You are on page 1of 6

Abstract--- Pursuit of Higher Efficiency in conventional

power generation resulted in Supercritical parameters in
Rankine Thermal Cycle, demanding energy efficient
auxiliaries. Boiler Feed Pumps being the biggest and high
power consuming auxiliary received special attention in
selection, configuration and standardization, on numbers and
sizes, drives (Motors and Steam Turbines) both in
conventional approach and advanced technologies for modern
supercritical and Ultra Supercritical power plants.
This paper attempts to present all available options for
BFPs drive selection, configurations, their energy efficiencies,
limitations, alternatives, etc.

OWER utilities, worldwide, have successfully
demonstrated industries’ long-time pursuit (Since 1950’s)
of establishing thermal power plants working on fossil fuels
and at supercritical parameters. Not only they have succeeded
in their effort, but have even gone further in establishing the
Ultra-Supercritical units - a term, newly invented and being
referred to units with higher parameters in supercritical zone.
Researchers are still on to break the barriers of 50% plus
thermo-dynamic Rankine Cycle efficiency. In all probability
this effort also is likely to bear fruit by 2030 though not in
2020 as targeted originally. These plants will be addressed by
another terminology as “Advanced- Ultra Supercritical”
Alongside, there are continuing efforts and researches to
identify other energy saving possibilities and areas in
equipment, system, operational procedures, etc. which is
currently in practice in fossil fuel fired plants. Among the
many options, energy efficiency is the least expensive way for
power industries to meet the growing demand for cleaner
In most fossil-fuel steam power plants, between 7 to 15
percent of the generated power never makes its way past the
plant gate, as it is diverted back to the facility’s own pumps,
fans and other auxiliary systems. This power is called
“Auxiliary Power” in power plant terminology is also
sometimes referred to as ‘station load’, ‘house load’ or even
‘parasitic load’. The auxiliaries serve to keep the steam-water
cycle safely circulating, and to return it to its thermodynamic
starting point. Without these auxiliary systems, the steam-
G. Ramachandran, Consultant L&T. E-mail:
water cycle would suffer either an immediate collapse or a
dangerous and non-sustainable expansion. The main purpose
of the auxiliary systems is to preserve the designed shape of
thermodynamic cycle across a wide range of conditions and
over time, using a minimum of input energy and with a
maximum of availability. Auxiliaries consume the highest
quality energy in the plant, namely electrical energy. The
power supplied to in-house loads is the power that could
otherwise have been saved or sold. The convenience and
controllability of electrical power is behind the trend towards
electric motors displacing other forms of auxiliary drive
Auxiliary power is ‘downstream’ power and therefore
efficiency improvements in
Auxiliary loads have a multiplier effect as we move
upstream to the primary energy source, within or outside the
plant. Based on the typical 33% thermal efficiency that many
older power plants achieve, the generated electricity is worth
at least three times the price of the input fuel energy, when all
the added fixed and running financial costs of electricity
generation are also included.
Historically, the development of BFPs has substantially
contributed to the increase of power output and efficiency of
thermal power plants. The capacity for higher head and flow
rate, which together lead to an increased power density in the
pump, has been crucial to making larger power plants
possible. This performance improvement was possible by
considering all aspects of hydraulics and mechanics and
addressing to fluid dynamics, mechanical integrity, etc.
With improved power plant efficiency, there is a lower
demand for power of almost all auxiliary equipment,
exemption being the boiler feed pump alone. The reason for
this is that the power needed to drive the feed pump is almost
in linear relation to the steam pressure. This means that, even
though the steam mass flow (and, consequently, the feed water
mass flow) is reduced and the efficiency of feed pumps is
improved, their power increases in case of supercritical and
ultra-supercritical plants.
Boiler feed pumps consume a large fraction of the
auxiliary power (in excess of 4% of unit capacity) used
internally within a power plant in pressurizing and forcing the
feed water through the HP heaters and boiler.
In this context, an attempt is made here to present some
aspects of BFPs selection, standard configuration, drives
Boiler Feed Pumps in Power Plants Drives
Selection and Energy Efficiency Aspects

