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05/01/2008 By JAMES LAUGHLIN
By Teresa Hansen, Senior Editor
Four OEMs discuss their companies’ latest steam turbine designs, how those designs will improve plant performance and how they plan to meet upcoming market demands.
Low pressure rotor for an Arabelle nuclear turbine-generator after completing a vacuum pit overspeed test at the Alstom Belfort Turbine Works. Photo courtesy Alstom.
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The growing demand for electricity and its increasing price are prompting generators to make more megawatts. Some are planning new plants, others are focused on getting the most out of existing baseload power plants and a few are pursuing both strategies. Whether looking at plant improvements or new plant construction, steam turbines will play a big role in gleaning every megawatt possible. Better design tools and materials, as well as operating experience, have led to improved steam turbine designs.
Anil Gupta, GE Energy
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Power Engineering magazine asked five steam turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to provide an update on their companies’ steam turbine offerings. Representing Mitsubishi Power Systems Inc. (MHI) is Shinichi Ueki, vice president of commercial operations. Speaking for GE Energy is Anil Gupta, manager of steam turbine and generator product marketing. Alstom is represented by Heinrich Klotz, senior product specialist (Mike Davies, senior product specialist and André Van-Spaandonck, product manager, also contributed). And, responding for Hitachi Power Systems is Udo Zirn, turbine systems engineering manager. (The fifth invited OEM, Siemens, was unable to participate.)
Heinrich Klotz, Alstom
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Power Engineering (PE): Many power generators/utilities in North America face tight capacity margins that are expected to become even tighter. What “new and improved” steam turbine designs is your company offering that can help generators increase efficiency and get more megawatts from their existing plants?
Shinichi Ueki, Mitsubishi
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Mitsubishi: By incorporating the latest blading design and advances in materials, MHI provides complete replacement internals to fit within the existing cylinders of many different types of steam turbines. The replacement rotating and stationary blading, along with advanced design stationary components and sealing technology, result in improved efficiency and therefore increased electrical output at currently operating steam flows. This results in lower fuel cost and additional megawatts without increasing emissions. These features were developed to make Mitsubishi more competitive in the new steam turbine market.
Udo Zirn, Hitachi
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Hitachi: Hitachi is continuously improving its turbine designs to improve efficiency for both new turbine technologies as well as for retrofit applications. Among others, the latest design improvements include reduced clearances at shaft packing with Guardian Post and Vortex Shedder technology. The Guardian Seal is a non-contact seal that can be used at any location where gland rings are typically used and can be installed without the need for any modification of the steam path. In addition, a Vortex Shedding tip seal is installed to reduce the pressure ratio across the seal and, as a consequence, the leakage past it. Other design improvements include increased aspect ratios and reduced root diameters that result in a reduction of end-wall losses and advanced high-load blading with optimized pitch to reduce blade number and profile/end-wall losses. Hitachi’s single forging continuously covered blade (CCB) designs with integral mid-span support structures allow for higher backpressure operation and provide added strength, reduced steam leakage, larger damping and an overall reduction in vibration stress. The axial entry dovetail design of turbine blades reduces the blade axial length and allows for more stages to be installed at a given bearing span. The integral mono-block rotor with no shrunk-on surfaces or key ways reduces the centrifugal stress, eliminates stress corrosion cracking and results in a highly reliable rotor design. GE Energy: A few of GE’s key service products designed to improve performance and output include Dense Pack technology, which was originally designed for fossil applications. It adds stages to the turbine, increasing reaction, to increase steam path efficiency and output. Dense Packs use advanced aerodynamic designs with optimized vane profiles and improved clearance control technology. GE Energy recently expanded its Dense Pack technology to support nuclear applications, incorporating a moisture-loss prediction model to optimize the design for the specific steam conditions of nuclear applications. Another improvement is a 26.8-inch active length last stage bucket (LSB) with an axial entry dovetail, which replaces the original 26-inch LSB steampath design. Targeted to increase plant output, the new design offers increased annulus area and reduced exhaust losses. GE also can provide up to 15 percent uprates for liquid-cooled generators to meet steam turbine performance requirements. While unique to every application, these uprates may include stator core-end redesign, cooling enhancements and use of advanced materials for insulation, laminates and core-end. Portable Robotic FineLine Welding is an enhancement to the GE FineLine Rotor Dovetail Repair. This offering provides portable on-site repair that uses high-tech robotics and automation. This new technology, available for the fall 2008 outage season, reduces cycle time for customers because the repair can be completed on-site. Inspection devices called miniature air gap inspection crawlers (MAGIC) for in-situ inspections on generators are additional robotic product offerings. These crawlers can be used on generators with entrance gaps as narrow as 0.25 inches. In addition, GE developed an inspection process that streamlines inspection of steam turbine rotors with remote electronic delivery and analysis of ultrasonic inspections. GE has performed a real-time phased array ultrasonic inspection of nuclear low-pressure turbine rotors at a remote nuclear facility, with the entire data analysis for rotors conducted at the company’s Schenectady, N.Y., facility. Engineers on -site were able to submit the data to the New York inspection team electronically. Finally, GE has improved rewind processes and developed specialized tooling to provide rewinds quickly for emergency needs, potentially resulting in a 50 percent reduction in manufacturing and installation cycle time. Alstom: By applying many of the design elements and principles Alstom uses in new equipment, performance levels of existing units can approach today’s standards, resulting in improved efficiency, increased output and, thus ,
reduced specific emissions and extended reliability and lifetime. The heart of each steam turbine retrofit is an up-todate high-efficiency steam path design. Alstom works to improve the efficiency of its impulse and reaction type blading. Depending on the project specific conditions, Alstom optimizes the overall performance by applying either its 3-D type impulse or reaction type blading or a combination of both, even in one steam path. Alstom offers various low pressure last stage blades (LSBs) in full speed up to 38 inches in steel or 42 inches in titanium, both equipped with integral shrouds to improve efficiency and form a rigid blade ring in combination with snubbers. Besides the standard blades, Alstom has developed LSBs specifically for retrofit solutions. Alstom can offer various upgrade package options ranging from steam path only to replacement of an inner module, full module or complete shaft line. PE: What about your company’s latest designs for new power plants, both coal -fired and nuclear? How are the new designs expected to improve efficiency, increase capacity and reduce O&M expenses? Mitsubishi: MHI has developed five main design features for turbine improvements. We offer a high-temperature HPIP combined turbine for fossil plants. Generally, large capacity super critical steam turbines have a four-casing design: one single/double-flow HP, one double-flow IP and two double-flow LPs. MHI has developed a three-casing design option with one HP-IP combined turbine and two double-flow LP turbines for a super critical coal-fired unit up to 1,000 MW. Some of the advantages include: 1) easier operation due to simpler vibration characteristics and less thermal differential expansion during the start-up and shut-down periods; 2) easier maintenance due to fewer parts; and, 3) lower construction and maintenance costs due to a shorter turbine foundation and fewer parts. MHI has made it possible to manufacture dissimilar steel welded rotors. Generally, 12 percent chromium (12 Cr) steel and low-alloy steels are used to manufacture rotors for steam turbine plants. For high- to low-pressure integral steam turbines that need to show sufficient strength at elevated temperatures, integral forged rotors made of high temperature resistant material (12 Cr) are often chosen. Use of 12 Cr steel on the high-pressure side is necessary because of its superiority in high temperature strength. Use of low-alloy steels on the intermediate- and low-pressure sides is preferable because of their superiority in toughness. MHI developed a dissimilar steel welding technique to join 12 Cr steel and low-alloy steel, as well as a common steel welding technique. This technique has made it possible to manufacture highly reliable rotors characterized by both high strength at evaluated temperatures and high toughness. Another improvement is MHI’s integral shroud blade (ISB) technology for low pressure end blades. The use of longer last-stage blades will reduce the number of low-pressure turbines and will extract more energy from low-pressure steam before it is exhausted to the condenser, thus improving overall steam turbine efficiency. MHI uses 3,600 rpm 40-inch ISB last-stage blades. For ISB design, significant damping occurs because of the contact at the shrouds and snubbers, which is caused by untwisting of the blades under the centrifugal force. This helps reduce the blade’s vibratory stress. Low-pressure end blades are subject to corrosive conditions; therefore, it is also important to reduce the local stress level for these blades. For our ISB design, larger blade root is applied, resulting in a local stress concentration that is well below that experienced with conventional grouped blades. This feature enhances reliability in the corrosive environment. To improve performance, ISBs have been developed by applying a fully 3-D flow analysis method to the design to optimize blade efficiency. For nuclear steam turbine generators, MHI is developing 74-inch ISB last-stage blades, which will be used with the US-APWR. In addition, MHI has made steady efforts to improve the accuracy of predicting efficiency and internal turbine flows by using 3-D multi-stage flow analysis that considers viscosity. The results of these analyses were confirmed with air turbine verification tests. In addition to conventional steady state analysis, MHI has established an unsteady flow analysis method capable of predicting loss producing mechanisms even more precisely. As a result, MHI has developed new high-performance reaction blades using these methods. The degree of reaction and the 3-D stacking of profile are further optimized, compared with the flow patterns of conventional blades. Production of the secondary flow vortexes is controlled and the vortex zones are shifted toward the inside and outside endwall of each blade, reducing losses due to the secondary flows in the rotating blades. In addition, a new profile to reduce unsteady losses produced by the interaction between the rotating blades and stationary blades is applied to the middle zone of the blade height where profile losses are dominant.
