Zach White and Steve Sandefur

On this episode of Industrial Talk, we're onsite at PowerGen and talking to Zach White with Cooperative Energy and Steve Sandefur with Flexitallic about Collaborating to solve critical power generation challenges.  Here are the key takeaways:

  • Industrial innovations and professionals. 0:03
    • Steve and Zach discuss their work in power generation.
  • Gasket design and thermal cycling issues in power plant. 1:50
    • Steve Sandefur and Flexitallic helped Cooperative Energy solve leaks in a repowered power plant.
    • Engineer develops custom gasket for thermal cycling application after consulting with Siemens and Steve.
    • Zach: Tested gaskets against own products, found one that's designed for thermal cycling.
    • Steve: Sold hundreds of gaskets to Zach's plant, with a great relationship built at a trade show.
  • Improving a gas turbine's reliability and safety. 8:17
    • Zach highlights the change gasket's ability to recover after being crushed, noting that it stays in an elastic state and can be reused multiple times.
    • Zach also mentions that the gaskets are used in high-temperature applications, where misalignment can lead to leaks and blowouts, highlighting the importance of proper installation and maintenance.
    • Zach discussed the issue of gaskets not working properly in Siemens generators, which was a new design for the piping system and auxiliary systems.
    • Zach and their team pitched the change to Siemens, and the management group and end users were supportive of the solution.
  • Industrial gasket solutions for downtime reduction. 13:18
    • Scott MacKenzie and Steve discuss the importance of gaskets in industrial settings, particularly in preventing unexpected downtime and costly repairs.
    • Steve shares an example of a client who experienced sticker shock when comparing prices for gaskets, highlighting the value of ROI and the importance of trusting the right supplier.
    • Zach and Steve from Cooperative Energy and Flex atomic discuss their successful solution at Power Gen 24.

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gasket, change, flanges, steve, siemens, zach, solution, unit, industrial, designed, cycles, thermal cycling, world, piping, year, leaks, great, conversation, flex



Welcome to the Industrial Talk podcast with Scott Mackenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's get Alright, once


again, thank you very much for joining Industrial Talk the number one. Jim's the number one industrial related podcast in the universe, beyond the galaxy, it's all backed up. So you could take that to the bank don't even come to me and say, Scott, that's not. No, it's all backed up by data. All right, and it celebrates industry professionals all around the world. You're bold, you're brave, you dare greatly. You're changing lives and therefore you're changing the world. We thank you every day on Industrial Talk. We're broadcasting from power Gen 24. New Orleans, Louisiana. Did you guys have good food? Great. Orleans. I've never heard anybody say no, no, not good food. Burgers. Not that good. And we're, we're here at this event. We're on the floor. We're talking to great people and we have to Zachary or he goes by Zach and Steve. Zach and Steve like Zach right? None


of our work. Alright,


let's get cracking.


How do you like it? You're like Zachary or Zack. Zack.


Zack shorter. I like that.


your card at Steve. So I'm not I'm not stumbling like Zachary. Right now. I made sure it's because Zachary is all over it and his email address is good. See why? It's not so bad. All right. For the listeners out there. Let's level set. Let's give us a little background on who you are. Steve, and then we'll go to Zach. Okay, give us a little background.


So, my name's Steve Sandefur. I'm a regional sales manager with a company called Flexitallic. We are a gasket manufacturer. It's


not a rock band.


Now I wish and play a little guitar. But so I've been with him for going on 16 years and Flexitallic actually invented what's called a spiral wound gasket, which seals the world. Lots of flanges out there. There


you go. Yeah. We'll talk about that. We're gonna have to talk about that. Because you have you have a client there was Zach, with Cooperative Energy. And you helped him solve a problem. Give us a background, Zach.


Yeah, so I've been with a cooperative almost nine years now. Yeah, so I'm the maintenance superintendent at a power plant there and purpose of plant Morrow. So just just went through a repower project where we demoed two coal boilers there and installed a combustion turbine, Siemens serial number two 9008 JL combustion turbine, new drives in her stick, and then we used our existing steam turbine. So it was a nice, big project a very large, very successful project as well. One of the one of the issues that we did start seeing after startup was when we're cycling the unit, right, right for testing. Coming up and down. For performance testing, we started seeing some leaks and some of the flanges


wasn't a new unit brand new


unit. So you're seeing leaks That's right. Yeah, yep. So


were there some colorful language associated with that? Probably yeah.


So so that's that's not what you want out of a brand new unit so no, you don't Yeah, so so we we partner here with with Steve who Flexitallic to actually met you is power Gen lander ago. So I had a lot of discussions with Siemens, you the manufacturer of our combustion turbine, that's why we're seeing the leaks about you know, what, what can we change here? We don't want to put the same gaskets in there and and keep repeating these failures. What are they out there that that will give us a little bit more leeway and and more recovery? Yeah,


so so when you spoke to Siemens about the the problem to say I'm just saying hear us this gasket uses gasket uses? Yeah. And then you contacted with Yeah, you're connected with Steve. Correct. And tell us about the what what, what was the solution Steve?