G. Ramachandran

National Seminar on Thermal Power Plant Performance Management - NSTPPPM 102
ISBN 978-93-83459-12-4 © 2014 Bonfring
options, energy efficiency consideration, etc. for the reliable
operation of Supercritical and Ultra-supercritical power plants.
A survey carried out by EPRI, brought out the following
data for Boiler Feed Pumps installations and configurations
for fossil fuel fired high capacity power plants, which are
followed worldwide - the order is from the most practices to
least practices:
• 2-50% (Turbine Driven) & 1-33% (Electric Motor
• 2-50% (Turbine Driven) & 1-25% to 35% (Electric
Motor Driven)
• 2-50% (Turbine Driven) 1-50%, (Electric Motor
Driven) limited to 8,000 to 9,000 horsepower
• 2-50% or 2-60% (Turbine Driven) & 1 smaller
(Electric Motor Driven)
• 2-60% (Turbine Driven) & 1-20% (Electric Motor
• 3-50% or 4-33% (Electric Motor Driven)
• 1-100% (Turbine Driven) & 2x50% (Electric Motor
• 3x50% All Electrical Pumps
While selecting the numbers and sizes of pumps, the
following factors need careful consideration:

• The feed water system is one of the critical
components of a power unit. It has a telling influence
on many parameters of the thermal cycle but also on
the failure-free and safe operation of the power plant.
Therefore, the selection of the boiler feed pump and
its drive is one of the most important issues in
designing power plants. In view of the reliability
requirements, each power unit should be equipped
with at least two boiler feed pumps whose nominal
capacity should ensure the maximum capacity of the
once-through boiler.
• The value of the pumping effective pressure is
included in the range of 1.1-1.4 of the steam pressure
rating in the boiler. The efficiency of modern feed
pumps exceeds 85%. The demand for rated power is
about 4.0% of the power generated by the unit.
Consequently, the drive of the feed pump is usually
the principal receiver of auxiliary power in the power
• In high power units, an extra low speed booster pump
is used to provide adequate Net Positive Suction Head
(NPSH) to the main Boiler Feed Pump in order to
prevent cavitation, which is the common failure cause
as per the studies carried out by EPRI. The booster
pump, which features an inlet designed specially to
avoid cavitation, feeds water into the main pump,
thus, protecting it entirely from this phenomenon. The
booster pump may have a separate drive, or it can be
driven by the main pump drivesr through a speed
reduction gear.
The types of drives prevalent during the days of Sub-
critical parameter operations for unit sizes up to 500 MW and
660MW are discussed in the following sections:
• Electric Motor Drives
For smaller units (say, below 100MW), simple squirrel-
cage induction motors were used. These motors were constant
speed drives and the flow quantity was regulated by throttling
control valves. This system was incurring heavy power losses
as Pump Power and speed is governed by cube-th law (i.e. P ∞
) and also the control valves life and performance were
considerably short lived, because of high differential pressure
A solution to these problems was found by introducing a
fluid coupling almost exclusively to connect the pump with
the squirrel-cage induction motors for units with a capacity up
to approximately 250 MW to adjust rotation speed.
Another option was to use slip ring induction motor with
variable rotor resistance (usually liquid resistors).
Limitations of Electric Motors
However, as the power capacity of newly constructed units
grew higher and higher, the lack of availability of appropriate
electric motors (EM) posed a problem. Also the efficiency of
electric motors was very low (within the range of 91% to
94%). These limitations gave way to the application of Steam
Turbine drives to drive BFPs.
• Main Turbine Shaft Driven Pumps
Another option available was connecting the BFPs to the
shaft of the main turbine through gears. The pump was joined
to the turbine shaft either at the high - or low-pressure turbine
ends. Both solutions were used in the past, but both increased
costs and the turbo set complexity. A gear had to be applied
because of the difference in the speed of the turbo set and the
pump. As these solutions involved a bigger investment outlay
and higher operational costs, they are no longer used. Their
major drawback was the forced and extremely unfavorable
location of the feed pump in the powerhouse which caused
additional construction problems.
• Steam Turbine Drives
For power units with a capacity exceeding 300 MW, steam
drives are applied by means of a separate auxiliary turbine
incorporated into the thermal cycle.
Steam turbine drives are equipped with throttling valves or
nozzle governors to modulate steam flow and achieve variable
speed operation. Thus the steam turbine drive is capable of