Unsteady flow analysis has also quantitatively clarified that vortexes produced in the vicinities of the inside and outside endwall of each blade are due to leakage from and inflow into the spaces between each rotating blade and stationary blade. This flow interacts with secondary flow vortexes and increases the secondary flow losses. Accordingly, MHI is optimizing the shape of the flow paths including those between the inside circumferences of the stationary blades and the rotor disks and those around the rotating blade shrouds. Finally, MHI has incorporated active clearance control (ACC). The ACC seal is a seal in which segments of labyrinth seal rings are made to be movable in the radial direction. When the turbine is starting or stopping and during turning operation after stopping, the segments are raised by a spring force to keep the clearance between the rotor and the seal fins large. On the other hand, when the turbine load is increasing, the seal segments are shifted until the proper clearance is maintained radially toward the center by using the pressure difference for sealing. Then, the narrowest clearance is kept during the loaded operation. Hitachi: For coal-fired applications, raising the steam conditions is the most effective way to improve plant efficiency and to minimize greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere. Hitachi has developed new materials and structures for critical components that are exposed to high steam temperatures. HR 1200, Hitachi’s mo st advanced material, allows steam temperatures up to 1,200 F. Moreover, a sophisticated steam cooling system uses low-temperature steam to cool rotor, blades and nozzles that are exposed to high temperatures and eliminates creep damage on dissimilar welds. Hitachi is also developing further material advancements to allow steam temperatures up to 1,300 F. To date, six Hitachi steam turbines with ultra-super critical steam conditions are in operation worldwide. To address the need for larger turbine capacities, Hitachi offers 33.5-inch, 40-inch and 45-inch last stage blades for the 60 Hz market. Shorter blades are available. All blades are capable of operation at elevated back-pressure associated with air cooled condenser applications, which has become a more frequent customer requirement for the purpose of plant water consumption minimization. For the nuclear market, Hitachi offers its mature ABWR turbine design with an advanced and standardized modular construction that, in conjunction with modular construction of the nuclear power island, can reduce the total plant construction man-hours by nearly 40 percent. In addition, Hitachi offers steam turbine designs for PWR nuclear applications and for GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s ESBWR plant designs. Hitachi also of fers its own turbine design in lieu of a GE design. To address the need for larger capacities, Hitachi’s mature 52 -inch last stage blade is available for the 60 Hz market and even longer blade lengths are under development. GE Energy: GE Energy’s award for eight, 900 MW super critical steam turbines in Texas spurred a number of innovative design features. Although this order was cancelled, the developments were integrated across GE’s product portfolio. Some key features include: GE’s latest steampath technology with steam conditions of 3,770 psig/1,080 F/1,080 F; advanced 10 Cr and 12 Cr materials capable of providing improved thermal performance and long component life (the HP turbine section first stage buckets now use these advanced materials); advanced bush seals in the HP and IP turbine sections; enhanced physics-based clearance, which allows for improved turbine control and operability; and, improved LP section performance, achieved through improved inlet and exhaust designs and last stage group aerodynamics. GE Energy’s next-generation ultra super critical 1,000 MW steam turbine incorporates several new key features. It is manufactured with advanced 10 Cr and 12 Cr materials and designed to operate at 3,770 psig/1,130 F/1,150 F. It also includes the Dense Pack steam path technology described earlier. The turbine design incorporates integral cover buckets (ICBs), which provide advanced sealing technology. The improved ICB tip sealing reduces tip leakage flow, improves radial clearances and reduces maintenance costs. Another feature is optimized exhaust hood aerodynamics, which lower exhaust pressure and optimize annulus area of the G3 turbine, improving heat rate and performance. The turbine has direct actuated valves that incorporate advanced hydraulic technologies and eliminate multiple moving parts, providing improved controllability and reduced maintenance. In addition, the turbine’s 45 -inch last stage buckets (LSB) provide application flexibility, improved performance in hot temperatures and an increased annulus area for a reduced number of LP sections. GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s next evolution of advanced BWR technology is the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). Key features of this 1,550 MW product will include: 52-inch LSB, Dense Pack steam path, main stop and control valves and combined intercept valves, advanced controls architecture, and the world’s largest generator–a four-pole generator with an estimated rating of 1,913 MVA.
Alstom: Both our fossil and nuclear steam turbine designs are characterized by high efficiency, simple and robust design and good accessibility for inspections and maintenance work. Both turbine types have unique design features leading to high and sustained efficiencies and outstanding reliability and availability. For fossil applications, the shrink ring HP design of the Alstom STF series is notable, as is the top-performing high-strength steel or lightweight titanium last-stage blades. For 60 Hz, the maximum blade length for steel is 38 inches and the maximum for titanium is 42 inches. For 50Hz, the maximum steel blade is 45 inches long and the maximum titanium length is 49 inches. The steam turbines can have up to six low-pressure exhaust flows. The adaptation to high-temperature applications is maintained by selective material substitution for casings and rotor sections. For high-temperature sections, Alstom uses 9 percent Cr materials developed in the European material development programs COST501 and COST522. The materials can cope with steam temperatures up to 1,150 F. Alstom is currently building a 1,100 MW single shaft unit that can operate at steam temperatures up to 1,112 F and up to 1,150 F for reheat steam. Alstom’s ARABELLE steam turbine for nuclear plants features a combined H P/IP design with single flows, leading to long blades with increased efficiency compared to more conventional arrangements. It has proven efficiency and reliability records (large units: forced outage rates less than 0.03 percent). The two last-stage blades for 60 Hz machines are 48 inches and 56 inches long, while the two last-stage blades for 50 Hz machines are 57 inches and 69 inches long. The large units feature two or three low-pressure turbines. PE: Discuss how the retrofit turbine market in North America compares to the new plant turbine market? Mitsubishi: Our retrofit market is a small percentage of our new unit market business in the United States. The new unit market for coal-fired plants has seen many political challenges and some difficult technical hurdles affecting siting and investment decisions. As a result, the number of new coal-fired units being built has dropped dramatically from only a few years ago. However, with the number of operating coal-fired units where improved flue gas cleaning has been installed, the ability to improve the steam turbine efficiency for more output has become a strong driver in our increasingly active market. The interest in recovering parasitic losses while avoiding triggering New Source Review has stimulated the steam turbine retrofit market. Without exception, the need to avoid triggering New Source Review has utilities cautious about making sure that the heat input prior to steam path improvements is not increased as a result of the steam path efficiency improvements. Many owners are taking extreme measures to confirm the steam flow and heat input before and after any retrofits. With improved efficiency and utilizing the same steam flow, the total heat input to the boiler should not increase. Modifications to the boiler may be needed to shift the heat load but careful attention is paid to avoiding increasing the heat input. Hitachi: To better support the U.S. retrofit market and customer after-sales support for new equipment, Hitachi acquired Mechanical Dynamics & Analysis Ltd. (MD&A) in 2005. MD&A’s capabilities enable us to support our own retrofit and new unit fleets in addition to providing turnkey overhauls, generator field rewinds, complete liquid cooled stator rewinds, liquid cooled stator bar clip replacements, installation of modern designed Hitachi L-0 buckets and centerline installations on a variety of other OEM equipment. GE Energy: The North American market has been active across all applications from new units to services. Coalbased power generation continues to be a key factor in the North American generation mix, although environmental concerns and rising capital costs have led to suspension or cancellation of some new projects. Delays in these projects have made continuing investment in the existing fleet of coal-fired assets more important to our customers. The market is requiring the existing fleet to operate at higher capacity factors with more flexible dispatch capabilities. GE has a range of solutions to enhance the economic value of our installed fleet. Depending on the unit’s age, solutions include: steam path uprates, life extension solutions, generator rewind and in-situ monitoring services. GE uses common technologies and repair solutions to apply the most cost-effective, high-technology solutions to the customer’s need. In addition to core technology, GE is also investing in a regional service network to prov ide field support and repair solutions. GE continues to broaden its steam trubine applications expertise. For example, GE recently secured an order for the Duke IGCC project and will provide a steam turbine to accommodate the increased steam flow from this IGCC facility. Alstom: The turbine retrofit market in North America has traditionally been entirely separate from new equipment. It is fair to say, however, that North America has been a leading market for steam turbine retrofit. For the last decade, it
