Designing HRSGs for cycling
March 15, 2006
Lewis R. Douglas, PE, Nooter/Eriksen Inc.
Users have learned—often, the hard way—that daily cycling reduces the life expectancy of hot components in gas turbines. For years, manufacturers of turbines have designed them to withstand the cumulative wear and damage caused by frequent starts and stops. However, until recently not much attention was paid to designing heat-recovery steam generators (HRSGs) for cycling service.
One reason for this lack of attention has been deficiencies in some codes for designing and manufacturing water-tube boilers and steam generators. For the most part, the ASME's Section I Power Boiler code and the British standard BS 1113 provide little guidance on designing HRSGs for cycling service. Other European design codes, such as EN 12952 and Germany's TRD 301, do include practical methods for evaluating boiler and HRSG components for both creep and fatigue. Such information is essential to operating pressure vessels in ways that will extend their useful life. Over the past decade, vendors and users alike have not only learned plenty about HRSGs' sensitivity to cycling but also what to do about it. This article discusses several aspects of design and operation that users should be intimately familiar with when specifying a new HRSG for cycling service or when switching one from baseload operation to a daily diet of starts and stops.
Before cycling combined-cycle plants became prevalent, it was unnecessary to make HRSG coils flexible in the right places to eliminate or at least minimize low-cycle thermal fatigue. But now it is essential to maximizing HRSG longevity. When older units are switched from baseload to cycling mode, low-cycle fatigue or creep-fatigue often develops rapidly. Exacerbating the problem, codes such as EN 12952 and TRD 301 provide rules for designing boilers for high-cycle fatigue but none for preventing premature failures as a result of low-cycle creep and fatigue. For HRSGs, low-cycle fatigue is almost always due to unresolved thermal expansion. Non-corrosion-related failures of HRSG tubes, pipes, and headers are typically caused by low-cycle thermal fatigue. There are two important aspects of coil flexibility to consider: tube-to-tube temperature differentials and superheater/reheater interconnecting piping. Temperature differentials. In all high-temperature superheaters and reheaters, differences in tube metal temperatures arise as steam is heated from inlet to outlet. In most HRSGs, the rows of tubes closest to the gas turbine (GT) will be the hottest and those nearest the stack the coldest. Tubes at different temperatures expand at different rates. These differences in temperatures and expansion rates are greatest at unit start-up and narrow as full steam flow is established. There are two options for configuring coils to deal with row-to-row temperature differences. Figure 1 depicts one of them. Here, steam enters the inlet header and is heated by exhaust gas. In the configuration shown, the inlet header at the top of Row #4 is fixed to provide support while the lower headers are allowed to move vertically unrestrained.
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All row-to-row temperature differentials must be absorbed within the coil—by header rotation. and/or axial compression or tension of the tubes.
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. Source: Nooter/Eriksen Inc. the simple addition of a spring to either header for support would enable the tube row to which it is attached to move vertically. Beating the heat. any HRSG whose structural configuration restrains both upper headers from moving vertically would be damaged slightly each time it is cycled. decreasing thermally induced stresses by an order of magnitude.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. tube flexing.html
1. Accordingly.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. This diagram shows a heat-recovery steam generator (HRSG) superheater/reheater coil configuration with one upper header spring-supported.powermag. the mechanical stresses created by the temperature differentials are the highest and are sufficient to produce thermal fatigue. Under transient conditions (such as during unit start-up and shutdown).
the tube rows cannot move freely relative to each other because they are tied together.powermag. Absorption of row-to-row temperature differentials depends entirely on the flexibility of the coils and the link pipes and rotation of the manifold. the maximum thermal stresses are at the bends in the link pipes.
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. p. Here. each tube row is supported from above by its own fixed header.html
The second superheater/reheater coil-configuration option (Figure 2.
2. Source: Nooter/Eriksen Inc. This layout does not lend itself well to cycled HRSG operation because components cannot move freely relative to each other. In this configuration.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. 40) is one commonly seen in the field. This superheater/reheater coil configuration has fixed upper and lower headers. and link pipes connect the lower headers to a collector manifold. Too reliant on flexibility. Figure 3 illustrates some bad and good superheater/reheater coil configurations.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. None of the three layouts shown in Figure 3a can cope with row-to-row differentials in the magnitude or rate of thermal expansion.
To wrap up this discussion. In all three cases.
although these layouts work well in evaporators (where row-to-row temperature differentials are very small). During HRSG start-up.
For contrast. Interconnecting piping. it is important that the layout of interconnecting piping consider the start-up differences.powermag. the outlet header is supported by a spring.html
either by upper and lower headers or a manifold. In normal operation. it is not uncommon for the pipes not heated by gas flow that interconnect superheaters and reheaters to be hundreds of degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than the coils to which they are attached. The other two examples feature long horizontal pipe runs that allow the lower headers to move easily relative to one another. the temperature differential between the piping is much smaller and might be accommodated by the piping's flexibility.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. Figure 4 shows a configuration that connects the top of the superheater coil on the right to the bottom of the coil on the left. In the example on the left. The three configurations on the right (3b) either facilitate free relative tube movement or maximize row-to-row flexibility. Bad/not bad. Source: Nooter/Eriksen Inc.