serving the same function as an induction motor coupled to an
inverter or adjustable speed drive. Steam turbine drives can
operate over a broad speed range and do not fail when
Steam turbines are inherently rugged and reliable low-
maintenance devices. They are easy to control and offer
enclosed, non-sparking operation suitable for use in explosive
atmospheres or highly corrosive environments. Steam turbines
provide fast, reliable starting capability and are particularly
National Seminar on Thermal Power Plant Performance Management - NSTPPPM 103
ISBN 978-93-83459-12-4 © 2014 Bonfring
adaptable for direct connection to equipment that rotates at
high speeds. Steam turbine drives may be installed for
continuous duty under severe operating conditions, or used for
load shaping (e.g., demand limiting), standby, or emergency
Steam turbine performance is expressed in terms of isentropic
efficiency or steam rate (the steam requirement of the turbine
per unit of shaft power produced). Steam rates are given in
terms of kilograms per kilowatt-hour (kg/kWh).
Steam Turbine Flexibility
Equipment redundancy and improved reliability can be
obtained by mounting a steam turbine drive and an electric
motor on opposite ends of the driven-equipment shaft. We can
then select either the motor or turbine as the prime mover by
increasing or decreasing the turbine speed relative to the
synchronous speed of the motor.
The driving turbine of the boiler feed pump can be
incorporated into the thermal cycle in two ways:
a. Condensing Turbines (CT
Condensing turbines as drives for boiler feed pumps are
usually fed with the steam from the outlet of the intermediate
pressure turbine (I.P) or steam from the intermediate-pressure
turbine bleeds, and the outlet steam is condensed in a separate
condenser or in the main condenser. Because condensing
turbines have a limited effect on the thermal cycle of the unit,
they have found a much wider application in the utility power
The amount of steam needed to drive the condensing
turbine reduces the mass flow through the low-pressure
turbine and therefore, can contribute to a reduction in the heat
rejection, consequently, reduce unit heat rate. Therefore, an
application of a condensing turbine to drive the feed pump is
more effective if the low-pressure turbine is heavily loaded.
Limitation of Condensing Turbines (CT)
The following are some of the limitations in adopting
Condensing turbine as the BFP drive:
• Under low load conditions, the steam mass flow
through the low-pressure turbine is usually not large
enough which causes the danger of a overheating the
blades, particularly the last stage blades due to
churning effect.
This problem was solved by increasing the steam mass
flow from the intermediate to the low-pressure turbine. Under
low loads of the unit, there may then be not enough steam fed
into the turbine driving the feed pump which necessitates an
introduction of additional steam into it from other sources,
mainly from the Boiler. This may cause mechanical problems
because the turbine driving the boiler feed pump was designed
for lower parameters of the incoming steam. In consequence,
additional facilities are required for the system, which increase
the investment costs of the plant.
• As the unit sizes increase, large mass flow of the
steam is required to satisfy the pump's demand for the
driving power and this causes the volume of the outlet
steam mass flow to increase significantly, which
results in a large annulus area and, consequently, in
longer turbine blades in the last stages. In the case of
high power units, the relatively high rotation speeds of
the boiler feed pump (up to as much as 7, 300 rpm)
are not suitable for the condensing steam turbine. Due
to the high rotation speed required by the pump, the
peripheral velocities of the last stages differ
considerably from the optimum values that ensure the
highest efficiency. Combining high peripheral
velocities with longer blades often causes mechanical
To avoid them, some manufacturers offer turbines with the
flow separated in the last stage into two stages with a smaller
diameter. This sometimes solves mechanical problems with
longer blades, but due to the flow losses resulting from the
separation of the steam mass flow, no improvement in
efficiency is achieved. In fact, the efficiency of condensing
turbines which drive boiler feed pumps is often lower by 6%
to 7% points than that of the main steam turbine.
Some manufacturers offer reaction- type double flow
condensing turbines with the steam inlet in the middle and
symmetrical outlets. This leads to the rotor elongation, which
is not a problem in the case of reaction constructions because
they solve the mechanical problems related to long blades and
ensure an efficiency level which is 2% to 3% points, different