has yielded a substantial proportion of Alstom’s annual turnover. The business for new equipment is characterized by much greater annual fluctuations. Retrofit does not aim to compete with new business. Each is aimed at a different market segment. For example, a retrofit might be attractive to a small single station utility if it has a market for the additional 5 percent output (perhaps 50 MW) that a retrofit could provide. A new station, on the other hand, might produce 2,400 MW. The question is rarely ―new build or retrofit.‖ The strategy may include a combination of both, such as that currently taking place in South Africa. A decision about whether or not to retrofit usually includes several drivers, including financial, regulatory and technical factors. Often some of the financial issues are shared with new plant builds. The differentiators are usually technical and regulatory issues, such as plant life extension and environmental regulation. Retrofit can, for example, produce power to the grid much more quickly than a new station and, by performance improvements, without increasing emissions, thus avoiding New Source Review restrictions. Also, planning constraints usually are not a problem with retrofit, but can be with a new station. PE: Some major turbine manufacturers have steam turbine manufacturing facilities in North America to meet demand. Discuss your company’s manufacturing strategy for supplying turbines and related components to the North American market. Mitsubishi: MHI will open its new manufacturing facility in Orlando, Fla., in June 2008. This new facility will double our current factory space in Orlando and will manufacture state-of-the-art gas turbine F- and G-class blades and vanes for both the Western Hemisphere and Japanese markets. Hitachi: Hitachi’s steam turbine manufacturing facilities are in Hitachi City, Japan. This factory has manufactured steam turbines since 1933. To control costs, many of Hitachi’s steam turbine materials are procured worldwide. Most of the steam turbine auxiliaries are currently procured from U.S. suppliers. GE Energy: GE Energy has steam turbine manufacturing facilities in Schenectady, N.Y., and Bangor, Maine, as well as component factories in Latin America and Asia. GE plans to make investments to increase supply chain and engineering capability on a global basis to meet increasing demand for steam turbines around the world. Expansions for steam turbine production and engineering centers are planned in North America, Europe and Asia. Alstom: Alstom has a worldwide manufacturing network for steam turbines, including Birr, Switzerland; Belfort, France; Elblag, Poland; Beijing; Mannheim, Germany; Morelia, Mexico; and Chattanooga, Tenn. Chattanooga was inaugurated in December 2007 and will become Altom’s largest s team turbine manufacturing shop, including a rotor weld shop. PE: Although several coal-fired power plants have been cancelled or put on hold in the United States recently, coalfired plants are still being built in other parts of the world. How has this a ffected your company’s ability to meet demand for large turbines worldwide? Mitsubishi: As a global manufacturer, MHI has to balance the delivery requirements of our customers early in the discussion of any new steam paths or new units. The challenge has increased greatly as a function of the continued global new unit market and the very active steam path replacement market in the United States. We are also challenged to meet the schedule requirements of our U.S. customers. For example, a discussion on steam turbine upgrades that may have begun two years ago with a planned delivery in 2010 (based on an 18-month lead time from order placement), may now require more than 24 months to deliver. The lead time is determined mostly by the forging lead time from our two main suppliers. Hitachi: Hitachi supplies steam turbines worldwide. Despite a large factory capacity, the worldwide demand does impact the ability to meet U.S. demand, and vice versa. In many cases, our ability to meet demand is not limited to our factory capacity, but by critical material suppliers’ limitations. In particular, suppliers of advanced materials required for ultra-super critical steam conditions are limited. GE Energy: Construction of pulverized coal-fired plants is occurring around the world. However, in China and India, this capacity is being supplied primarily through state-owned manufacturing enterprises serving their domestic needs.
GE Energy continues to provide pulverized coal and nuclear steam turbines in select areas. Orders have recently been secured in South Korea for super critical pulverized coal and nuclear steam turbines and in Chile for sub-critical pulverized coal steam turbines. GE is addressing strong demands for combined cycle power plants in Europe and independent water and power plant applications in the Middle East. Alstom: The Chattanooga manufacturing and engineering site will enable Alstom to serve its U.S. customers from a domestic base more rapidly and more cost-effectively by reducing supply chain/logistics costs and time. It will also minimize currency risks for Alstom’s U.S.-based customers. The site will benefit from its location on the Tennessee River which gives it access to 80 percent of existing or planned nuclear sites. The engineering office will be operational this year. The staff will adapt designs for the U.S. market and support NAFTA sourcing. The actual manufacturing facility will begin operations in 2010. PE: Although several nuclear plants are planned for the United States, none are yet under construction. How has worldwide demand already affected, or how do you expect it will affect, your company’s ability to meet future demand in the United States? Mitsubishi: The primary impact of the continuing new unit global demand has been to utilize the existing global manufacturing capacity, especially in the area of large high-quality forged steel items. While manufacturing time on these replacement steam turbine rotors and cylinders has remained essentially unchanged, the lead time to obtain a high-quality forging specific to the application has increased two-fold in the last several years. Mitsubishi is in the process of expanding its Takasago factory to accommodate the largest anticipated nuclear LP rotors (74-inch last row blades) and provide the blade forging capability for these extremely long blades. Hitachi: Hitachi has continuously been building nuclear power plants since the 1970s. We have executed several nuclear power projects on a turnkey basis and are currently involved in multiple nuclear power plant projects worldwide. Hitachi is prepared to supply nuclear steam turbines to the U.S. market, either as part of GE Hitachi Nuclear or as a supplier to other entities. Hitachi has allocated future factory capacity and raw materials for nuclear steam turbines to be supplied to the U.S. market. GE Energy: GE Energy has secured manufacturing capacity for major long-lead components for ESBWR projects. We are also involved in the design of a new steam turbine for a PWR application in South Korea with an expected COD of 2013. Alstom: Alstom is expanding its manufacturing capacity worldwide in regions where nuclear is developing. For the U.S. market, Alstom is reequipping and investing in the manufacturing workshop in Chattanooga for turbines and generators. In addition, Alstom is expanding capacity in its Morelia factory in Mexico. With these investments (more than $200 million in the Chattanooga facility), Alstom will be able to fully meet future U.S. demand. PE: Discuss the major supply chain issues you face and what steps your company is taking to control costs, which generally have escalated dramatically in recent months. Mitsubihsi: MHI has begun expanding its factory manufacturing capabilities to improve its throughput. However, the current constraint on production is the capacity of high quality steel forging suppliers. These facilities (suppliers) are increasing their capacity to address the anticipated global new nuclear steam turbine market. Materials cost, unfortunately, are not an area where we can compromise on the specific requirements of our alloy steel composition. One of the key factors in providing steam turbines that avoid stress-corrosion cracking is the carefully controlled material composition of our alloy steel from the forging supplier. This area cannot be compromised and so we are at the mercy of the global market for vanadium, chrome, nickel and other alloy steel key materials. Hitachi: The recent turbine price increase is due mainly to material cost escalation and exchange rate fluctuations. To minimize cost, Hitachi is sourcing material worldwide. GE Energy: In response to challenging material cost escalations, GE Energy is looking to expand and diversify its supply chain base and operations on a global basis. Alstom: The industry is currently experiencing a period of very strong demand, which is putting a lot of stress on the forging capacity in particular. Alstom has secured a worldwide supplier network that allows it to secure its needs and meet the needed capacity.
