Westinghouse Combustion Turbine Systems Division

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Part of Westinghouse Electric Corporation's Westinghouse Power Generation group, the Westinghouse Combustion Turbine Systems Division (CTSD) was originally located, along with the Steam Turbine Systems Division (STSD), in a major industrial facility in the Tinicum Township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, near the Philadelphia International Airport.

According to CTSD marketing brochures from the early 1980s, Westinghouse innovations included "the first combustion turbine used commercially in the United States, first use of cooled blades and vanes in an industrial unit, and the world's largest and most efficient combined cycle plant".[1] Fueled by natural gas, that first commercial unit, known as 1800-hp W21, was installed in 1949 at the Mississippi River Fuel Corporation and became "the first in the world to operate for more than 100,000 hours." By 1984, more than 1200 Westinghouse-designed gas turbines had been put into operation in 57 countries.[2]

Often referred to as a gas turbine, a modern combustion turbine operates on a variety of gaseous and liquid fuels ranging from light distillates to residual oil. In fact, most are installed with multi-fuel capability to take advantage of changes in cost and availability of various fuels.

Early history[edit]

Dating from the turn of the 20th century, this group of buildings at the Tinicum site (often referred to as Lester Works) housed engineering, marketing, and manufacturing facilities where utility-scale gas and steam turbines were designed, developed, and fabricated for sale to utility companies and major industrial complexes. Combustion turbines ranged in capacity up to 100 MW for the top-of-the-line W501D series. While Westinghouse didn't sell its first utility-scale gas turbine until 1949, the company manufactured and shipped its first steam turbine in 1897.[3] The term “Lester Works” derives from the Lester Piano Works. Along with Westinghouse, that company was one of two pioneering industries in the Tinicum area.

Changing market, new facility[edit]

In the mid 1970s, CTSD moved its headquarters and operations to a new site adjacent to a commercial park in Concordville, Pennsylvania, 20 miles northwest (junction of U.S. 1 and 322), in the heart of historic Concord Township. Manufacturing, however, remained in Tinicum. The new CTSD complex consisted of two buildings: a modern, two-story office building for engineering, marketing, human resources, and support functions and the Combustion Turbine Development Center.

Completed in 1976, the Development Center [commonly referred to as "The Lab"] was capable of full-scale testing of compressor, combustor, turbine, and auxiliary system components over the entire range of operating conditions (exhaust system designs were developed at reduced scale). The lab included a high-bay area that could accommodate a full-size gas turbine, the size of a large truck, for testing and development purposes, as well as a large conference room and offices for the managers, engineers and technicians who operated the facility. It was sized to enable full-scale combustion testing, which required a large, motor-driven air compressor. It also required a gas-fired heater to simulate combustor inlet conditions (Ref 1). This facility was critical for development of the W251 (40 MW) and the W501 (100 MW) series.

New technologies[edit]

In addition to conventional gas turbine testing, the lab was used for a range of innovative pursuits such as development of new, higher-temperature materials for combustor baskets to improve efficiency, and modification of fuel systems to use pulverized coal, coal gas, or other “synthetic” liquid fuels as substitutes for natural gas and fuel oil.

While manufacture and sales of conventional combustion turbines to utility companies was CTSD’s primary business, the Division also conducted a series of research projects sponsored by organizations such as the United States Department of Energy (DoE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). In addition to exploration of alternative, coal-based fuels for gas turbines, projects included ancillary technologies such as pressurized fluidized bed (PFB)[4] combustors and compressed air energy storage (CAES) systems.

PFB has shown promise over the years as an efficient, economical, and environmentally acceptable means of utilizing coal reserves to displace oil and gas usage. CAES, which has been considered by power companies around the world, involves storing compressed air in geologic cavities such as aquifers, mines, and caverns during periods of low electrical demand, for later use in generating power during periods of higher demand.

Combined cycle cogeneration[edit]

Another marketing approach pursued by CTSD was cogeneration, which involved selling large gas turbines to major industrial facilities. The facility could use the gas turbine to generate its own electricity, and transfer heat from the exhaust gases to a boiler to produce steam to run a near-by steam turbine for additional power. Or, the steam could be used directly within the facility for various production processes. This concept, also known as combined cycle cogeneration,[5] became attractive once private industries were freed from having to buy all their power from the local utility, and the utility was required, by law, to buy excess power from private generation facilities.

As described in company marketing literature, "producing power on site makes an industry more energy self-sufficient. And, if more power is produced than is needed, the excess can be sold to a local utility for added revenue." For the utility's part, cogeneration is an opportunity for it to participate in energy planning with its industrial customers. "Joint ownership of a cogeneration facility can open the door to substantial savings for both parties. Cogeneration is a way for a utility to delay construction of costly new generating capacity."[2]

End of an era[edit]

By the mid 1980s, due to high labor and manufacturing costs and low demand for new utility-scale turbines, both CTSD and STSD laid-off a large percentage of their personnel in the Philadelphia area and moved their engineering and marketing functions to a new facility in Orlando, Florida.

Turbine manufacturing was outsourced under a licensing agreement to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), and the historic Westinghouse Lester site closed for good. However, the property was later developed into a multi-use industrial park [“Westinghouse Park”], which is home to a variety of tenants that contribute significantly to Tinicum’s economy[6] and help offset the loss of Westinghouse.

Shortly thereafter, when efforts to operate the gas turbine development lab on a contract basis for the military proved fruitless, the CTSD Concordville site also closed and both buildings were subsequently razed.

Westinghouse divestiture[edit]

A decade later, as part of its merger with CBS, Westinghouse sold off its non-broadcasting operations, with much of the power generation business going to Siemens. The former CTSD continues to do business from its Alafaya Trail facility in Orlando, as part of the Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation (SWPC). Manufacturing operations are carried out at Siemens facilities in Charlotte, NC and Germany.


  1. ^ "Westinghouse Combustion Turbine Development Center." Westinghouse Electric Corporation (Marketing Brochure); Concordville, Pa.; September, 1982.
  2. ^ a b "Westinghouse Combustion Turbine Cogeneration." Westinghouse Electric Corporation (Marketing Brochure); Concordville, Pa.; June 1984.
  3. ^ Sic 3511: Steam, Gas, And Hydraulic Turbines, And Turbine Generator Set Units. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  4. ^ Paul A. Berman & Joseph C. Dille. High Efficiency Pressurized Fluid Bed Systems
  5. ^ Combined cycle power plants. Cogeneration.net. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  6. ^ Our History. Tinicum Township. Retrieved 4 July 2013.