from the efficiency of the main turbine. However, such
machines are very expensive.
b. Backpressure Turbine (BPT):
In back pressure turbines, the motive steam is from outlet
steam from the high-pressure turbine, from the cold reheat
(CRH) steam line. The exhaust steam together with the driving
turbine bleeds (if any) would condense in low-pressure
regenerative heat exchangers. Owing to the fact that outlet
steam also gives up heat in the regenerative system, the
extraction-back pressure turbine does not require a costly
system of the condenser and cooling water which usually is
the case with the condensing turbine driving the main feed
Few variants are in practice using Back-pressure turbines
as boiler feed pump drives.
• A backpressure turbine (BPT) fed with steam from a
cold reheat steam line with bleeds shifted from the
low-pressure turbine
• An extraction backpressure turbine (EBPT), fed with
steam from the high-pressure turbine outlet steam
(Cold Re-heat) with one bleed and an outlet directed
to low pressure Re-generative heaters.
• A backpressure turbine fed with steam from a hot
reheat (HRH) steam line operating in parallel with the
intermediate-pressure turbine
Limitations and Advantages of Steam Turbines
The steam turbine starts to drive the feed pump only after a
sufficient amount of steam has become available. Due to that,
it is necessary to use an additional start-up pump with a partial
capacity of 30% to 50% with an electric drive. However, the
following advantages of Steam drives over the electric drives
enthused and encouraged utilities to opt for Steam drives for
high capacity units.
National Seminar on Thermal Power Plant Performance Management - NSTPPPM 104
ISBN 978-93-83459-12-4 © 2014 Bonfring
• Results in Auxiliary Power Loss Saving
• High Pressure Turbine becomes efficient because of
more steam volume flow through early stages
requiring longer blades.
• Cost Reduction in R/H and Pipe Work, because of
lesser steam flow.
• Turbine Casing Cost Reduction – Better Thermal
Response if the bleed steams are shifted to BFP
turbine from I.P turbine
• Pump Speed Control Improved – Turn Down Ratio
• BFPs are High Speed Pumps – Better Efficiency
Both types of conventional drives described above have
limitations in applications and energy efficiency. Therefore,
the possibility of further improvement in the net efficiency of
electricity generation in fossil fuel fired units for supercritical
and ultra-supercritical parameters calls for looking for other
advanced options for BFP drives, other than the most often
used ones, namely those powered by the electric motor and by
the condensing turbine.
In recent years, the power capacity of available electric
motors has increased and also the efficiency of low-pressure
steam turbines and drive control have improved substantially.
Therefore there are two options available for selecting drives
for Boiler Feed Pumps for modern power plants with
supercritical, Ultra-supercritical or Advanced – Ultra-
supercritical as and when brought into action - one in the
electric motor category and the other being the Steam Turbine
version. Both are discussed in some details in the following
• Advanced Electric Motor Drives - Variable Frequency
(VFD) Motors Option
With the advent of solid state electronic devices, reliable
variable frequency drives (vfd) are now readily available with
improved motor design and control techniques for high
capacity pumps. These drives can perform with efficiencies
beyond 97% compared to the earlier limit (91% 94%).
Moreover, these drives have very flat characteristic curves of
the efficiency over a wide range of loads as compared to the
fluid coupling, which is of utmost importance for operation
under a partial load as it happens in Sliding Pressure
Operation Mode. On the other hand, the efficiency of turbines
driving BFPs has not changed much. Therefore, there is an
emerging trend to revert back to motor drives for high
capacity power units operating with supercritical parameters.
Changing rotation speed is the most effective and
economical way of improving the pump efficiency.
Adjustments made to rotation speed causes only a slight
decrease in the pump efficiency compared to operation with
fixed revolutions. This type of control allows a reduction in
electricity consumption in a wide range of loads.
Usually, frequency-controlled synchronous motors are
used for such solutions. The rotation speed of a synchronous
motor can be reduced from the nominal value to very low
speeds by reducing the frequency and voltage of the electric
current powering the motor.
• Two such Configurations are discussed below
The comparison was the result of study carried out on
various drive options of the boiler feed pumps for an ultra-
supercritical 800-MW steam power unit by Eskom Enterprises