New Benchmarks for Steam Turbine Efficiency
By Dr. Alexander S. Leyzerovich, Consultant In the 20th century, steam turbines became the most powerful electric power generators available, accounting for more than 50 percent of the world's installed power generation capacity. However, many people, even some power engineering professionals, had come to view steam turbines as a mature technology that would not experience any remarkable achievements in the near future. Indeed, by the late 1980s, the thermal efficiency of new steam turbines had practically stabilized. But the 1990s brought new breakthroughs in steam turbine technology, and technology progress continues today. This progress is primarily the result of two main factors. The first is the development of new heat-resistant high-chromium-percentage ferritic-class steels that enable steam turbines to reach elevated steam temperatures without resorting to austenitic steels. The second is implementation of new advanced approaches to steam path design. Noteworthy as well are advances in developing longer last-stage rotating blades that further decrease exit losses. The leading producers of large power steam turbines in the world today are European-based multinationals ALSTOM and Siemens AG; GE Power Systems (GE) in the U.S.; Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Hitachi and Toshiba Corp. in Japan; Leningrad Metallic Works (LMZ) in Russia; Ansaldo Energia in Italy; Turboatom in Ukraine; and Skoda in Czech Republic.
Latest and Greatest
The advances in steam turbine technology can be better understood by reviewing the design, installation, and commissioning results of several power plants that have recently come on-line. By late 2001, the first operating year's and acceptance tests' data had been processed and partially published for two of the newest power units commissioned in Germany and Japan. These two units are the 907 MW Unit 1 of the Boxberg power plant, operated by Eastern-Germany utility VEAG, and the 1050 MW Unit 2 of the Tachibana-wan power plant, located in Tokushima Prefecture (Shikoku Island) and operated by Electric Power Development Co. (EPDC).
Figure 1. Siemens steam turbine in use at Boxberg power plant in Germany. Photo courtesy of Siemens.
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Boxberg Unit 1 went on-line in June 2000 and passed acceptance tests in October 2000. The unit's net efficiency was 42.7 percent and the gross efficiency of the Siemens steam turbine was 48.5 percent. Its steam conditions of 3860 psi and 1013/1078 F do not practically differ from those of other recent-vintage turbines at German power plants. Tachibana-wan Unit 2 entered commercial operation in mid-December 2000. With a gross efficiency of 49 percent, its MHI steam turbine has been acclaimed the most efficient worldwide. The unit's steam conditions, at 3636 psi and 1112/1130 F, represent the next step in the Japanese steam temperature staircase: 1000/1051 F for Matsuura Unit 1 (1000 MW, 1990); 1000/1099 F for Hekinan Unit 3 (700 MW, 1993); 1051/1099 F for Nanao Ohta (500 MW, 1995); 1099/1099 F for Matsuura Unit 2 (1000 MW, 1997); and 1112/1112 F for Misumi Unit 1 and Haramachi Unit 2 (1000 MW, 1998). The cited steam turbine efficiency figures provide a benchmark for new units. Meaningful is that both power plants burn solid fuel. It is worth recalling that the best steam turbines put into operation in the 1990s had already reached comparable gross efficiency values:
47.4%-Japan's Hekinan Unit 3, with a rated output of 700 MW and steam conditions of 3480 psi, 1000/1099
F (MHI turbine);
47.6%-Germany's Hessler plant, with a rated output of 720 MW and steam conditions of 3990 psi,
1072/1112 F (ALSTOM turbine); and
48.4%-Japan's Kawagoe Units 1 and 2, with a rated output of 700 MW and steam conditions of 4496 psi,
1051/1051/1051 F (Toshiba turbines). Of significance is that these units, as well as those at Boxberg and Tachibana-wan, achieved these close efficiency values with the turbines at materially different steam conditions. According to MHI, a steam temperature increase from 1000/1100 F to 1112/1112 F makes a turbine more efficient (heat rate) by about 2.2 percent, that is, its efficiency rises by approximately 1.1 percent. According to German power plant engineers, raising the steam parameters from 3625 psi, 1004/1040 F to 3915 psi, 1085/1112 F should increase turbine efficiency about 1.3 percent. So, closeness of the actual efficiency values for the same capacity class turbines with remarkably different steam temperatures, and with regard to differences in the condenser vacuum (722 mm Hg at Boxberg and 730 mm Hg at Tachibana-wan), feedwater heating, etc., says at least that some of these turbines have noticeable reserves to increase efficiency by reducing losses in the steam path and using more progressive designs.
The turbines at Boxberg and Tachibana-wan significantly diverge in their design schemes. Siemens' 907 MW 3000rpm turbine at Boxberg is a tandem-compound (TC) five-cylinder machine (single-flow HP cylinder, double-flow IP cylinder, and three double-exhaust LP cylinders, Figure 1), whereas MHI's 1050 MW turbine at Tachibana-wan (Figure 2) is a typical cross-compound machine with the HP and IP cylinders positioned on the high-speed shaft (3600 rpm) and two double-exhaust LP cylinders on the low-speed shaft (1800 rpm). Today, the largest westEuropean TC turbines in operation for fossil-fuel power plants have a single capacity of 933 MW (ALSTOM units at the German power plant Lippendorf), second only to the Soviet TC 3000-rpm turbine with a rated output of 1200 MW. The German Niederaussem plant will reach about 1000 MW when Unit K comes on-line in November 2002. The maximum single capacity of the "high-speed" TC steam turbines manufactured by Japanese producers has remained at about 840 MW.
Figure 2. MHI steam turbine in use at Tachibana-wan power plant in Japan. Photo courtesy of MHI.