3. note how the three configurations in Figure 3b either facilitate free relative tube movement or maximize row-to-row flexibility. At left (3a) are three layouts that constrain free relative movement of tube rows.
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. they leave superheater and reheater tubes vulnerable to cycling-induced thermal fatigue.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. allowing the header to move up or down depending on the temperature difference between the two rows. It's worth noting that. Nonetheless.
the smaller the thermal
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4. These temperature differences.
Similar arrangements are used for HRSG components such as evaporators and economizers. have been the subject of some concern. The magnitude of these thermal gradients is a function of component thickness. top to bottom. the latter issue is more important. keeping parts at a more constant temperature.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. Because it is unheated by gas flow. Source: Nooter/Eriksen Inc. the entire coil will heat up faster than the downcomer. this pipe connecting two superheaters. T spells trouble. the thinner the component. Such a layout could create higher-than-expected thermal stresses in the pipe.
Most owner/operators of combined-cycle plants insist that their HRSG reach thermal equilibrium quickly enough to avoid lengthening the start-up time of the plant. But these components exhibit fewer thermal-transient problems because the water they contain absorbs thermal shocks. In addition. the tube rows closest to the GT will heat up somewhat faster than the rows further from it. Evaporators. Interconnecting piping should be designed with sufficient flexibility to handle the force created by differential thermal expansion. could be hundreds of degrees cooler than the coils to which it is attached. shortening its service life.powermag. typically around 100F.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. During start-up. Assuming that all low-cycle fatigue problems have been resolved. are the concern. the next concern in this area is the fatigue damage caused either by pressure or by "through-thickness" thermal gradients. however. Of the two.
com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. This design detail might reduce the header thickness by as much as 30%. it is considered good design practice to make HRSG parts—such as superheater and reheater headers and the high-pressure steam drum—as thin as possible. If an HRSG will be mated to a gas turbine with exhaust temperatures hotter than 1. An alternative technique allows the use of larger headers. If the user doesn't know or doesn't provide this information. the header must provide all the material necessary to keep the stresses on the primary membrane below acceptable limits.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. One design technique used to keep hot headers as thin as possible is to use single-row harp construction. with multiple inlet and outlet nozzle branch connections. Consequently.
Yet another way to minimize the thickness of high-temperature HRSG components such as HP superheaters and reheaters is to make them from stronger materials. to maximize the unit's heat-up rate.html
gradient and the resulting stress. which also has excellent fatigue and creep characteristics.
5. as shown in Figure 2. A variation of this approach is to use tube stubs that are thick enough to partially reinforce the hole (Figure 5). its thickness) can be minimized. Unfortunately. however. the vendor has no choice but to use default values for ramp rate and allowable thermal gradients—which may or may not reflect reality. an F-class machine—the outlet headers and steam piping of its superheater and reheater sections should use T91/P91 chromium steel. Most boiler design codes allow the thickness to be calculated using a ligament efficiency approach. therefore.
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. the header's diameter (and. Source: Nooter/Eriksen Inc. For an HRSG designer to accommodate the customer's wishes. Tubes enter a header in a uniform pattern. With this method. Thin is in. A stub-reinforced tube-to-header attachment. Because there is only one tube row per header.100F—for example.powermag. he must have a pretty good idea of how often the unit is likely to be cycled. such a configuration requires many inlet and outlet nozzles to handle the steam flow.
The worldwide HRSG user community can't seem to agree on the method for connecting tubes to headers that is best for cycling service. swear by full-penetration weld attachments (Figure 6). this preference has been challenged by others who warn that the difficulty of making quality full-penetration welds raises the potential for tube leaks. European HRSG users prefer full-penetration welds for attaching tubes to headers.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. the consensus is that partial-penetration weld attachments (Figure 7) have proven far more reliable in practice. for example. But lately.
6.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. Outside Europe. Europeans.powermag. based on fewer leaks being reported. All the way.
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. Source: Nooter/Eriksen Inc.
Source: Nooter/Eriksen Inc. It is imperative that any water introduced by improper equipment operation. A partial-penetration tube-to-header attachment.
Steam turbine designers and users have long been aware that desuperheater problems can result in turbine water induction. compared with thick-stubbed. overspraying. Figure 8 illustrates the harm caused by desuperheater quenching. however. In addition to improving the quality of welds. full-penetration tube-to-header attachments. When detailed fatigue analyses of full. For other. It is well known.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. partial-penetration welds are preferable to full-penetration welds. that for steam-service coils operating in the creep range—such as those in high-pressure HRSG superheaters and reheaters—during thermal transients a thicker stub helps minimize the temperature difference between the tube and the header by conducting more heat. less-critical coils such as economizers and evaporators. the former are not as good for HP superheaters and reheaters expected to be cycled frequently.html
7. The hot sections of HRSGs are also succeptible to desuperheater problems. Should this happen. the use of stubbed headers also makes it easier to perform nondestructive examination of welds. However. Half-way.