Fig. 1: High Speed VSD Electrically Driven Motor with a
Speed Reduction Gearbox
• Option: 1
In option: 1, as shown in figure: 1 above, a high speed
variable speed electric motor is directly connected to the main
pump. A speed reduction gear box links the other side of the
high speed motor shaft to the booster pump which is required
to run at lower speed due to its own NPSH requirement, This
drive option will have the highest BFP set efficiency of 81.2%
(pumps, motor and gear box combined) with the lowest power
consumption of 3.035% (24.28MW at turbine MCR operating
condition for 800MW) unit power capacity. Another
advantage would be that the BFP set will also run at very high
efficiency and low power consumption at part load conditions.
The biggest disadvantage would be the initial capital cost of
the variable speed drive and high speed electric motor.

Fig. 2: Low speed VSD Electrically Driven Motor with a
Speed Increase Gearbox
• Option: 2
In the second option, as shown in figure: 2 above, a low
speed variable speed electric motor is directly connected to the
booster pump. A speed increase (step-up) gear box links the
other side of the high speed motor shaft to the booster pump.
This drive option will also have a high BFP set efficiency of
79.9% (pumps, motor and gear box combined), with low
power consumption of 3.085% (24.68 MW at turbine MCR
operating condition for 800MW). This option also will have
similar advantage as that of option: 1 that the BFP set will also
National Seminar on Thermal Power Plant Performance Management - NSTPPPM 105
ISBN 978-93-83459-12-4 © 2014 Bonfring
run at very high efficiency and low power consumption at part
load conditions. However, The BFP set efficiency will not be
as high as that for option: 1 due to the speed increase gear box
losses. As the capital cost of a low speed variable speed
electric motor is lower than that for a high speed variable
speed electric motor, this option will be more cost effective
than option: 1
• Advanced Steam Turbine Drive
A company in Denmark, Elsam Engineering (Fredericia,
Denmark) has patented the ‘Master Cycle’ (MC) solution
suggesting an improvement to the extraction-back pressure
turbine (referred to as ‘Tuning Turbine’ discussed earlier.
In this “Innovative” design for a “Conceptual 900MW
power plant” all the bleeds from the intermediate-pressure
turbine could be shifted to an auxiliary turbine for which the
motive steam is fed from the steam from the high-pressure
turbine outlet (Cold Reheat). The auxiliary turbine drives the
main boiler feed pump and, optionally, an auxiliary generator
which could carry away the power surplus generated during
higher load operation to the unit transformer to a separate,
additional primary coils.
During the start-up of the unit, a ‘synchro-self-shifting’
clutch is open and the auxiliary turbine does not work. The
auxiliary generator is switched to motor mode operation and
drives the main feed pump, which renders the start-up feed
pump driven by an electric motor unnecessary. The use of an
additional generator on a single shaft together with the pump
and the turbine would require speed control to maintain a
steady speed on the part of the generator.