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It is well known that the ultimate capacity of a given turbine is, to a degree, determined by the length of the last-stage blades (LSB). Siemens' recent-vintage 3000-rpm large steam turbines, including the Boxberg units, are furnished with free-standing 39-inch steel LSB that provide an annular area of 98.6 ft2 per flow. Under development are 45-inch steel LSB (first applied in the Niederaussem K turbine) and 53-inch titanium LSB. Table 1 compares LSB characteristics for several recent steam turbine models from various manufacturers. For the time being, Japanese steam turbines in the 1000-1050 MW range are designed cross-compound with two LP cylinders on the low-speed shaft. Until recently, these had been furnished with 41- and 44-inch steel LSB. The turbine for Tachibana-wan Unit 2, however, uses an integrally shrouded 46-inch LSB. This significantly reduces the energy losses in the last stage and makes it possible to use the same turbine configuration for a single capacity of up to 1300 MW. Moreover, a few years ago Hitachi declared their readiness to produce high-speed TC four-cylinder (HP+IP+2xLP) 1000 MW turbines with new LSB. MHI has similar projects. In the future, such a turbine could even transform into a three-cylinder machine-with the use of an integral HP-IP cylinder. In this case, a two-cylinder (HPIP+LP) scheme could be used up to a single capacity of 750 MW. MHI also has applied 3600 rpm, 40-inch steel LSBthe scale design of a 3000 rpm, 48-inch LSB -in a 700 MW TC three-cylinder unit that started commercial operation in April 2002. MHI traditionally produces its steam turbines with reaction blading in the HP and IP sections. Above 1000 MW, both cylinders are designed double-flow, symmetrical about the steam admission plane. In particular, the HP cylinder has double nozzle boxes and a double-disc control stage with triple-pin blades. For the high-temperature (HP and IP) rotors of 1112/1200 F-class steam turbines, MHI uses a new ferritic 12 Cr steel with first-stage steam cooling of the rotating blade attachment zones. To reduce bearing wear, the rotor journals are overlaid with a lower Cr weld material. The highest-temperature rotating blades of the first stages are made of austenitic refractory alloy R26. For stationary parts, the nozzle chambers, inner casings and No. 1 blade rings are made of 12 Cr cast steel, and 9 Cr forged steel is used for the HP valve casings and steam admission pipes. The turbine steam path, designed using advanced threedimensional (3D) flow analysis techniques, is equipped with twisted, tapered, bowed and inclined vanes and blades. All the rotating blades are integrally shrouded with improved labyrinth seals. It is estimated that the heightened steam parameters, decreased exhaust losses due to the increased LSB length, and three-dimensionally designed blading improved the turbine heat rate about four percent as compared with MHI's steam turbines launched before 1993. Relative to its contemporary Japanese counterparts, Siemens' Boxberg turbine has rather modest steam parameters. However, while the MHI turbine is rather "conservative" in design, the Siemens 1000 MW-class turbine has many original design features. Because of the relatively moderate length of the LSB, the turbine is made in five cylinders, including three LP cylinders. The 180-foot turbine-generator set is mounted on a specially tuned, spring-supported reinforced-concrete foundation. To facilitate the turbine's thermal expansion, the bearings are rigidly mounted on the foundation; the outer casings of the HP and IP cylinders and the inner casings of the LP cylinders rest on the adjacent bearing pedestals, and the cylinder casings are free to slide about them along the axial keys. The shaft line expands from the combined journal-and-thrust bearing located between the HP and IP cylinders. All the rotors are made of solid forgings (without a central bore) with forged-on coupling flanges and are joined with hydraulically tensioned bolts. As is typical for Siemens' large capacity machines, the turbine is designed with combined stop-and-control valves, throttle steam admission control, a single-flow two-shell HP cylinder without the control stage and nozzle boxes, and with a barrel-type outer casing (i.e., without a bolted horizontal joint). Despite its remarkable overall weight of 120 tons, the cylinder was delivered to Boxberg fully assembled. The IP cylinder is of dual-flow, two-shell design. The upper and lower halves of its outer and inner casings are bolted together along a horizontal flange joint. Extra ribs reinforce the inner casing, and a thermal shield counteracts the uneven temperature distribution caused by unidirectional flow of steam leaving the cylinder through the upward port in the outer casing.
Even though Siemens, as well as MHI, traditionally employed reactive blading in the HP and IP sections, the latest turbines enable stage reactivity to be varied over a wide range. Interestingly, GE, which traditionally employed impulse-type blading, came from the opposite end of the spectrum in developing its "Dense Pack Steam Path" with intermediate stage reactivity. Boxberg's three LP cylinders are dualflow with multiple-shell casings. The entire weight of the outer casing with its reinforcement beams rests on the condenser dome, to which it is rigidly welded. The cast inner casing is likewise of two-shell design, with the inner shell centered in the outer casing so as to be free to slide axially in response to thermal expansion. The inner casing's outer shell is provided with a special droplet shield. Besides mechanical protection, the shield promotes superheated steam formation between itself and the outer shell, which thermally insulates the latter and reduces heat losses. The steam paths of all three (HP, IP and LP) turbine sections were designed with 3D technology that resulted in the use of twisted, tapered, bowed (curved) and inclined vanes and blades. All but the LSB are integrally shrouded with optimized labyrinth-type seals. These advances provide about a two percent efficiency increase over conventional blading. Advanced CFD computation methods were also used to upgrade the non-bladed turbine areas. Siemens developed a new geometry for steam admission and exhaust paths by widening their flow area and installing special baffles, razors and screens to avoid backflow and vortex formation and reduce energy losses. The power plant acceptance tests demonstrated internal efficiencies for the HP and IP cylinders of 94.2 percent and 96.1 percent, respectively.
Higher and Higher
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Even though the efficiencies reached at Boxberg and Tachibana-wan are impressive, they likely represent only interim, temporary benchmarks. Niederaussem Unit K, for example, is a potential champion. The Siemens machine at Niederaussem will have more elevated steam conditions (3990 psi, 1076/1112 F), lower condenser pressure (28.9/35.5 mbar), and a 25 percent larger exhaust area due to the use of the longer LSB. The new unit is designed to reach 45.2 percent thermal efficiency. For comparison, the previous 600 MW units at Niederaussem (G/H), with steam conditions of 2525 psi and
986/986 F, have a net efficiency of 35.5 percent. An even higher net efficiency is targeted for Westfalen's Unit D, with a single capacity of 350 MW, steam conditions of 4210 psi, 1112/1148 F, and condenser pressure of 35 mbar. Higher performance efficiency is also expected from new Japanese power units, due to further heightened steam conditions (up to 4350 psi, 1166/1166 F by 2005) and turbine steam path advances. For steam turbine retrofits, the most attractive component opportunities are typically the LP cylinders. Refurbishment usually comprises the use of longer LSB, advanced 3D design of the blading and steam path (including an improved meridional profiling), the use of integrally shrouded blades with multiridge seals, improved exhaust hood diffuser, and so on. An advanced LP cylinder proposed by ALSTOM features a special, "conical" meridional outline of the steam path with 3D, leaned and curved last-stage vanes that provide more uniform steam flow distribution along the height, with less vorticity. According to ALSTOM, modernizing the LP steam path of 20-year-old 300-700 MW turbines by applying all of these measures decreases the turbine heat rate by more than 3 percent. There also exist some opportunities for raising steam turbine efficiency that have attracted less attention. Consider a typical 570 MW turbine with steam conditions of 2400 psi, 1000/1000 F. Steam leakage flow from the HP valve seals amounts to about 5000 lb/hr (based on the rated main steam flow of about 3,800,000 lb/hr). This loss is equivalent to about a 1 MW loss in turbine capacity. Naturally, the higher the main steam parameters, the greater this loss. At the same time, it could be avoided if the usual labyrinth seals at the valve stems are replaced by special, hermetic liquidmetallic seals (LMS) preventing steam from flowing along the stem. Due to a low friction coefficient (less than 0.05), the LMS does not hamper the valve motion freedom. Such seals were developed in the former Soviet Union and, after detailed bench tests, since 1987, have been installed on the HP control valves of about 20 supercritical 300 MW turbines. They have successfully operated without additional inspections or maintenance outside scheduled overhauls every six years. No forced outages have occurred because of the seals. According to power plant data, the turbine efficiency has increased about 0.2 percent. Advances in meridional profiling, 3D shaping of the steam path, and optimizing the stage reactivity significantly reduce the profile, secondary and incidence energy losses in the steam turbine stages. There also exist design modifications to reduce leakage losses through the overshroud (tip) and diaphragm (or undershroud) glands. In addition, it is no good underestimating "root leakage"-the steam flow through the axial clearance between the nozzle vanes and rotating disc in the stage root section. Depending on the stage geometry and reactivity, this flow can be directed from the diaphragm gland seal into the rotating blade row or, by contrast, from the nozzle vanes into the disc's balance holes. Experiments show that in the latter case, by optimizing the root leakage flow amount, removal of the root steam layer disturbed by the secondary (end) losses can increase the stage efficiency by up to 0.4-0.5 percent. The increases in turbine efficiency gained due to individual measures are typically counted in fractions of a percent. However, implementation of all these design improvements could raise the turbine efficiency remarkably. A gross steam turbine efficiency level of 50 per cent is possible in the near future. It is understandable that power units designed for the highest efficiency are primarily intended for baseload operation. At the same time, especially with their increased use in Germany and Japan, these steam turbines are designed such that their flexibility allows them to accommodate demand changes by deep unloading or shutdown. It should be emphasized that the steam turbines advances discussed in this article primarily pertain to large-scale utility power units. It will take time to transfer their technical details into "ordinary" serial steam turbines of smaller capacity. This is especially true for the numerous steam turbines being used in combined-cycle units and cogeneration facilities, which require different approaches and encounter other specific problems.