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Studies of different joint geometries have shown that during transient conditions. the results are very similar. as previously thought to be the case. the damage from quenching that results is usually severe and may occur as quickly as within one cycle. the maximum stresses do not occur at the inside gap of the partial-penetration joint. or leakage be detected and removed quickly.and partial-penetration joint details are performed.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550.
If it is not removed. it is normal practice to keep the HRSG hot and at pressure. When the water level reaches an unsafe height. it is fairly easy to keep water from entering hot coil components upstream or downstream of a desuperheater—by placing condensate drain pots at both locations. Condensate that has not been evacuated from HRSG superheaters and reheaters could create large tube-to-tube temperature differentials and proportionately severe thermal stresses.
For a HRSG. It is nearly impossible to prevent water from contacting hot piping downstream of a desuperheater that has been badly operated.powermag. large amounts of condensate will form. a valve automatically opens. or sprung a leak. water will collect in the superheaters and reheaters. Courtesy: Nooter/Eriksen Inc. that may be easier said than done. In contrast.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. Sizzled. For combined-cycle plants that are cycled daily.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. oversprayed. Because the temperature of the GT's exhaust gas will be below the saturation temperature of steam in various sections during the purge cycle. evacuating the water. The National Fire Protection Association requires that the HRSG be purged prior to lighting off the GT to ensure that all fuel gas has been vented.
Inattention to "fugitive" condensate may not necessarily cause a catastrophic event such as quenching.
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. The pots are fitted with conductivity probes that detect any water entering them. to minimize thermal gradients and pressure stresses.html
8. This damage was caused by condensate quenching of a desuperheater.
As the evaporator section begins to produce steam.
Following are four things to look for in the design of drain systems for HRSG superheaters and reheaters: The drain on each lower header should be large enough to handle the maximum anticipated amount of condensate. The drain pots should be fitted with conductivity probes (rather than thermocouples) and with pneumatic valves (rather than motor-operated values) for the sake of speed. blowdown tank. Drain pots should be used to detect condensate as it is created. condensate could be blown forward into hot sections. the presence of condensate in the superheaters and reheaters will prevent uniform steam flow.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. This uneven clearing will cause adjacent tubes to heat up at different rates and set up undesirable thermal stresses. creating a rapid cooldown or quenching to saturation temperature. If back-pressuring occurs and the higher. drain lines should be higher in elevation than the sump. In addition. the manifold. be sure that the tank. water may be blown into sections that are hot and dry. Courtesy: Nooter/Eriksen Inc. If possible. This buckled tube was caused by uneven condensate clearing. Ideally. If this is not possible. If superheater and reheater drains are routed to a common blowdown tank. at least one 2-inch (50-mm) NPS drain should be provided for each header.
9. Some tubes will become blocked with condensate. while others will remain clear. Figure 9 illustrates tube buckling caused by uneven clearing. or flash tank to which they connect.and lower-pressure systems are operated simultaneously.powermag. The condensate should be removed by automatic means. and all piping are large enough to avoid "back-pressuring" the lower-pressure system.
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.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. "telltale" drains—drains or vent valves designed to continuously monitor leakage—should be provided at low points. rather than by manually operated valves. causing severe damage.
because the drums are swelling.). Insulate the exhaust stack and outlet breeching. you'd be wise to spend your money on an exhaust stack damper and insulation. A feedwater recirculation system routes water through the feedwater heater prior to start-up. however. Douglas is director of structural/mechanical engineering at Nooter/Eriksen Inc. the HRSG components containing feedwater can be steaming or at saturation temperature. After shutdown. there is normally no demand for feedwater.Designing HRSGs for cycling
http://www. During these periods.powermag. the temperature of lowerpressure sections such as the preheater will rise to match that of other sections. This eliminates or minimizes the shocking. The technique. has proven very effective at keeping HRSGs from freezing. At start-up. it is normal to maintain HRSGs cycled daily at pressure and temperature between each start and stop. There are three ways to do this effectively: Use an exhaust stack damper.html
During a hot or warm start-up of an HRSG. He can be reached at 636-651-1005 or ldouglas@ne. Heat from the evaporator then can heat the other HRSG components.com. As the HRSG demands water. the colder feedwater can be introduced gradually and mixed with the hotter water already in the feedwater heater. Although steam sparging systems work. Mo. it is typical for the preheater to be shocked with cold inlet water.com/print/gas/Designing-HRSGs-for-cycling_550. they can be expensive to install and often have trouble generating enough steam to raise the HRSG's internal temperature substantially. Install a steam sparging system. if your auxiliary equipment budget is limited.
As mentioned earlier. In most cases. (Fenton. —Lewis R. while the unit is bottled up. But insulating the stack and the stack breeching up to the damper would enable heat and pressure to be retained for a much longer period. the least effective way to maintain heat and pressure is to install a steam sparging system. perhaps for several days. Such systems introduce steam into the lower sections of the evaporator coils. Generally. Use of a stack damper is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent cool air from flowing through an HRSG. Close Window
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