Fig. 3: Diagram of the Thermal Cycle of a 900-MW unit. Feed
Pump is driven by Extraction-Backpressure Turbine: the idea
of the Master Cycle
B, boiler; HP, high-pressure turbine; IP, intermediate-
pressure turbine; LP, low-pressure turbine; HPH3, HPH2 and
HPH1, high-pressure feed water heaters;
FWP, feed water pump; FWT, feed water tank+deaerator;
LPH4, LPH3, LPH2 and LPH1, low-pressure feed water
heaters; COND, condenser.
A solution like this has many advantages because
• By shifting the bleeds from intermediate-pressure
turbine to the auxiliary turbine enables keeping the
bleed pressures at same level as in the intermediate
pressure turbine, while the temperature difference in
the exchangers will be much lower (the outlet of this
turbine is even in the area of saturated steam). This
arrangement overcomes the problems faced with the
conventional arrangement of I.P Bleeds for H.P.
• In the conventional arrangement, a substantial
temperature rise in the reheated steam poses a problem
of high difference between the bleed steam and the
saturation temperatures in regenerative heaters fed
with bleeds from the intermediate- pressure turbine.
This causes material and thermodynamic problems
because, with the rise in the mean difference in
temperature of the heat-exchanging agents, the energy
losses rise too which leads to a reduction in the
process effectiveness and to an increase in the heating
steam consumption.
• Another advantage of the master cycle is that the
construction of an intermediate- pressure turbine
without bleeds is much simpler and cheaper in view of
the need to use in-expensive construction materials
and thin wall casing.
• Lower temperatures of the steam in the bleeds from
the driving turbine, compared to the intermediate-
pressure turbine, result in an increase in the mass flow
from them. This causes a reduction in the steam mass
flow to the re-heater, i.e., lower costs of the reheated
steam pipelines and of the re-heater in the boiler.
• The steam mass flow from the main turbine into the
condenser is also smaller which decreases heat losses
of the cycle.
• In the conceptual Master Cycle option, another
version is also possible wherein the driving turbine is
fed with steam from a hot reheat (HRH) steam line.
Outlet steam from the auxiliary BFP turbine is in turn
introduced into the inlet of the low-pressure turbine.
Such a configuration helps overcoming the problem of
too little steam fed to the low-pressure turbine at low
loads of the unit and thus overcoming the churning
• The entire feed water system becomes simple – less of
pumps, piping, drive, etc.
Selecting a suitable drive for Boiler Feed Pumps between
steam drive and electric drives either in conventional schemes
or in advanced techniques is based on cost / benefit angle
considering energy losses, operational constraints, availability,
etc. The following example shows the power loss calculation
for drives:
Loss of BFP Drive (%) =Pump Power / Generated Load (1-
= Cycle Efficiency= Boiler Efficiency (η
) x Turbine
x Generator Efficiency (η
In case of Steam Drives, for a 660 MW Unit, Pump Power
Loss =24/660 (100 – 83) =0.62 MW
In case of Motor Pumps, for a 660 MW Unit Pump Power
Loss =24/660 (100 – 74) =0.94MW
If the electric drive efficiency further improves to 84%, the
Power Loss in electric drive will further reduce and utilities
will revert back to this form of BFP drives.
National Seminar on Thermal Power Plant Performance Management - NSTPPPM 106
ISBN 978-93-83459-12-4 © 2014 Bonfring
Please refer the table below for contributions from various
components to the Motordrive efficiency from 74% - 84%.
Table 1: Comparison of Boiler Feed Pump Drive Efficiency
Efficiency Condensing turbine Electric drive

- 88 - 92
Generator - 98.5
Transformer - 99.5
Motor - 97
Drive control - 95 - 96
Total 83 74- 84
[1] Diverse configurations of the boiler feed pump drive for the ultra-
supercritical 900-MW steam plant Katarzyna Stępczyńska*, Henryk
Łukowicz and Sławomir Dykas
[2] Selecting the Optimized Pump Configuration and Drive Option for the
Condensate Extraction and Boiler Feed Pumps for the New Eskom
Supercritical Power Stations - Willem van der Westhuizen, Eskom
Enterprises Engineering J ohannesburg, South Africa
[3] Operating Experience with Feed Pumps in 800/900 MW Units - Dipl Ing
Uwe Burchhardt, Vattenfall Europe Generation AG & Co, KG,
[4] EPRI Final Report March 1982 Project 1884-6
Mr.G. Ramachandran is Power Engineer presently
working with M/S L & T as a Consultant. During his
long career over 40 years, he has worked in various
capacities and associated / involved in different facets
and phases of power development in India and Abroad
in Hydro, Thermal and Combine Cycle Power Plants.
Mr. Ramachandran had received extensive training in
CEGB, U.K in their Subcritical and Supercritical
Power Plants. He is a competent trainer on power plant
subjects and possesses valid Competency Certification on Competency Based
Training, Assessment and as a Competency Verifier froma National Agency
of U.K.

National Seminar on Thermal Power Plant Performance Management - NSTPPPM 107
ISBN 978-93-83459-12-4 © 2014 Bonfring