Dr. Alexander Leyzerovich, an independent consultant in power engineering, earned his scientific degrees from AllRussia Thermal Engineering Research Institute (VTI), where he worked as a leading specialist in the operation and analysis of large steam turbines. He has authored numerous professional publications, including the two-volume book, "Large Power Steam Turbines: Design & Operation," published by PennWell in 1997.
December 15, 2006
The long and short of last-stage blades
Dr. Justin Zachary and Donald J. Koza, Bechtel Power Corp.
The row of last-stage blades (LSBs) in a steam turbine's low-pressure (LP) section is a key element of the turbine's design because it defines the machine's overall performance, dimensions, and number of casings. Historically, efforts to increase overall turbine efficiency focused on the high- and intermediatepressure (HP and IP) sections. Over the past few years, however, turbine manufacturers also have begun targeting the LP section, which may produce up to 50% of the turbine's total power (Figure 1). One way to increase that section's efficiency at certain exhaust pressure values is to lengthen its LSBs. Doing so either decreases the number of LP modules needed or increases power output at lower condenser pressures for the same number of modules.
1. Biggest contributor. The low-pressure section may account for as much as 50% of the power produced by a utility-scale steam turbine. Courtesy: Bechtel Power Corp.
The push to lengthen LSBs comes not only from designers of large coal-fired power plants but also from developers of relatively smaller combined-cycle plants. There are significant differences between turbines designed for combined cycles and for conventional steam plants. Because feedwater heaters are not normally used in the thermal design of a bottoming cycle, for the same HP main steam flow the LP exhaust steam flow in a bottoming cycle can be up to 35% greater than in a comparably sized conventional turbine. In addition, bottoming plant designs may use duct firing to compensate for the
reduction in gas turbine output at high ambient temperatures or for peak loading the plant, when doing so is economically justified. It has become quite common in the U.S. to use massive amounts of supplementary firing to almost double steam turbine output. This article explores the fundamental features of modern LSB interdisciplinary (aerodynamic and mechanical) design, including the ever-increasing role of complex computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis. Our purpose is to investigate how turbine performance and operability are affected by the current trend of lengthening LSBs. The article concludes with a test case that delineates the real-world options available in selecting a suitable LSB system.
Aero design fundamentals
Conventional LSB design (subsonic inflow at the tip of the rotating blade) reaches aerodynamically acceptable limits sooner than blade mechanical limits. To address this shortcoming, turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have devoted considerable effort to understanding and improving the design of stationary and rotating blades. Changes from the existing traditional design boundaries, such as supersonic relative inflow at the tip of the rotating blade, have been evaluated during extensive analytical and experimental trials to gain user acceptance. Only a fully developed 3-D stage flow analysis can provide an optimum blade profile capable of minimizing the losses from shock waves resulting from supersonic flow. The accuracy of modern 3-D analysis as a prediction tool has vastly improved—it can now account for nonequilibrium condensation flows with different steam wetness conditions and phase change variations. For large LP LSBs, the relative exit Mach number is an important design parameter for assessing the operating range and exhaust losses. The longer the blade, the higher the exit Mach number, due mainly to a strong mid-stage pressure gradient. Figure 2 shows a typical static pressure and Mach number distribution. The low pressure at the hub of the rotating blade (Ps1) produces a low root reaction, which eventually leads to flow separation within the rotating blade. The Mach number at the stationary blade exit (M1) has a very strong gradient, raising the inlet Mach numbers (Mw1) at the hub and tip of the rotating blade. The high pressure at the tip produces high absolute values of the exit Mach numbers at the hub of the stationary vanes and high relative inflow Mach numbers at the tip and hub of the rotating blade, which trigger shocks within the rotor passage.
2. Tracking the field. Typical Mach numbers and static pressure distribution of a steam turbine last-stage blade. Source: H. Stüer, ASME GT2005-68746 A true 3-D design will influence the flow field to "control" this positive radial pressure gradient and avoid its detrimental effects. Several options are available, and can be used in combination, to achieve this goal. The pressure gradient is mainly dependent on the streamline curvature and the swirl velocity. In a 2-D analysis, selecting a free vortex to control the pressure gradient will result in extremely twisted rotor blades for low hub-to-tip ratio and low hub reaction, thus generating high exit losses. A design based on using a forced vortex has the advantage of reducing the relative inlet velocity of the rotating blade. However, achieving a true optimized flow field design with minimum losses requires an approach based on a 3-D analysis. Commonly used 3-D shapes are known as "blade lean" and "blade sweep." For a fixed hub configuration, a tangential lean is defined as the shifting of the stacking line tangentially to the pressure side. A blade sweep occurs when the stacking line is modified toward the inflow as the blade radius increases. In some designs, the LSB lean is applied tangentially and axially. Combined with flow path contouring, the stationary vanes" tangential lean reduces the pressure gradient at the exit of the stationary vanes, raising the root reaction and allowing for a lower hub/tip ratio. The stationary vanes" axial lean increases the vane-to-blade spacing at the tip, giving water droplets more time to accelerate before entering the rotating blade. This type of acceleration also mitigates the effects of erosion on the blade. In another application, the stationary vanes lean in the tangential
direction, forcing the pressure side of the vane radically inward. Due to the action of body forces in this configuration, the increased pressure at the inner end walls causes a decrease in velocity and smaller pressure gradients, reducing turbine secondary losses. In a compound axial and tangential lean arrangement, the stationary vanes curve in the spanwise direction, and the pressure side surfaces intersect with the hub and tip endwalls at angles. This reduces the pressure gradients on the walls and consequently decreases secondary flow losses. A stator vane combining sweep and lean is the most advantageous configuration. Depending on the design's exit Mach number at the stationary blade hub, the profile is either convergent for subsonic and transonic inlet Mach numbers up to 1.3 or convergent-divergent for higher Mach numbers. A decision to use the convergent-divergent profile must be based on the results of a detailed 3D analysis at design and off-design conditions rather than consideration of the exit Mach number. However, convergent-divergent passages for stationary vanes have not been used due to their sensitivity to varying exit conditions that occur during off-design operation.
Design for long life
Mechanical constraints also play an important role in developing new, longer LSBs due to the extreme centrifugal forces that come into play. The allowable tensile radial stress value is the major limiting factor for blade length. Other limiting stresses include the bending stress resulting from steam forces in the blade root part and the tensile stress in the rotor caused by centrifugal forces (Figure 3). The mechanical design of longer LSBs must accommodate larger loads and changes in dynamic frequencies. It must also account for the method of interconnecting the rotor and the blade, decreasing vibration, and reducing leakage losses by the use of span dampers and blade shrouds.
3. Four-footer. These 48-inch steel last-stage buckets with curved axial entry dovetails reduce weight on the rotor. Courtesy: GE Energy For the designer, the ultimate goal is to have the turbine operate at moderate stress while maintaining a conservative overspeed margin. Assuming a typical high-strength steel and an allowable stress of about 90,000 psi, the expected maximum exhaust annular areas for an LSB row would be 130 ft (for a 50-Hz application) and 90 ft (for 60-Hz service). These areas translate into blade lengths of 48 inches and 40 inches for 50-Hz and 60-Hz installations, respectively. However, market pressure to increase LSB length has led developers to use titanium alloys rather than stainless steel to increase allowable stress design levels. Because the alloys are less dense (1.8 times) and much stronger than steel, they allow designers to create longer blades and larger annulus areas. For example, the yield strength of Ti-6Al-4V is the same as that of 17-4PH steel, but the weight of titanium is only 57% of that of steel. Another benefit of using titanium alloys relates to their greater resistance to wetness losses and damages. On the downside, titanium blades are much more expensive, and more brittle and prone to scratches than stainless steel. At present, steam turbine OEMs are applying lessons learned from the first generation of titanium blades as they develop (using a combination of aerodynamic
and mechanical design techniques) the second generation, which have a 10% to 15% larger exhaust area. 3-D finite element analysis (FEA) has become an indispensable theoretical tool for validating the final mechanical design, particularly in determining the maximum average stress (required to define the overspeed limits) and maximum local stresses (indicative of the low cycle fatigue blade life and risk of cracking due to corrosion). The curved-entry fir-tree is currently the most suitable structure for securing the longest LSBs. This configuration allows a slender wheel to be used and reduces centrifugal forces. Some manufacturers are using the fork-shaped root with a variable number of teeth, depending on the required load. Commonly encountered errors in parts machining and determining appropriate clearances between the dovetail hooks and the wheel create unequal distribution of the load and thus generate increased local stresses. The problem is exacerbated by increased blade length.
