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GE, Notre Dame Collaborate on Natural Gas Turbine Research

General Electric Co. (GE) continues to make inroads into the U.S. energy industry, announcing Thursday a partnership with the University of Notre Dame and four public entities to build a research and test facility in Indiana for natural gas turbine engines used by commercial and military aircraft, power plants, and the oil and gas industry.

GE committed $13.5 million over the next five years to fund research at the Notre Dame Turbomachinery Facility, set to be built in South Bend, IN. GE industrial operations to be involved in gas turbine research and testing at the center are Aviation, Power & Water, Oil & Gas, and Global Research.

Construction on the 25,000-square-foot center in South Bend's Ignition Park is to begin this summer, with completion slated for next March. The university-staffed center, which would feature five test bays for compressor and turbine rig testing, should be fully operational in July 2016.

"The center will allow GE's industrial businesses to simulate full-scale engine operating environments," said GE's Rick Stanley, chief technologist for the company’s Power & Water division. "The important rig testing we will do at the center builds upon GE's already strong and longstanding technical relationship with the university. For years, GE has turned to Notre Dame for top technical talent."

Over the past decade, GE's industrial businesses already have conducted about $10 million in research and testing at the university. Headquartered in Schenectady, NY, GE Power & Water is the company's largest industrial business and works in all sectors of the energy industry.

In February, GE launched a $10 billion research program to run through 2020 to address   natural gas challenges, including associated gas flaring and waterless hydraulic fracturing (see Daily GPI, Feb. 25).

Earlier this year, Chevron Corp. and GE Oil & Gas allied to develop and commercialize oil and gas technologies for the industry, extending a partnership on flow analysis technology for wells (see Daily GPI, Feb. 3). The alliance leverages research from GE's Global Research Center in Oklahoma City, the first dedicated to oil and gas technology (see Daily GPI, April 4, 2013).

Since 2003, Notre Dame’s current Turbomachinery Laboratory has collaborated with industry and government to advance gas turbine engine technologies. The new facility is to expand this effort by testing engine components at pressures and temperatures higher than any at current U.S. university facilities, according to GE.

Notre Dame would use the new facility to advance current working relationships with both government sponsors and all manufacturers of gas-turbine engines.

Notre Dame is to contribute $7.5 million to the project. The city of South Bend would provide matching funds of more than $4.4 million, while the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is contributing $2.6 million for training and an industrial development grant. Great Lakes Capital is providing about $6 million to construct the facility.

American Electric Power's Indiana Michigan Power also plans to invest in a new substation, valued at $2 million, to provide the "considerable power needed to operate the facility's multiple test cells," GE said.

"This venture will be a cutting-edge research and testing facility for the turbine engine industry, as well as a tremendous economic driver for our region," said Notre Dame President John Jenkins.

When fully operational, the facility would provide about 60 direct jobs to operate the facility. An additional 60 jobs are expected through the growth of local suppliers to support the facility's need for precision manufactured components. At full operation, research expenditures generated through the facility are expected to be more than $15 million a year.

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