Gotcha. So when the gasket world we got a lot of variables you're dealing with if you've got something that's constant where you don't have any temperature swings, exact was describing. You can use a regular gasket it'll work just fine. But once you have those temperature swings, what happens is you get to things called relaxation. So you got your stud bolts, you got your nuts, my hands are flanges, your flange just start doing this while you're unloading the gasket. So we have a gasket, that's called the change gasket originally designed for heat exchangers, because those experienced exactly. But what it does is a gasket works like a spring. So when you start losing that bolt load, your flanges come apart, that gasket is moving with it. So it maintains the load, which maintains the seal. So while the gasket is typically the cheapest thing in any piece of equipment, it's the most expensive if it doesn't work correctly. So when Zach reached out, he said, hey, here are the issues I'm having. We have issues with thermal cycling, I'm like, Oh, that's perfect. We have a gasket designed for thermal cycling, you know, specifically. And then after that, you know, just kind of gather more the details of his application temperature, you know, flange information. We have a group of engineers out of Houston, all they do is design gaskets, got them in contact with Zach. And then here we are now a year later, and they're still working with no issues.


Yeah, so So you mentioned the spring aspect of gaskets, I think you'll call that recovery recovery. Yep. Yep, got a really good brochure on your gaskets where you where you've tested all the different types of gaskets and, and over so many cycles, you track how many cycles it took to see a failure. Right.


So that's a good point, is what we did when we designed this gasket, is we tested it against every other gasket that we manufacture. So I don't have it in front of me. Right, right, right, you got pressure, and you got number of cycles. And so we tested every gas, and what we found is every gasket that's not designed for cycling, it'll work a little bit it may go five cycles, it may go six, but at some point, it's going to fail, right. So in the in the real world, Zach is you know, having to manage this plant, you don't know when that failure is going to be. So it could be where his guys like, you know what we change his gaskets out every six months, because that's just normal. But the reality is, is that maybe those guys can go a year like this situation or two years when the next plan turnaround is. So with that change gasket, when we test it against their own stuff, it was really good information that prove that we have a gasket that's designed for thermal cycling.


It's really out and then see that chart and change gasket, you know, just just


a constant never sold. Where do we stand today?


Yep. So so we we bought how many gaskets from you guys?


Last year on the shoulder? Yeah. Big Six Figure order. Yeah, I mean, it was hundreds of gaskets that y'all installed and then saw some stuff from overdue for the average guy coming up where you got to replace some more, but no, it's been several guys. It's been, you know, it's a great relationship to in the fact that I met Zach at a trade show. So in my world of sales, it's not normally this fast. I meet him at a trade show on a Tuesday, a year ago. Yeah, here. And then by Thursday, I'm getting quote requests from Zach for these gaskets. And then like a week later, here comes an order where they tried out, I don't know, maybe 20 gaskets or so then that work. And it's like a month later we got this outage, here comes the big water. So so


the gasket itself the technology, the solution that you deployed on your, your asset, it it withstands the cycling to the next turnaround. Correct? Is that right or


to pretty much until you break that flange. So that's really what stood out for it is that during the testing, it never failed. The change gaskets were next level actually did fail after so many cycles. But if you never saw the change gasket fails, you're testing. So that really stood out to me was


x describing is so with this change gasket. Once you bolt it up, and assuming it's bolted up correctly. Of course, you do that right do that right? You can take a unit, this is terrible. For example, turn it off completely. And as long as you don't unbolt that flange, you can turn everything back on, and that gas is going to recover a normal gasket, you can't do that. Because once you crush it, you're plastically deforming a normal gasket the change gasket stays in an elastic state. So you're gonna keep saying recovery, but a better term is usable recovery. So Zack just mentioned they turned everything off and had to do work. Don't unbolt the flanges turn them back on. They don't have I didn't have the least interrupted


you when you shut everything down. And you're going okay. Let's see how this this thing works. And you turned it back on. Were you pleasantly pleased.


Oh, yeah. So we've had no repeat failures on any of these change gaskets. So I think today we have installed at two of these. Yep. So so we started off with the initial order of the ones that we we, we knew we wanted to change and then we proactively went ahead and ordered the change gaskets for all the hot damp applications, basically anything over I think it was 862 degrees requires the vermiculite filler. So we ordered all those and as we break those flanges, we're going back with the so the other piece of this Is the gaskets that we have when you're in a high temperature application requires a solid core gasket. So it's basically just a solid deal surface with a thermo Mackay light filler around it looks like aluminum pole. Yeah, yep. So you know, if you have any type of of misalignment when you're piping, you know, you're, you're eventually going to have a leak. And that's what we were seeing is that it would start leaking, it would break that, that very thin, vermiculite filler, and then it would, it would eventually break that solid core gasket, and you have a blowout and had to take the unit down. That's a safety issue too. That's right, definitely. So a lot of these pipes and flanges were in areas where operators had to visit frequently. So, so that was our our main concern, they're obviously gonna walk the unit to stay on and be reliable, but we we can't really put our our folks in areas where you don't know when they can.


And you don't want to be in that area of now. No.


So kudos to, to our management group for buying in and allowing us to make that change. And also for Siemens, you know, we, we pitched this to Siemens and power Gen


was just getting ready, you got to keep that loop.


