Turbine technology being central to energy-producing industry, research and development efforts is directed towards cost-savings (increased efficiency, reliability, and component lifespan), sustainability (alternative fuels, lower emissions), and cost-competitiveness (particularly for the emerging technologies) . This blog post is the first in a series of three that will focus on steam, gas and hydraulic turbines for power generation.
Going back to the Archimides era we will find the idea of using the steam as a way to produce work. However, it was not until the industrial revolution when the first reciprocating engines and turbines developed to take advantage of steam power. Since the first impulse turbine development by Carl Gustaf de Laval in 1883 and the first reaction type turbine by Charles Parsons one year later, the development of turbines have sky-rocketed, leading to a power output increase of more 6 orders of magnitude.
The demands of the plant construction and energy sector after a shorter response time for questions upon newly defined operating points of a turbomachine train are one of the biggest challenges in the service business. This becomes particularly obvious if the future points can only be realized by redesigning the flow-relevant components. Often, it is necessary to have more time to check the dynamic behavior of the train, than in the development of the appropriate revamp measures for the core machine itself.
In addition to the different utilization rates of the affected departments, the causes of the delays often lie in the lack of interface quality between the design/ calculation and train integration team. On top of that, a certain amount of time will be required by manufacturers of the critical components such as gearboxes or drives to perform a lateral check. This lateral check is not only mandatory, in case of a component modification such as changing the transmission ratio or upgrading the drive, but it is also necessary if the coupling between the train components must be changed to ensure torsional stability.
With the blast of the French nuclear power plant a few weeks ago, safety of nuclear power plant designs has fallen under more scrutiny. Although according to sources the blast took place in the turbine hall and no nuclear leak was found, this event has brought more attention to improved design and operation standards.
Following the incident earlier this month Toshiba, a Japanese multinational company, announced the resignation of its chairman following a $6.3 billion loss in their nuclear sector –also withdrawing from the nuclear business. The two back to back events have highlighted the main two problems of nuclear power: high cost and environmental/safety concerns. Said to be a green technology, nuclear power raises concerns with potential nuclear meltdown and risk of safety from toxic waste, accompanying the fact that building a new plant cost around $5,000.00 per kilowatt of capacity with around 6 years of lead time. Each dollar invested on a nuclear power plant has about 2-10 less carbon savings and is 20-40 times slower compared to other alternatives. Yes, evidently nuclear power is found to be very reliable, enabling consistent baseload energy production at any time of day and night. Though, it has been questioned whether this reliability is worth the high cost of nuclear production, in fact all nuclear plants are still operating with 100% subsidized.
Geothermal power market has been showing sustainable growth globally, with many installations in developing countries. As people turn to renewable sources while demand for energy is experiencing rapid growth, geothermal is found to be a reliable energy source and current development is calculated to increase global capacity by over 25%. Geothermal power plants can usually be divided into several types of cycles, including binary, flash, double flash and more. Flash power plants are found to be the most common forms of geothermal power plant and specifically, we are going to talk about the double flash cycle.
A flash system produces high pressure dry steam to move the turbine, generating electricity after going through a flash separator. A double flash system uses two flashes separating systems in order to generate more steam from the geothermal liquid and increase cycle output. The cycle starts with high temperature fluid extracted from a geothermal source to a high pressure separator (HPS) for flashing. The HPS produces a saturated steam that enters the high pressure turbine and the remaining brine is directed into a secondary low pressure separator (LPS). Reducing the flashing pressure increases the mixture quality in the LPS, which results in higher steam production. Low pressure saturated steam is mixed with the steam flow exhausted from the high pressure turbine and the resulting steam flow is directed to the low pressure turbine and produces more electricity. Steam that is exhausted from the low pressure turbine will then be compressed and injected back to the ground. In a flash system, separator pressure has a significant effect on the amount of power generated from the system – and the flashing pressures also influence double flash cycle significantly. In order to optimize one design, the value of parameters versus cost of operations should be taken into account.
Heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs) are used in power generation to recover heat from hot flue gases (500-600 °C), usually originating from a gas turbine or diesel engine. The HRSG consists of the same heat transfer surfaces as other boilers, except for the furnace. Since no fuel is combusted in a HRSG, the HRSG have convention based evaporator surfaces, where water evaporates into steam. A HRSG can have a horizontal or vertical layout, depending on the available space. When designing a HRSG, the following issues should be considered:
The pinch-point of the evaporator and the approach temperature of the economizer
The pressure drop of the flue gas side of the boiler
Optimization of the heating surfaces
The pinch-point (the smallest temperature difference between the two streams in a system of heat exchangers) is found in the evaporator, and is usually 6-10 °C, which can be seen in Figure 2. To maximize the steam power of the boiler, the pinch-point must be chosen as small as possible. The approach temperature is the temperature difference of the input temperature in the evaporator and the output of the economizer. This is often 0-5 °C.
