Giant Leaps in Product Design
Energy Recovery’s technology represents leaps forward in both engineering and materials science. Our PX Pressure Exchanger devices are designed with one moving part, allowing them to process fluids at pressures that would typically break down traditional pumps. The simplicity of our designs gives our customers the ability to easily install the device into new and existing systems with no required maintenance and no risk.
The leap in materials science goes hand in hand with the advancements in engineering. Because our devices are designed to process hostile fluids at high pressures, we are able to enter markets, such as hydraulic fracturing, where treating pressures can approach 15,000 psi, and the hostile frac fluids can cause daily pump failures. As we push our technology to higher degrees of performance, we have had to develop new materials that adapt our designs to more challenging demands.
When Energy Recovery developed our VorTeq hydraulic pumping system, we knew we needed a material that could withstand the harsh operating environments and treating pressures of the hydraulic fracturing industry. Adapting the PX Pressure Exchanger technology that has been deployed on six continents, we built the core of the system out of tungsten carbide, one of the most durable materials on the planet, and 1,000 times more abrasion-resistant than steel. The tungsten carbide rotor at the heart of the pumping system allows VorTeq to process proppants, most commonly sand, which break down pumps and cost operators a fortune in maintenance costs. With the simplicity of the engineering and durability of the materials, the VorTeq system can handle the extremely hostile frac fluid and allow the high pressure pumps to pump pure water, which dramatically reduces operating costs and improves runtime.
Aluminum oxide, or alumina, is used for Energy Recovery’s PX Pressure Exchanger devices in desalination. Three times more abrasion-resistant than steel and able to turn at up to 1,000 rpm in an almost frictionless hydrodynamic bearing, this ceramic is unaffected by chemicals or aqueous corrosion, making our PX devices in desalination virtually indestructible. The result is a superior technology with proven success in the field. To date, we have 20,000 installations worldwide, in a majority all global desalination projects.
At our headquarters in California, we house a manufacturing facility and lab specially equipped to produce and test our ceramic rotors, including machining down to the micron, and enormous kilns where we fire the ceramics onsite. Custom formulated spray-dried powders are compacted at extreme pressures to create the machinable blocks that become rotors. The lengthy sintering process occurs at temperatures greater than 1600°C and eventually achieves a hardness of Mohs 9.0 in a material chemically identical to sapphire. Once the ceramics have been properly formed, they are cooled slowly and evenly to avoid cracking. This overall process is critical to achieve a smooth, hard surface, which will operate for many years in harsh environments.
For all of our metal components, including the turbochargers at the heart of our IsoBoost system, we use improved, low nickel stainless steels. Regular steels rust when exposed to air and moisture, but our metal components are made with ATI Allegheny Ludlum AL-6XN® alloy—the most corrosion-resistant iron-based austenitic stainless alloy produced today. At our headquarters, we also house a production facility and lab to machine and test these components to create the highest performing and most durable products of their kind in the oil and gas and water industries.