it looks like Pilsner beer.”
Normally electric plants change out their turbine oil every three or four years, a messy and expensive process. It’s necessary because when oil oxidizes it makes a varnish which can coat the bearings and other internal parts of the turbine, causing expensive power failures. Gomes says one plant in Florida which is using ISOPur’s technology hasn’t changed its oil now in ten years.
“Each one of those plants requires 6,200 gallons of oil. So they have about 43,000 gallons of oil there. Oil is $30 a gallon for high-grade turbine oils. They’ve saved a lot of money – millions.”
The technology has applications in offshore platforms and in oil pipelines which need lubricating oil in special compressors.
“We have about 15 machines right now on the pipeline that’s coming from western China, across China down to Shanghai. And we will probably do all of them – there’ll be 35 of them, so we’ll have 35 machines stretched across the desert of China.”
The slowdown in the economy hit ISOPur hard as utility companies stopped buying new equipment, and Gomes says to revive the company’s fortunes he’d like to find new markets, especially in the US military, a tough nut for a small company to crack.
For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.