Aeroelastic instability, which occurs at extreme conditions either in the region of low steam flow or at high condenser pressure, produces significant flow separation at the blade hub, resulting in stall flutter and buffeting of the blades. To improve operational flexibility and provide greater rigidity, adjacent blades are linked together. The blades are integrally shrouded with the blade profiled body. To further increase the rigidity of the entire blade structure, the blades are coupled with a snubber, an integral tie-boss at the mid-span of the blade height. The use of titanium alloy blades with reduced damping properties makes a change in blade manufacturing from free-standing to interlocked construction an unavoidable necessity. During turbine operation, the blade elastically untwists due to centrifugal forces, causing adjacent shrouds and snubbers to make contact. At rated speed, all blades are held together to form a continuous ring. Compared with conventional configurations, this arrangement exhibits more stable vibration characteristics: reduced resonance and vibration stresses and suppressed flutter. In one application, blades with integral shroud and tie-bosses situated at 70% of the blade height exhibit two to three times less vibrational stress than do free-standing blades (Figure 4).
4. Joined at the hip. Blade shroud and span damper design in a 48-inch steel last-stage blade designed to operate at 3,000 rpm. Courtesy: GE Energy
The use of shrouds and snubbers does not come without penalties. Free-standing blades provide a more efficient peripheral water separation than do shrouded blades. The snubbers in the flow channel disrupt the flow, creating additional losses and increased erosion due to local wetness concentration. Another difficulty encountered by the designers of advanced, larger LSBs is associated with the machining of the complex 3-D shape of the blade. The mechanical design has to determine the "no speed" airfoil shape that will achieve the aerodynamic design shape at nominal operating conditions. The mechanical design challenges center on converting the aerodynamic design into a machine-workable shape and providing sufficient margins for static and dynamic loads (Figure 5).
5. Twist and shout. Advanced aerodynamic blade designs also are a challenge to manufacture. Shown are a 40-inch, 3,600-rpm steel last-stage blade (L) and a 48-inch, 3,000-rpm bucket (R). Courtesy: GE Energy
It's a dry steam
Almost 8% of the LP turbine losses can be attributed to a "wetness phenomenon" that mainly results from the following three causes: Nucleation of moisture from superheated steam in the phase transition zone (PTZ). Formation and release of liquid films on the blade surface within the PTZ. Two-phase flow from the LP turbine into the condenser.
The blade design must therefore provide protection against water droplet erosion. The level of steam moisture varies widely in a steam turbine across the load range. Although the average steam wetness is not higher than 10% to 12%, the local steam wetness can be much higher, particularly in the tip region. The higher the tip speed, the more dangerous is the effect of the water that lags behind the steam and impacts the blade. For very long LSBs, the conventional method for protecting against water erosion—use of Stellite strips brazed to the blade surface—presents new challenges. The Stellite strips create discontinuities in the blade profile, thus generating higher losses than in previous designs. Breaking of the Stellite strips could also cause local damage and changes in the dynamic characteristics of the blade. A very expensive alternative for removing the moisture is internal steam heating of the stationary blades. Another new method for protecting against erosion is laser hardening of the blades. This method delivers similar or better results for 17-4 pH material, compared with flame-hardening of conventional steels.
Cracking under stress
Stress corrosion cracking (SCC) is caused by the combination of tensile stress and a corrosive environment. Any material used for turbine blades and rotors must account for the effects of SCC. The less "aggressive" the environment, the higher the allowable operational stresses. Because advanced LSB designs exhibit higher levels of rotor and disc stresses, steam purity requirements must be more stringently controlled. Table 1 presents typical criteria conducive to the initiation of SCC.
Table 1. Cracking down. Conditions known to initiate stress-corrosion cracking of low-pressure turbine rotor and disc materials. Source: Bechtel Power Corp. In evaluating SCC formation and propagation, it is critically important to account for the combined effect of material properties (steel cleanliness and yield stress), environment (oxygen, carbon dioxide, and chloride levels), temperature, and stress conditions. Yet the multiple possible combinations of increased tensile stress levels existing in large LSBs and poor steam purity during initial start-up make the forecasting of crack propagation difficult. Designers" only tools for SCC prevention are specifying low, conservative tensile stress for disc surfaces and reducing stress concentrations. Only actual field operation over time will determine the ability of the design to cope with the SCC phenomenon.
At velocities above 600 ft/sec, the exhaust loss of a steam turbine is proportional to the square of the ratio of the volumetric flow through the turbine exhaust annulus area. At the appropriate backpressure conditions, better performance is achieved by selecting a larger exhaust area (either by decreasing the hub diameter and increasing the blade length or by reducing the blade length over a larger hub diameter). A larger exit area results in lower steam exit velocities and thereby reduces the kinetic energy of the steam leaving the turbine. The result is higher overall steam turbine efficiency. Table 2 lists large-size LSBs that are either in development or in operation for 50-Hz and 60-Hz applications.
Table 2. Long time coming. Steam turbine last-stage blade (LSB) development status. Source: Bechtel Power Corp.
The turbine thermal kit provided by the OEM contains information on LP exhaust losses in the traditional form of the "exhaust losses curve." This curve gives the specific enthalpy loss for an exhaust average steam velocity that depends on the turbine backpressure and/or steam flow. The use of curves also requires, for some OEMs, corrections for moisture content. Because the average steam exhaust velocity
is a function of the volumetric flow for a given geometry, its value depends on both backpressure and steam mass flow. Figure 6 provides a number of exhaust loss curves for various exhaust areas for a sample of steam turbines from various OEMs. The increased exhaust loss at lower exhaust velocities (less than 550 ft/sec) occurring at low part-load conditions or high backpressure is due to the formation of a reverse vortex at the blade root.
6. Adding up your losses. Typical exhaust loss curves from different turbine manufacturers. Source: Bechtel Power Corp. Development of next-generation and often unconventional blade profiles, with large variations along the blade height, has produced considerable benefits in terms of the stage's efficiency and reduced exhaust losses. Figure 7 illustrates the exhaust losses for two blades from different OEMs with almost identical exhaust and blade length area. You would be right to conclude that the more advanced 3-D profile design (curve A) leads to lower exhaust loss.
7. Different paths. Exhaust loss curves from two OEMs illustrate very similar exhaust area and blade length. Source: Bechtel Power Corp. It should be noted that the total exhaust loss curve includes not only the losses associated with the LSB but also the contribution of the exhaust hood. Therefore, improving LSB efficiency must be associated with an appropriate, effective aerodynamic design of the exhaust hood.
The continuous evolution of turbines in general and of LSBs in particular presents many challenges for engineering/procurement/construction (EPC) contractors responsible for selecting equipment, functionally integrating it with other power plant components within a fixed price and schedule, and guaranteeing overall plant performance to boot. The EPC contractor must rely on his experience and expertise, and his previous project experience with turbine OEMs, when making technology selection decisions on behalf of the customer. As an example, Bechtel's steam turbine experience covers a wide range of combined-cycle and conventional steam plants (Table 3) around the globe and gives a good snapshot of the typical technology selections made for these plants (Table 4). Two of the more recent projects have steam turbines operating at supercritical conditions.
Table 3. Experience counts. Bechtel Power's combined-cycle steam turbine experience profile. Source: Bechtel Power Corp.
Table 4. A piece of the action. Recent Bechtel steam plant projects and the steam turbine supplier. Source: Bechtel Power Corp.
