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Copyright 1982 by ASME

Sliding Pressure Operation in

M. P. Polsky Combined Cycles
Fluor Power Services,
Chicago, IL This paper describes various methods of the power plant load control and gives
Mem. ASME technical comparison between those methods. It is shown that sliding pressure
control is more attractive for combined cycles than for conventional boiler fired
plants. A simple graphical method to determine combined cycle steam turbine
output at various gas turbine loads is proposed. It also shows that the effectiveness
of the sliding pressure operation increases with the decrease of gas turbine load.

SLIDING PRESSURE OPERATION designs are capable of maintaining higher thermal

IN COMBINED CYCLES efficiency at partial loads, while others substan-
tially lose efficiency even with relatively small
load decreases.
In recent years, the skyrocketing prices of fossil
fuels have forced power producers to look at every
W Steam volumetric flow, ft 3 /sec (M 3 /sec) method for reducing plant operating costs. Despite
the fact that the combined cycle plant of the
v steam specific volume, ft 3 /lb (M 3 /kg) present time is the most efficient source of power,
at partial loads its efficiency decreases very
M steam mass flow rate, lb/sec (kg/sec) rapidly. There are several methods for improving a
combined cycle thermal efficiency at partial load
P steam pressure, psia (kpa) operation. Of these methods, one which requires
very little additional capital investment is
T steam temperature, OR (K) sliding pressure operation.

Q heat transfer rate, Btu/sec (kj/sec) STEAM CYCLE PARTIAL LOAD CONTROL

OTpp pinch point temperature difference, One factor in the efficiency of power generation at
of ( C )
partial loads is the manner in which steam turbine
output is controlled. There are several methods
Ah turbine enthalpy drop, Btu/lb (kj/kg) for reducing power output which involve the control
of steam flow. They are:
Throttle control to reduce the amount of steam
Electric utilities widely use intermediate load passing through the turbine. After passing
and semi peaking plants in addition to their base
the throttle valve(s), steam is then admitted
load generating units. These plants, which normally at full arc to the first turbine stage.
operate an extended period of time, 3500 6000 hrs -

per year at load factors of 0.5 0.9 are normally -

Nozzle control when flow to the turbine is
designed to reach their maximum efficiency at nominal admitted through the several control valves
load, although they later operate at loads which which can be partly opened or closed depending
are only a fraction of the nominal load. Some on the amount of flow to be admitted. In this
case, steam is normally admitted at partial arc
to the group of nozzles of the control stage.

Steam flow to the turbine can be also controlled by

the steam generator using sliding pressure operation.
In this case, steam turbine control devices stay
fully open, allowing boiler pressure to adjust
(slide) to maintain the proper volumetric flow
balance between the steam turbine and the boiler.
Contributed by the Gas Turbine Division of the ASME.
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Each steam turbine has a fixed flow path area which For steam turbines without a control stage, steam
determines the maximum steam flow rate the turbine volumetric flow is increased by throttling the full
can pass at given steam conditions (normally called amount of steam with the throttle valve(s) (throttle
the turbine swallowing capacity). The following control) (Figure 1).
relationship exists between steam flow rate through
the turbine stage (or group of stages) and steam JO Q o Jo

M T/(P 2 -P 1 2 ) = Constant (1)

where T;P is the steam temperature and pressure in

front of the turbine stage, and P 1 is the steam
pressure after the turbine stage or group of stages.
For the condensing steam turbines, P 1 is normally
very small; therefore, equation (1) can be rewritten:

M V I/P 2 = Constant (2) Al: ho'

Equation (2) also applies to any stage or group of

stages where flow velocity becomes critical (at
least in one stage of the group) regardless of the
value of P 1 . Replacing T in equation (2) by the

T = Pv/R (ideal gas equation)

The following is applicable:

M v/P = Constant (3)

Relationship (3) is also called the flow coefficient

From equations (2) and (3), it follows that the
steam flow, which can be passed through the turbine,
is a function of the inlet steam parameters.
Equation (3) can be rewritten:

