15 Years of The GLEN – A State of the Art Piece of Jet Engine History

In 2003, Score Energy Limited opened the Ground Level Engine (The GLEN) test facility, supporting the world’s most innovative dual fuel gas turbine test facility for operators of legacy gas turbines, including Rolls-Royce Avon and Siemens TB5000/TB5400. Across the past fifteen years, through substantial financial investment, the facility has improved and developed its capabilities, and now has the capacity to carry out more than 120 full performance and endurance tests each year.

The test stand used at the GLEN test facility has a long history of testing gas turbines and for the majority of its lifespan was used to test jet engines for military and civil applications at the National Gas Turbine Establishment, Pyestock.

Power Jets Ltd was formed in 1936 by the founder of the modern day jet engine, Sir Frank Whittle, along with two of his colleagues. This then merged with the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Turbine Division in 1944 to form Power Jets (Research and Development) Ltd, before becoming the National Gas Turbine Establishment in 1946.

Pyestock was the leading establishment for design, development and testing of gas turbines and jet engines for over 50 years, being one of the largest of its kind in Europe, if not the world. During its lifetime V bomber, Harrier and Tornado engines were tested and developed at this facility. Even captured Soviet engines were apparently inspected and tested on the site in secrecy.

The Test Cell at the National Gas Turbine Establishment, Pyestock before transfer to Score Energy

The Test Cell at the National Gas Turbine Establishment, Pyestock before transfer to Score Energy (photo courtesy of www.ngte.co.uk)

Score’s GLEN test facility was one of many test cells within the National Gas Turbine Establishment, known as the Glen Test House (Ground Level Engine Test House). The test facility was designed to test gas turbines under sea-level conditions, which required a less complicated facility to test simulated altitude flight conditions. The bed originally tested engines of up to 28,000 lbf of thrust; however the facility was later upgraded with shear force load cells allowing the measuring of thrusts of up to 44,000 lbf. Inlet air was supplied to the test cell through intake acoustic splitters which had been devised to endure 1000 lb/sec.

The test bed, along with the altitude test chamber known as Cell 3, was purchased by Score from QinetiQ in 2002, a company which had been formed from the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).

In early summer of 2002 Score sent a team, led by Ian M Cheyne, down to Farnborough. The team worked on site for 8 weeks decommissioning both of the test facilities. The dismantled test beds were then moved almost 600 miles up to Peterhead by road transport. In autumn 2002, the ground work for installing the GLEN test facility in Peterhead began. The cement chamber of the facility was built first, and then a metal clad building was built around it expanding to almost 11,500m². This was later named the Ian M Cheyne building on 10th June 2009.

On 12th August 2003, the newly assembled GLEN test facility tested its first turbine under the Score Energy banner. The first test was conducted using Score’s calibration Avon engine, named Iona by the late Charles Buchan Ritchie, Score Group plc Chairman. The calibration engine was tested running on liquid fuel, and had previously been tested on three independent test beds prior to being tested on the GLEN test facility. The results from all four test beds were analysed and used to certify the performance capabilities of the new facility.

The finished Test Cell

The fully assembled GLEN Test Facility

Over the past 15 years, Score’s GLEN test facility has met numerous significant milestones. Developing plug and play test stands for various engines has allowed easy fitment to the test bed, saving time when changing between engine types.  This has led to the GLEN testing a range of engines including Rolls Royce Olympus, Siemens TB5000, Siemens Tornado and Rolls Royce RB211. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) testing capabilities have been installed and commissioned. Score has also used the facility on behalf of an operator, for revolutionary prototype testing of Steam Injection for the Avon Gas Turbine to reduce NOx and CO emissions, whilst seeking to improve power and efficiency, and lowering operating costs and fuel consumption.

More recently in 2016, the GLEN test facility went back to its roots, and was used to functionally test a fuel delivery system for the Ministry of Defence to aid in investigation of perceived performance issues in the marine applications. 2017 saw a major refurbishment of the control room facilities introducing an improved HMI (Human Machine Interface) experience for both the operator and the customer. This year, in 2018, the latest improvements saw the refurbishments of the LNG facility for improved gas delivery for the gas turbine under test.

The original design of the facility allowed it to be easily modifiable and accommodating for past and future developments. The test bed remains technologically advanced today and has the ability to support future engine types.

The gas turbine market is extremely competitive however the facilities owned and developed by Score Energy including this state of the art test facility, ensures the business can continue providing world leading services for Operators, OEM’s and other service centres well into the future.