Global warming is a very popular topic at the present time. With the upwards trend of clean technology and the realization that strict climate policy should be implemented, demand of renewable energy has sky-rocketed while conservative plant popularity continues to fall. Additionally, the number of coal power plants have significantly dropped since its peak era, as they are now known as the largest pollutant contribution, producing nitrogen, sulfur oxide and carbon dioxides.
Renewable energy comes from many sources: hydropower, wind power, geothermal energy, bioenergy and many more. The ability to replenish and have no limit on usage and application makes renewable energy implementation attractive. To make this even better, it also produces low emission. Theoretically, with the usage of renewable energy, human-kind should be able to meet their energy needs with minimal environmental damage. With growth rates ranging from 10% to 60% annually, renewable energy is getting cheaper through the technological improvements as well as market competition. In the end, the main goal is to maximize profit while minimizing our carbon footprint. Since the technology is relatively new, capital costs are still considerably higher compared to more traditional (–and naturally harmful) implementations. This begs the question of exactly how we maximize the economic potential of a renewable energy power generation plant.
Though fossil fueled power plants aren’t as commonly used anymore, coal fired power generation is still a major source of global electricity, making up about 25% of the market in total. Compared to other options in fossil fuel power generation, coal is found to be the most economical choice as well as a reliable option. Making demands that are heavily reliant on other fuels, such as oil-fired for example, slowly levers to coal power generation. The global reserve of coal can be found in abundance when compared to other energy sources (such as oil for example) as there is about 3 times more of it. Also, IGCC comes with an economic benefit as the price of coal has remained relatively constant, which results in a higher degree of confidence when relying on coal as an energy source in the future.
How Does an IGCC Work?
The system uses a high pressure gasifier to turn coal and other carbon based fuels such as high-sulfur coal, heavy petroleum residues and biomass into pressurized clean coal synthesis gas (also known as syngas). The solid coal is gas-fired to produce syngas by gasifying coal in a closed pressurized reactor with a shortage of oxygen to ensure that coal is broken down by the heat and pressure. Before going out of the system, the syngas runs through a pre-combustion separation process to remove impurities, starting with water-gas-shift reaction to increase concentration of hydrogen and efficiency during combustion process, to a physical separation process (through variable methods). After that, a fairly pure syngas is used as a fuel in a combustion turbine that produces electricity. Waste heat contained in a gas turbine’s exhaust is used to produce steam from feed water that further turns a steam turbine to generate additional electricity.
In the ever-expanding market for waste-heat recovery methods, different approaches have been established in order to combat the latest environmental restrictions while achieving more attractive power plant efficiencies. As gas turbine cycles continue to expand within the energy market, one particular technology has seen a significant upsurge due to a number of its beneficial contributions. Supercritical CO2 (S-CO2) bottoming cycles have allowed low power units to utilize waste heat recovery economically. For many years, the standard for increasing the efficiency level of a GTU (Gas Turbine Unit) was to set up a steam turbine Rankine cycle to recycle the gas turbine exhaust heat. However, the scalability constraints of the steam system restrict its application to only units above 120MW.
In recent days, many people find themselves spending time and resources on uncovering the best solution to optimize the power generation cycle. Until recently, 80% of power plants worldwide (whether fossil fuel, nuclear, or clean technology) used steam as its main working fluid and while it is still the most common option, today’s power plants are finding another fluid to use.
Although supercritical CO2 study began in the 1940’s, it was disregarded as an alternative fluid option because it was expensive to explore and steam was still perfectly reliable at the time. Nowadays due to increasing quantity and quality demand in power, researchers are looking into the possibility of replacing steam with supercritical carbon dioxide. The discover of this property, increases the incentive of exploring the technology further. This year, the US Department of Energy is awarding up to $80 million towards projects to build and operate a supercritical CO2 plant.
Implementation feasibility of power plant design relies heavily on the economic benefits. More often than not, newer technology cannot be implemented due to high cost of electric generation which would not be acceptable in the market since energy is a price sensitive commodity. Sometimes while deciding on a design to choose, we are given a choice between a high initial equipment cost and efficiency versus a lower capital cost with lower efficiency. The designer must be able to choose which design would fit best with their needs and goals.
While running a power generation plant, there are three types of cost that need to be taken into consideration: capital cost, operational cost and financing cost. With point one and two to being of higher priority.