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Mastering the operation of steam turbines in the modern energy landscape

Despite the growing focus on renewables and decarbonisation, steam turbines are indispensable in power plants—still delivering optimal performance and enhanced plant efficiency, reliability and safety measures.

The ongoing sustainable energy transition and geopolitical events, such as the Russian-Ukraine war, have intensified the reliance on thermal power plants. Renewable fuel sources are on the surge. Coal-fired power plants have dynamically changed power outputs.

Steam turbines, as the core of the power generation energy sector, are under pressure to ensure higher plant availability to accommodate dynamic operational requirements—cycling more frequently to balance loads, optimising fuel costs and integrating renewables into their grid. 

Ensuring plant efficiency and reliability

Achieving plant efficiency and reliability in the ever-evolving landscape of power generation requires a strategic approach, and the effective operation of steam turbines plays a critical role in this pursuit.

“With the adoption of renewables, power plants are now, more than in the past, required to adjust their output and balance the supply and demand to compensate for the variable electricity supply from renewable sources,” QianXi Koh, Asia Pacific Power Industry Manager for Control Valves and Instruments at Emerson stated, stressing that this is likewise the case for many coal-fired power plants, with operations shifting gears from base-load to peaking-load amidst the waves of renewables. 

The main challenge with cycling loads, however, is thermal stress. Operating conditions pose increased thermal and mechanical stresses on major equipment and components, resulting in fatigue and failure. This leads to frequent outages and maintenance, reduced plant availability, and higher costs of repair and manpower.


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