So so as soon as we talked to Steven about it, you know, this was in Orlando last year.


But you went and grabbed them and brought them to our booth and said, Hey, we need you to you need to listen to this, you know, we show you this gasket. That's right, because, yeah, and, you know, I've talked to Siemens, again recently about it. And but with the differences and I think why the change guys can resonates more with an end user, because Siemens is no M is once it gets to Zack, if it's not working properly, and it's nothing against the gaskets that he's using, it's just the wrong gaskets for this particular application. Right? If that guy, if the if the conditions were steady, or regular gasket work just fine. But so that's why with Flexitallic. I mean, we talked to end users every single day, you know, for that reason, because they're coming to us, Hey, we have a leak, we need your help.


Did Did you talk to the user community have have that setup? That's Siemens setup. Like Were you the only organization having problems with?


Yeah, um, we talked with some folks, you know, we've got to the Siemens, large, large generator conference, and, and honestly, not a lot of folks are having the same issues, you know, same your serial number one of our unit use the same style gaskets that we did and, and they didn't really see the same problems we did so, but but their their system wasn't quite set up like ours, we have a lot more piping, and a lot more flanges in our so so ours was designed quite differently, even though they are the same unit. This was a, a new design, a very modular design for the piping system, auxiliary systems around our unit. So so that's why it was different, even though it was the same unit, it's not the same design. So it took a little bit to, you know, to convince Siemens into that, like, even though it is the same unit, you know, it's very different because of the way the piping is laid out.


Are you getting some traction with Siemens, Steve,


I'm a little bit we've sent some quotes over to him. So they've seen a price comparison, and it's always sticker shock with this gasket, don't tell anybody that it's it's sticker shock. It's more expensive. But when you can't operate correctly, when you have unexpected downtime, as Zack was describing, that cost a lot more than a gas. Yeah.


The reality is, is that do you want that asset to go down? No, you don't want that to go down? That's that's, that's burned money there. So I think you can really draw on ROI from the gasket to you know, the, the downtime, and you don't want that, right. Nobody wants that. Right. You know,


and I think that's why, like I say, with end users, because they're having to manage these issues is why the change resonates more with them, versus an OEM. But like I said, it just takes time, the sales cycle for what I described earlier, is rare. That doesn't happen


that fast, like Zack saying, I, I have a problem. I have a problem yesterday, and I need a solution right? Yesterday. So I can only imagine what I can only imagine what management was talking about after all that work. But you know, what? I can only imagine? Well,


you know, one thing that's great too, and basically thank you to Zack is for like, you know, hey, trusting in us that we can solve this issue. You know, because not, not everybody is the same. You're dealing with different people all the time. But he basically came and said, Look, I've got a problem. I need your help. And he relied on us to come up with an actual viable solution for him. So I appreciate you doing what you had to do in your organization to get these things approved.


Do you have examples of that? Is that solution at your booth? You have a booth? I


do. Yeah, we have. We have samples over at the booth. I'm


going to come on by we got brochures. Yeah. They


gotta cross cross sectional cut out of this Gascon. It's very obvious. It's a very speak to gas. We


can show you the difference between the change gasket we're


gonna wander over and do a little technology sprint, so you can show us exactly what it's about Steve, how do we? How do we get a hold of you?


Email is s Standefer at And follow us to 816277098.


And are you out on LinkedIn? Am on LinkedIn? Yeah, okay, good. Zach. Join


it, man. Yeah. How did it get holy? Yeah, z y clock?


Are you out on LinkedIn? He's a worker. All right, we're gonna have all the contact information for Zach as well as Steve out on Industrial Talk. So if you're not reach out to these two gents, come up with a solution that is just fantastic. I love this, the conversation between the solution provider and the receiver of the solution and the positive result from that. All right. We're gonna wrap it up on the other side. Stay tuned, we will be right back.


You're listening to the Industrial Talk Podcast Network.


Zack and Steve. Zack with Cooperative Energy, Steve, with Flexitallic, both of them, Nick in it out of the park. We were at power Gen 24. As you can tell a lot of solutions. Put that on your calendar, reach out these two gents, you will not be disappointed. Very cool. Very good solution. I enjoyed the conversation between the provider of the solution and the recipient of the solution. And both are happy. That's why podcasts are so great. A lot of people are just happy. And in industry, everybody. I mean, I just it's such a great conversation to have with industry professionals. It's just really pretty cool. We're building the platform, you need to be a part of it. Just go out to Industrial Talk and just say Scott, I want to be a part of it. And you'll have a conversation with me and it'll be warm and fuzzy and no problems. People will be brave dare greatly hang out with these two jets change the world. We're gonna have another great conversation shortly. So stay tuned.

On this episode of Industrial Talk, we're onsite at PowerGen and talking to Zach White with Cooperative Energy and Steve Sandefur with Flexitallic about Collaborating to solve critical power generation challenges. 
Scott MacKenzie

About the author, Scott

I am Scott MacKenzie, husband, father, and passionate industry educator. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I have applied every aspect of my education and training to lead and influence. I believe in serving and adding value wherever I am called.

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