M v/P = My 1/(Pv) = W 1/(Pv) FIGURE 1

= Constant (4)
From this it can be concluded that at the given TURBINE WITH THROTTLE CONTROL
inlet steam parameters, the turbine can pass
(swallow) a fixed steam volumetric flow (which is For steam turbines with a control stage, steam
function of the turbine geometry). From equations throttling is accomplished by the partial closing of
(2) and (3), it can be obtained that one control valve (nozzle control). As a result,
the steam pressure drop through the control stage
P = M T/constant increases as steam flow decreases (Figure 2). Since
= vM 2 /constant (5) only part of the total steam flow has been throttled,
it is apparent that nozzle control provides more
or that the steam pressure at the first stage is a efficient control at partial loads than throttle
function of the steam mass flow rate and temperature control. When sliding pressure control is used, the
(or specific volume). If steam temperature in front steam turbine control devices stay fully open through
of the turbine remains constant, then the wide range of steam flows and steam volumetric
flow rate is controlled by the steam pressure in the
M/P = constant (6) boiler under almost constant steam temperature
(Figure 3). Since no steam throttling or partial
which means that steam flow becomes proportional to admission is required, a turbine control stage
the inlet steam pressure. actually becomes necessary only at relatively high
steam inlet parameters. By comparing Figure 1 with
In order to accomplish a match between the steam Figure 3, it is easy to conclude that the working
flow generated by the boiler and the steam turbine enthalpy drop for sliding pressure control is higher
swallowing capacity at various steam mass flow than at fixed pressure with throttle control;
rates, steam turbine control devices can be used as therefore, the relative turbine heat rate is more
described above. When the steam turbine is at stable when sliding pressure control is implemented.
maximum load, the throttle valve(s) or nozzles stay Partial load efficiencies at nozzle control vary
fully open and steam is freely admitted to the based on the loading factor of each nozzle and
first stage or to the control stage. At partial therefore can be higher or lower than at sliding
load operation, steam turbine output is reduced by pressure.
decreasing the amount of fresh steam to be expanded
through the turbine. In order to satisfy the steam If fired steam generators are used, the difference
turbine swallowing capacity at reduced steam flow, in efficiencies (electricity generation heat rates)
the live steam specific volume must be increased. between fixed and sliding pressure operation is a
function of control stage efficiency and the amount

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of throttling done by the throttle valve(s) or S
nozzle during fixed pressure operation. This
difference is not very significant. As will be
shown below, operation with a heat recovery steam
generator is a completely different case.



Ah 7 y a Ah' Ah"

G \ p`n
d A
h O\ N YY
r G

4 e^^


Exhaust gas
Boiler temperature
_ Boiler temperature
It is well known that the amount of steam generated
profile (sliding
by the heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) is a pressure mode)
function of the gas turbine exhaust flow, tempera- Live steam
ture, and steam pressure. The lower the steam
pressure, the more energy from the exhaust gases
that can be transferred to the steam and, therefore,
the more steam that can be generated at the same
exhaust gas conditions (Figure 4). Normally, an
HRSG is designed to generate nominal steam flow at
0 Additional gas temperature
head available for steam
'\, generation.
design pressure and temperature when the gas turbine p.
is at base load. When the steam turbine throttle ^ Pinch point
\ temperature
or control valves are fully open, the exact amount F , iff e r ence
of steam generated by the HRSG is determined by the a Fa
turbine swallowing capacity. When the gas turbine i Saturation line
load decreases, either the exhaust gas temperature Ev a por ator
also decreases, or the gas flow decreases if variable
inlet guide vanes are utilized, and as a result, Energy available for Exh. gas temp.
steam gen. (base mode (base mode)
the HRSG generates less steam at design pressure.
Energy available for Exh. gas temp.
If the throttle valve is maintained fully open in (sliding mode)
steam gen. (sliding press.
order to match the steam turbine swallowing capacity,
steam pressure generated by the HRSG starts to fall
and, as a result, steam generation increases (see water
HRSG steam flow vs. pressure level on Figure 5). At --_^ Q BTU/hr
the moment when W = M x v generated by the HRSG Heat transfer
becomes equal to W = M x v required by the steam
turbine, boiler stea
m pressure and steam generation
rate stabilize. This point of stabilization is the
operating point for a particular gas turbine load. HEAT RECOVERY STEAM GENERATOR

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As in the case of fired boilers, when the HRSG of the "boiler steam flow vs. pressure" line for
operates at fixed pressure at partial load, all 75% gas turbine load and "steam turbine flow vs.
steam flow must be throttled (throttle control) or pressure" line for 723F (Point B'). Steam turbine
may be partially throttled (nozzle control) before operation at fixed pressure will be on the "steam
being admitted to the steam turbine. With sliding turbine flow vs. pressure" line for 723 F at a
pressure operation, greater heat recovery steam steam flow rate equal to the HRSG steam generation
generation, elimination of steam throttling, and rate at the design (base load) pressure level
the absence of the control stage where efficiency (Point B). Using the "steam turbine output vs.
may be lowered, all result in a significantly pressure" lines, steam turbine outputs for each
higher steam turbine output than at fixed pressure mode of operation can be determined. Steam turbine
operation. The lower the gas turbine load, the operating conditions when the gas turbine is at 50%
greater the difference in the operating pressures load can be obtained similarly. From Figure 5, by
between the sliding and fixed pressure modes, and comparing fixed pressure operating Point B(C) with
likewise, the greater the difference in the steam sliding pressure operating point B'(C'), for example,
turbine output and plant heat rate for these two it becomes apparent that sliding pressure operation
modes of operation in combined cycle. (See results in a higher steam turbine output without
Figure 5.) any additional fuel, and therefore in a lower plant
heat rate at partial load operation. The effective-
30 ness of sliding pressure operation increases with a
decrease in gas turbine load, as can be seen by
comparing the differential steam turbine output
750F Steam between fixed operation (Point B) and sliding
HRSG steam flow vs. GT base o^
pressure. `'y A pressure operation (Point B') at 75% gas turbine
225 ^ 4 load, with the corresponding differential output
' 4 (Points C and C') at 50% gas turbine load.
o 25