It's considered good practice for the EPC contractor to conduct a thorough investigation of the various OEM offerings to ensure that the project's basic performance objectives (for example, power output, heat rate, start-up times, reliability, and availability) can be met. The process also includes an independent technology assessment of the equipment's operating history, engineering, and manufacturing processes. The turbine LP section performance metrics offered by the OEMs for a specific project should be normalized and reconciled with past performance of various types of equipment in a similar configuration offered by OEMs in other projects. Bechtel maintains a performance database of past projects that is routinely updated with information from field tests. Due to the iterative nature of the turbine selection, all project stakeholders should involve themselves in the choice of optimal LSB length. And because the operation of the LP section is constrained by backpressure, the optimization process must include consideration of heat sink options. For example, it should be taken into account that the backpressure of an air-cooler condenser is typically higher than that of water-cooled condensing schemes, as well as more dependent on ambient temperature. A systematic approach to LSB selection would entail running simulation programs to superimpose electrical demand, ambient conditions, and steam turbine-condenser performance on an hourly basis for an entire year. This analysis needs to be completed for several LSB sizes. Typically, a shorter LSB is less sensitive to large backpressure variations than a longer one, but it may not yield the best performance. The selection of the LSB will influence the number of LP modules, thus affecting the plant capital and operational costs. Besides the price of the turbine hardware, an additional LP module requires more building space, concrete, piping, wiring, instrumentation, controls, and the like. Operational and
maintenance expenses are also increased by the additional hardware. A life-cycle cost analysis is the only way to properly compare design options. Figure 8 shows the typical thermal efficiency values for all three modules (HP, IP, and LP) recorded during recent tests of a combined-cycle steam turbine. As the figure indicates, some LP turbine cylinder efficiency may reach 94% to 96%. In this analysis, the steam turbine power output for the fired case was 55% to 65% higher than for the unfired case. Although the HP and IP module efficiencies show only small differences between the fired and unfired cases, the LP module efficiency does change significantly. Its performance is directly related to the capacity of the heat sink, which determines the operating backpressure.
8. Do the math. Steam turbine module efficiencies for duct-fired and unfired cases, used to develop lifecycle cost comparisons. Source: Bechtel Power Corp.
Applying the fundamentals
The best way to illustrate these technical and selection fundamentals is with an actual case study of a project under development: a coal refuse–fired power plant with two circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boilers supplying steam to a single steam turbine generating a nominal 600-MW gross output. Because the fuel cost is very low, the most cost-effective cycle is a subcritical reheat cycle with main steam conditions of 2,400 psig and 1,000F and a 1,000F hot reheat steam temperature. Under the assumption
that the electricity production cost will also be low, the plant is designed to operate in baseload mode, with no cycling duty features included. Although range of operation at partial load is a consideration for start-up and for operation in single-boiler mode, operating efficiency and alternate configurations only need to be evaluated at full load. The turbine is specified as a condensing reheat design configured for down flow into a double-shell, single-pressure, water-cooled, two-pass surface condenser with a divided water box in the shell. The turbine exhaust pressure specified for the performance guarantee point is 2.5 in. HgA. The plant includes a single train of seven feedwater heaters: three LP, a deaerator, two IP, and one HP. The boiler feedwater pumps are motor-driven. The LP turbine exhaust was initially configured as a four-flow design (two casings each with two-flow exhaust and 33.5-inch LSB length) even though an alternative design was investigated that was less expensive. The turbine OEMs were asked to provide quotes for a two-flow exhaust design (single LP section casing with two-flow exhaust), although there were concerns about exhaust velocity, blade stress, and vibration.
Evaluate field experience
One way to determine a design's viability is to review any actual experience with the same or a similar design. The turbine OEMs confirmed that they had designed, built, and placed into operation turbines with the same or higher range of LP turbine exhaust velocities without experiencing technical or operational problems. The OEMs also confirmed that, while operating stress loadings for the turbine blades are higher for a two-flow design, they are still well below allowable stress values. Finally, the OEMs also stated that no vibration, instability, or other operational problems would be experienced. One OEM was selected for further detailed review. Its two-flow design had five stages and a 40-inch LSB length with an exhaust velocity at the guarantee point of 975 ft/sec (vs. 675 ft/sec for the four-flow design). For the lower ambient temperature, lower exhaust pressure case, the two-flow exhaust velocity became almost 1,500 ft/sec, vs. 1,000 ft/sec for the four-flow design. This velocity exceeds the 1,100 to 1,200 ft/sec typically perceived to cause greater erosion of LSBs when combined with some level (10% nominal) of back-end moisture. As moisture builds up on the trailing edge of the stationary nozzles, droplets falling off at low velocities may impact the blades. At high velocities, however, the droplets are swept through the moving blade passages with little, if any, contact with the blades. The OEMs also confirmed that erosion problems are actually worse at lower loads and velocities. Vibratory characteristics of the blades at running speed with such a high exhaust velocity were also a concern. The potential effect of shock waves due to steam exiting the LSB outlet at sonic velocity was reviewed. The OEM indicated that its CFD analysis for the standard diffuser design showed that subsonic
flow exiting the LSB outlet only reaches a Mach number of 1.0 at a point away from the blading. This reduces the possibility of a shock wave forming that is strong enough to cause boundary layer separation. If separation does occur, the diffuser has been designed to isolate the boundary layer from the LSB. Review of a reference plant with similar operating conditions confirmed that separation, should it occur, is not a problem. The shaft power output for the LP section is also about 5% higher for the particular two-flow versus fourflow designs that were reviewed: 301 MW vs. 286 MW, associated with a corresponding IP section reduction. The two-flow LP section has a relatively high steam loading for each blade. This results in a higher stage pressure drop, thereby requiring higher LP inlet pressure and, consequently, higher IP exit pressure. These higher pressure changes cascaded through the rest of the system; however, no technical issues were found. A second check of industry experience, this time for shaft power output for opposed flow (HP, IP with a single two-flow LP section), revealed no problems for the units closest to the design being considered. Checking against the OEM's reference plant, the steam flow loading on each stage blade for this proposed design was found to be approximately 20% higher, although the OEM confirmed the steam bending stresses for all stage blades are still within the allowable design limit. The steam bending stress represents a measure of a blade's ability to withstand the stage power or loading from steam flow in the axial direction. The ratio of working to allowable stress is approximately 0.76 for the first stage and 0.27 for the last stage. This represents a safety factor of nearly 4 for the LSB. The two-flow LP turbine configuration could be operated at a low backpressure during the colder months to slightly improve heat rate without much concern for high exhaust velocities. The best approach is to always operate the plant at or near the backpressure design point of 2.5 inch HgA during the winter by shutting off cooling tower fans and isolating compartments. The power output gain for the two-flow machine at the lower ambient temperature is only 800 kW (vs. 6,400 kW for the four-flow design) due to the relatively high backend velocity, which results in higher exhaust losses. The power plant –guaranteed output capacity matches the capacity in the grid interconnect agreement, and additional electrical output is of no immediate benefit to the owner. The owner can, however, apply for an incremental increase in output capacity to take advantage of potential improvements in electrical output capacity. Selecting the two-flow LP turbine at this time would preclude the owner from generating in the future almost 6 MW of additional power at lower ambient temperatures using the four-flow machine. The two-flow LP turbine configuration would cost less than the four-flow design and have lower installation costs. However, the two-flow LP turbine design is less efficient than the four-flow design; its heat rate is higher by about 50 Btu/kWh at 100% load. The two-flow design's reduction in efficiency was greater than anticipated; consequently, the boiler and other upstream and downstream equipment would
need to be slightly larger and cost more than the four-flow design. Overall, the two-flow LP turbine design plant would cost less than the four-flow design. Comparing the potential cost savings of the two-flow LP turbine design (offset by its higher heat rate and the lost opportunity to generate an additional 6 MW during the colder months) with the greater efficiency of the four-flow machine results in essentially a wash. Because the two-flow LP machine offered no significant benefits versus its potential risk (albeit small), the EPC project team and the owner decided to proceed with the more conventional four-flow LP turbine design. The authors gratefully acknowledge Paul Kochis of Bechtel and Rudy Koubeck of Siemens Power Generation for their insightful review of the draft of this article. —Dr. Justin Zachary is a principal engineer and project engineer for Bechtel Power Corp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-228-8764. Donald J. Koza is project engineer for Bechtel Power. He can be reached at email@example.com or 301-228-8757. Close Window
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