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Power Perspectives™ Interview: Welcome Brian Hulse, New Expert in the Generation Professionals Community

Posted to Energy Central in the Generation Professionals Group

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The way in which we generate power has been a constantly moving target in the world of utilities, whether through new fuels types, improved technologies for heightened cost and energy efficiency, or strategies regarding the most effective ways to deploy that generation. Because of the constantly evolving nature of generation, professionals in the industry must constantly stay abreast of the latest developments and thought leadership. Luckily, the Generation Professionals community at Energy Central continues to grow our network of experts who have many years of valued experience in the generation field and can bring unparalleled insights to the conversations.

Recently, Brian Hulse became the latest member of that expert network, Through his many years of experience that stretches from his time in the U.S. Navy gas turbine program to plant O&M to his current role as owner of his own business in the field, Brian has assembled quite a resume and a set of experiences that can provide immense value to those in the Generation Professionals group.

As a part of our Power Perspectives™ ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series,’ Brian agreed to share a bit more about his background and his perspective so the rest of the community will know from where his experience comes and can appropriately tap into his knowledge when appropriate:

 

Matt Chester: Energy Central is quite excited to have you as a part of our Network of Experts. So our community can get to know you better, perhaps you can start by introducing yourself quickly: what’s your history in the utility sector, and what expertise and experience you bring to the table today?

 Brian Hulse: My first 10 years working with gas turbines were in the U.S. Navy program, where the focus was on marine propulsion and shipboard power generation. Transitioning to the civilian sector, my next 14 years were spent working with EPC firms that built and then did O&M on simple and combined cycle power plants, both within and outside the PURPA construct. These plants sold power to utilities and to steam/heat hosts. For the next six years, I directed and engineering and manufacturing team that designed and built a novel 22-megawatt mobile generating platform. Following that, I spent seven years managing an independent GE LM2500 repair shop program. I moved from there to managing a least fleet of over 50 mobile gas turbine generating units (GE LM2500 and P&W FT8) that were deployed worldwide for two years, and since leaving that position I have been an independent consultant. These assignments have allowed me to understand the gas turbine business from a variety of perspectives and give me a broad view when providing guidance and assisting in problem-solving.

 

MC: Your background in the U.S. Navy gas turbine program no doubt influences your perspective and approach to gas turbines in the civilian sector today, does it not? What advantages do you think that experience gives you that you can apply to the utility sector?

 BH: Absolutely, and I'll give you two quick examples. One of the assignments I had while serving aboard ship was as the ships Fuel King. This is a service jacket-entry assignment (there are usually only three of those on a ship: the Captain, the Weapons Officer, and the Fuel King), carrying with it legal culpability. I received in-depth training on fuel testing and treatment, lubricating oil testing and treatment, and boiler feedwater testing and treatment. This training and the experience that followed has been invaluable throughout my career when dealing with those areas.

At another point in my career, I was assigned to the Engineering Systems Schools Command as an Instructor. While there, I received training to be an instructor, taught classes, and ended up in the curriculum development department, rewriting and refining their gas turbine courses. They not only taught me how to teach, but the importance of always taking the opportunity to teach when it is presented.

 

MC: As the energy sector continues to undergo unprecedented evolution, what do you think the future of gas turbine generators is going to be? Will we see a focus on turbine efficiency? In flexible fuels? Or something else?

 BH: Unprecedented is definitely the correct term. Although there are a lot of areas that will be exciting to focus on in the near- to-mid term, I think one of the real challenges will be helping to find the perfect spot in the field for gas turbines to bring value to our evolving grid structure. The 20th century definition of what a grid is and what it does is in the process of being dismantled, scrutinized piece by piece, and evaluated for rebirth as a 21st century service tool. That means green; that means responsive;  that means durable; that means flexible. This new grid has to be all of that and more.

With natural gas surpassing coal as the go-to fuel, gas turbines are going to be strong in the generation mix, but the renewables are on the rise and are now providing over half as much energy as natural gas is in the U.S. today. Gas turbines have to improve their response to grid needs as the renewable generation rises and falls on the wind, tides, and clouds. Both overall and start reliabilities need to improve in most cases. Part-load efficiency and emissions profiles needs to be better. Aero derivatives can help in the fast-need situations. Keeping the grid inertia where it needs to be will require a firm generating foundation, and the newer large classes of industrial gas turbines can do that. Having the right gas turbine in the right spot on the grid is going to become crucial.

 MC: Given your intense focus in the technology behind generation, is there any aspect of these turbines that you think would come as a surprise to others in the utility industry?

 BH: I don't know if it would really be a surprise, but we likely don't think about this as often as we should. Gas turbines derive most of their materials technology from the space program and the national labs. Most of the alloys and coatings that we use in these engines either came directly or indirectly from those two sources. They go from rocket engines to military gas turbines to civilian gas turbines and to us. In a lot of cases, other aspects of the engines such as the instrumentation and the control valves and such are in the same class of sophistication. Thus, we're working with a lot of hardware that is truly state of the art. Most end-users and even a lot of service providers don't provide or require a level of vocational or formal training consistent with that level of equipment. We should think about that more, and make sure we're setting our O&M staffs up for success, not failure.  

 

MC: As you get more integrated with the Energy Central community, what have you found to be the most valuable part about the platform? What keeps you coming back?

 BH: The platform brings folks together that would likely not have met otherwise. Folks engaged in all aspects of the topic at-hand. That brings a lot of opinions, practical experiences, successes, failures, training, and problem-solving processes to bear when discussions are ignited. I offer my well of those things to the group, adding value as I can. In return, perhaps someone in the group will reach out to me in my consulting role and engage me to help their team find success in one way or another.

    

MC: Is there anything else you’d like the community to know about you on a more personal level?

 BH: I've played guitar and sung in bands semi-professionally for 50 years. I also enjoy golf, motorcycling, and 60's/70's muscle cars.

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Please join me in thanking Brian Hulse for sharing his insights in this interview and bringing a new set of experiences as a Generation Professionals expert. Now that you know he’s here, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask Brian questions in the comments sections or just say hi

 

The other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series can be read here, and if you are interested in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

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