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Lignum Vitae North America LLC

Wed, 31 Jul 2013|

Bob Shortridge and Phil Thompson talk about Lignum Vitae's work at the Osage hydropower project, qualities that make the its self- and water-lubricated bearings unique, and the advantages the company's wooden bearings can offer over synthetics.



one of the great things here at HyrdoVision International 2013 is the opportunity for great dialogue among service and product providers as well as plant owners, and I just happened by the booth of Lignum-Vite. I met up with my good friend Bob Shortridge here the owner of Lignum- Vitae and he had Phil Thompson from the Osage Plant in, owned by Amerind in Missouri. And they've got a great story to tell. So, Bob you were telling me that in the last year you've one around the country and visited a lot of hydro plants. Tell me a little bit about your quest there. Yeah. Yeah, well it was kind of exciting this year. We I had the opportunity to go to several plants that displayed 45 to 85 years of wear on the same bearing set. Which I've found was just extraordinary. And when I realized that they had this kind of longevity against them. I started to study this material a little bit closer to see why did this material last so long- why did this particular grade of material? And I came to understand that it was in the grade of the material. It tended to be knotty-er and denser and harder than other materials that had been in play. So, with that idea, that thought. I was looking for, an opportunity with a plant that had issues maybe with an inordinate wear pattern to it. And, I got a call from Phill at O-sage and he had that very same condition. Taken place, and you know, from that we started to negotiate how we were going to see this through. I went in. I got an invitation to Osage, and I kind of inspected and we, we came up with a plan to to put in this new configuration into the, into the bearing stage. And Phil was very gracious to allow us to, to do a little bit of experimenting but it was an experiment with maybe 85 years of of history behind it so I felt it wasn't it wasn't exactly a guinea pig situation so but again they, they allowed this to happen and, and it turned out to be a, a, a very good a, a fix in a, a. Now, Bob, you've got us really curious because we want to know what your problem was, Phil, at the _____ plant there in Missouri. Well, actually I started out with one unit that had a really high bearing wear. Normally the bearings on these hydroturbines, these vertical machines, can last maybe 10 years between adjustments. I had a unit that i could usually only get 3 months of wear out of before i had to make an adjustment. So weve been fighting this for about 5 years actually. We had a little experience in changing orientation of barring materials and getting a little longer life out of it. So i ran across of actually at hydrovision in Spokane. Bob and I had saved his business card for all those years. And so I gave him a call and and had him, you know, give me some thoughts about the use of a different barium material. And he offered a phenomenal warranty based on the confidence that he had on the material and we went ahead and, and placed an order for some material. So, at the same time that we are busy working on that problem I experienced another problem with a different turbine. One of them my original 1929 turbines and it, it was just eating bearings up terribly. Instead of lasting ten years I had eventually got to the point I could only run the unit for about a 45 minute test before it would completely destroy the bearings. So after we completed the the, the Lignum-Vitae change out on our main generator six, we decided to go ahead and try the new material on unit four. I had a pretty good confidence that it would work on unit six but not a lot of confidence it would work on unit four, but we did put the material in and and we put it in kind of in the orientation that Bob recommended and. The unit has now been run for about four months and we have seen no bearing wear at all after 4 months and have made no changes really except changing the bearing material. Wow, so going from 45 minutes to 4 months of running that unit, That is impressive. Yeah and really at this point i dont think we are going to see any significant wear at all, so i think we found really a permanent fix. The alternative that we were looking at was replacing the turbine sleeve on that particular machine, which was gonna be about a quarter million dollar investment and a repair. Very good performance out of the bearing material and the natural wood and really I think it goes to the point that the old guys really knew what they were doing because that was the original material. They were specified back in 1929 for those machines, so. Well, and Bob, one of the things that I think you were showing me earlier and, and I think we're going to actually be able to show the viewers here is the precision of the way those bearings are operated in terms of the The, the variants of that. Right, right, that was the part that was that was really interested to learn more about because we like to think that the material can be adjusted to zero. In other words, what really makes this material different than any of the other composite materials is that it doesn't wipe or smear onto the shaft. Which means that you can grab the shaft you can hold it into position and force it to to spin true and straight so in in we've learned this through several other plants where there's a condition going on around the country I guess in another place where concrete is concrete damns are growing and some of them make it make it go out of plumb. And by going out of plumb, they, they're, they're, they're forced to either fix the, do a total rebuild on the turbine or force the shaft plumb. So we were, we found that the, this material could actually grab it and push it into place and, and hold it. So this, this, this we found on a 75 megawatt plant. So it was a, it was a good, good sized unit and and, and a really neat phenomenon that we, that we discovered from this. Yeah. Well let's watch that video now. Yeah, thank you. [NOISE] [SOUND] So, Phil, one of the things that I'd really like to know, after watching that video, is you've chosen this particular Main guide bearing. Water lubricated main guide bearing. Tell me why chose this particular one? We had some experience with some of the synthetic materials and we did not get good wear out of those. So as we started looking around we came across this natural guide bearing material. And, and we started looking at the fact that this stuff has been used in machinery, in hydro machinery since the late 1800's. It was specified by Thomas Edison in one of the first power houses that he built. So, you know, we thought and it was actually specified in the 1929 drawings that we had from Stone & Webster and [UNKNOWN] on our particular machines. So we started to ask the question why weren't we using the same material again? It was good enough for all those years. Well it turns out as we started doing the research, it turns out that the material was used so predominantly all the way up through World War Two that the supply was almost exhausted so owners began to transition into the synthetic material, mostly with pretty, pretty good success. But we found that problem units, like the ones that we had, the synthetic materials just weren't holding up. And as we talked with with Bob at Lignum-Vitae, we found out that that he had experience with similar kinds of situations with other customers. He provided me with a nice list of contacts. I started calling customers. And, almost all of them had the same experience we did. They had synthetic materials. They had problems. They returned to Linum-Vitae, and they had good success. And, that's really our story as well. That's kind of the journey that we've taken. Great. That pretty much says it all, I think. Well, I appreciate you guys taking time. It's great to have you both here in HydroVision. And what a story it's started here. And it looks like it's continuing. Thank you very much. Thank you guys very much. Marla Barnes reporting for HydraWorld.com and HydroVision International.

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