OCAST grant helps GasTech Engineering complete burner technology
For 30-plus years, Sapulpa-based GasTech Engineering, LLC, has developed innovative solutions that tackle challenging problems for the oil and gas industry.
It specializes in developing technology for processing plants and equipment for customers in the natural gas, oil production, refining, petrochemical and industrial gas markets.
Along the way, new federal regulations were created that limit the release of harmful chemical residue into the environment.
Those regulations inspired GasTech to develop patent-pending technologies that solve that challenge for its customers. The company developed a new burner that dramatically lowers the amount of nitrogen oxide, or NOx, that is released into the atmosphere.
“We have a gentleman who when it comes to combustion is naturally very, very good at it, and he came up with the idea to build this burner,” GasTech’s Ron Key told Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell in a recent interview on the Innovate That podcast hosted by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).
Key is Chief Engineering Officer for the company that was based in the heart of Tulsa when it was launched more than 30 years ago; it relocated to a larger facility in Sapulpa three years ago.
Today, GasTech operates out of 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Sapulpa that has rail accessibility, trucking and even shipping to international markets via the nearby Tulsa Port of Catoosa on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.
That allows the company to take on big projects and tackle challenges like perfecting the new burner technology developed by its in-house inventor.
“To get to the NOx levels that are required today, it typically requires an air assisted system, meaning you have a blower or fan to blow air into the system,” Key said.
Use of a blower or fan means more NOx is emitted from the burner, he said.
“In his first attempt, he was about 50 ppm (parts per million) of NOx on a naturally aspirated burner,” Key said of the GasTech development process.
Bottom line is that GasTech’s technology expert eventually perfected the process so that the burner released less than 20 ppm of NOx and less than 15 ppm of carbon monoxide (CO).
“So, they exceed the current requirement levels without the need of a blower,” Key said. “When you think about reducing greenhouse gasses and you are also reducing the power consumed to do that, it’s actually very exciting to see this work.”
However, the company faced an expensive challenge during the process of obtaining data from computational fluid dynamics modeling for the new burner, which potentially would have stalled the project.
“We needed third party help for that,” Key said. “That’s very expensive; it represents about a third or a half of our budget for this project.”
So, GasTech applied for and was awarded a $182,000 OCAST Applied Research program grant that provided the capital to complete the burner development. The company learned about the OCAST program from a representative of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, Key said.
“Without the OCAST grant process, as a small private, independent company, I don’t think we could have done the project,” he said. “We provided our matching share, and they gave us the little push we needed to get over this hurdle that allowed us to do this project. We’re extremely grateful for that.”
Today, the company has a working prototype and has filed a patent application on the project. It is now working with the Oklahoma State University New Project Development Center to assist it in developing an easily manufactured model of the burner.
“I love hearing that story,” Pinnell said after listening to Key’s description of how it all came together. “State government helping private industry. That’s why we fund them (OCAST) and why the state should continue to be supporting the Oklahoma Innovation Pipeline Model that we have.”
For GasTech, next steps involve pushing the new burner technology to clients across the nation and even to international locations.
“What we want to do is make more jobs for Oklahoma and be able to ship these burners anywhere,” Key said. “So, we have to finish that design and then do our marketing. That’s the next step toward commercialization.”