v4 y o4 en
723F steam The effect of sliding pressure operation on major
^^.^ ^'ti^ ^^ '^^' I combined cycle equipment performance is discussed
175 75% base oa
B'_ m
a below:
Steam turbine 'O I IB 0

sliding pressure
o eration line.
I ^y
I a
Gas Turbine

Since sliding pressure operation is related to

o S1idi _Lressre
e Fixed ressur B
the steam portion of the combined cycle, gas
623F 40''' operation N turbine performance practically is not affected.
a 15 In order to maintain the highest possible
efficiency at gas turbine partial load operation,
G, a^^ PBe s ur steam fl o sliding pressure operation must be combined
100 '
a -- with the variable inlet guide vane (VIGV)
c control.
Slidi g1ressureop_@ 5 0%
of gas turbine base load .
10 Heat Recovery Steam Generator
Fixed pressure op. @ 50%
of gas turbine base load.
The HRSG is the equipment critical to proper
cycle operation in the sliding pressure mode.
Reduced steam pressure causes an increase in
300 350 400 450 500 550 600 both the volumetric and mass steam flow
Steam throttle pressure (psia) generated by the HRSG. When the gas turbine
operates at loads close to the base load,
FIGURE 5 sliding pressure operation may result in a
significant increase in the steam pressure
PRESSURE OPERATION AT PART LOADS drop through the superheater section of the
(Based on 70 MW Gas Turbine) HRSG, which in turn limits additional steam
generation (the HRSG "steam flow vs. pressure"
Since the steam turbine and HRSG have different lines are very flat, Fig. 5) and, therefore,
transient load steam characteristics, the turbine the effectiveness of sliding pressure operation.
operating point is quite complicated to determine On the other hand, at reduced gas turbine
analytically. This article proposes a very visual loads, the steam mass flow generated by the
and simple graphical method of determining the HRSG is less than at the base load; therefore,
steam turbine and HRSG operating point at partial increased steam generation in the sliding
loads. This method is based on the graphical pressure mode does not result in an appreciable
combining of steam turbine and boiler operating increase in the superheater section steam
characteristics as illustrated in Figure 5. The pressure drop. A lower gas turbine load in
operating point for the base load is shown as an the sliding pressure mode results in a higher
intersection between the boiler "steam flow vs. incremental steam generation rate. HRSG flow
pressure" line for the base load and a similar line vs. pressure lines become steeper; therefore,
for the steam turbine at 750F, Point A. When the there is a higher gain in thermal efficiency
gas turbine is at 75% the load, maximum boiler for the steam cycle. It should also be noted
steam temperature is 723 F, and therefore the steam that there is only a slight reduction of the
turbine operating point will be on the intersection final superheated steam temperature associated

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with the increase in steam flow, and steam Major steam cycle equipment should be de-
cycle efficiency is practically unaffected. signed properly to achieve the maximum eco-
In the case of a multipressure boiler, When nomical effectiveness of sliding pressure
lower pressure steam is supplied for gas operation.
turbine combustor steam injection and/or
feedwater heating, the following can be

a) At gas turbine loads close to the base

load (85% and higher), an increase of
high pressure steam generation in the
sliding pressure mode eventually starts
to limit steam generation in the lower
pressure sections of the boiler. As a
result, the amount of steeam generated by
those sections may not be sufficient to
maintain a proper injection level and/or
feedwater temperature. In this case,
lower pressure steam shall be made up by
the cascading of the higher pressure
steam or by other means to maintain
proper flow.

b) On the other hand, at lower gas turbine

loads the amount of steam generated by
the lower pressure sections may exceed
the consumption requirements. In order
to balance those flows either the ap-
propriate drum level pressure should be
allowed to rise, resulting in reduction of
the section steam generation (sliding
pressure operation), or the excess steam
can be used elsewhere in the system (i.e.,
admitted into the steam turbine or dumped
into the steam turbine condenser).
Actually, at low gas turbine loads (80%
or less), sliding pressure operation of
the high pressure boiler section helps to
maintain lower pressure steam generation
in balance.

In order to obtain the maximum effective-

ness of sliding pressure operation, an
HRSG should be specified and designed
taking into account the technical and
economic factors of such an operation.

Steam Turbine

Steam turbine operating provisions have been

discussed above. The minimum pressure/tempera-
ture level at which steam can be admitted into
the turbine is limited by the steam moisture
in the last turbine stages, and those limits
normally allow sliding pressure operation
within a broad range of the gas turbine loads.


Sliding pressure operation is significantly

more effective for combined cycles than for
conventional boiler-fired power plants.

The proposed graphical method enables one to

determine easily the combined cycle operating
point for sliding pressure operation at any
gas turbine load.

The effectiveness of sliding pressure operation

increases with a decrease in the gas turbine

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